Title: The Girl from the USO
Author: Barbara Rebbeck
When USO volunteer and nursing student Millie Beaubien meets WWII Royal Air Force pilot Edward Owen in Detroit, she’s convinced she’s found her very own larger than life hero. Intoxicated by their whirlwind courtship and her growing obsession with him, she ignores all warning signs that he is not what he appears to be. Comparing her beloved yet mercurial Edward to the heroes in her favorite books and films of the day, Millie looks forward to being mistress of Sand Castles Hall, a great Cornwall estate akin to the fictional Manderley in Rebecca. But when she arrives in England, Millie must sort fact from fiction and abandon all delusions, hers and her blue-eyed pilot’s.
Will she be able to save herself from being destroyed by what she thought was love?
On the stage, men in uniform were gathering. The red velvet curtains opened as the huge organ ascended from the orchestra pit. Each theater in Detroit prided itself on its own classically trained organist. The Wilson was no exception, and tonight it showed off the organist’s musical skills by having him play a rousing chorus of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” a song made famous by Kate Smith. As the organ rose to stage level, the audience stood as one, cheering. Edward took my hand, and I could see tears forming in his eyes. Once settled back in our seats, city officials joined the servicemen, and young boy scouts carried a large banner across the stage, urging us to all buy war bonds. Then the Color Guard marched down the center aisle to the stage to present the flags as the organist played. Once on stage, they stood at attention, proudly bearing the flags of the United States, the state of Michigan, and Detroit. The audience rose and cheered. Edward and my dad saluted the flags. I stood, moved to my soul, fighting back tears.
Mayor Jeffries of Detroit stepped forward, urging us to sit. Waiting for order to return, he stood quietly. I felt Edward trembling against me as we sat down. Leaning against him, I sent courage to him with a nod and smile. The chattering stopped, and the mayor spoke. “Tonight we urge you to buy war bonds. England has fought bravely for two years now. She needs our help. As some of you know, we have recently welcomed a squadron of Royal Air Force airmen to the Grosse Ile Naval Base. They are here as an advance troop to oversee construction on the base before hundreds of RAF cadets will arrive starting in August to begin flight training far away from the curse of Nazi bombs.” Peering out into the audience, his hand shielding his eyes, he asked, “Are we so fortunate as to have any of those airmen here tonight?”
“Edward,” I whispered, squeezing his hand.
“Up here,” Gary shouted, standing to point out Edward.
“And over here,” another voice came from the main floor to the right.
“Please stand, so we can properly salute you,” the mayor asked.
“Edward, stand,” Lill hissed, her hand on his shoulder. Mom and Dad clapped. We all stood with him as he rose, saluting. The servicemen on the stage rose, too, returning his salute, then turning to their left and saluting the other RAF pilot. I was never so proud of anyone or anything in my life. I knew then I would follow Edward anywhere.
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
Based on my parents’ meeting and courtship during WWII, my book takes the reader back to Detroit, Pensacola, and Cornwall of 1941, a nostalgic trip many readers are taking as WWII books are very popular now. But I’ll let the reviews speak:
“Thoroughly engrossing. As historical fiction, the details go beyond the facts of WWII and add believability, richness, and accuracy to the story.”
“A romantic thriller with a Hitchcock-esque vibe. I was lured into the novel immediately and found it to be a true page turner. I was right there with Millie, from the snood she wears to contain her errant curls to her nursing cap.”
“The mystery subplot took The Girl from the USO into an almost gothic romance feel. I was completely unprepared for the ending so kudos to Barbara Rebbeck for that.”
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Barbara Rebbeck is a teacher and writer who lives in Royal Oak, Michigan. She has published poetry, essay, and professional articles. In 2015 she published her first novel for teens, NOLA Gals. Since then, she has visited many classrooms with the book and been a writer-in-residence at the Beverly Hills Academy in Michigan.
She is a past-president of the Michigan Council of Teachers of English and a former Director of the Oakland Writing Project. Currently she is Program Chair for the Detroit Working Writers and a member of Sisters in Crime. The Midwest USO chose The Girl from the USO as a selection for its book clubs in several states.
Barb’s dad was born in England and met her mother, a USO hostess during WWII in Detroit when he came to Grosse Ile, Michigan for flight training. Their whirlwind courtship is the basis for the Detroit and Pensacola chapters in The Girl from the USO. Barbara stresses however, their relationship did not go the way of Edward and Millie’s as they married, lived in Michigan, and raised six children.
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