Cover Image: A Light Beyond the Trenches

A Light Beyond the Trenches

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Another beautifully told story by Hlad (Churchill's Secret Messenger).  The need for dogs aiding soldiers after being blinded by a chemical release during WW I  is the premise.  I see this as more of a love story (I teared up three times) and less about the guide dogs.  Albeit, the dogs are an important part of healing and another aspect of love. 

Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Books for accepting my request to read and review A Light Beyond the Trenches.  

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I wanted to love this one because the premise sounded so go. However  it ended up falling flat for me. And I think it was because I couldn't stand either the hero or the heroine. I don't have to like characters to love or even enjoy a book, but I do have to understand where they are coming from.
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This is a fascinating and well written story about the first guide dog school for the blind established in Germany during WWI. Anna is a nurse who feels called to help the dog trainers as they assist the veterans and the dogs. She also rescues a German shepherd dog name Nia that she trains on her own. Nia is eventually paired with Max, a Jewish pianist now battle blind from poisonous gas. The story is gritty, the battle scenes and death are not glossed over. Anna’s fiancé Bruno is often on the front lines, and fighting many internal demons as well. Anna and her father struggle sometimes to even get food when ration supplies are limited as Germany directs nearly all resources toward the war effort. I’ve never read a WWI book from the perspective of German citizens and German soldiers, so to me it was unique and interesting. The ending tugged at my heart. 
4.5 stars, rounded up.

I received an eARC from Kensington Publishing via NetGalley. A positive review was not required and all opinions are completely my own.
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I have seen and read many stories concerning the events and effects of WWII but not so much WWI. So it was of great interest to me to find A Light Beyond the Trenches by Alan Hlad. I was not disappointed as the writer took us into the homes, the hospitals, and the trenches along with the characters.  Taking place in Germany shining a bright light on the struggles that war has caused. For those in 1916 Germany supplies are limited, hospitals overcrowded and many bodies and spirits are broken.  The author puts the reader right there in the time and the experiences of those involved.

 While this story shows the horror of war, the search for new ways to inflict death on others, the prejudices that exist, and the struggles for those who are at home or returning, it is also a story of hope. The use of guide dogs, the training and the impact on the recovering soldiers is just one of the highlights of this well crafted and researched book. Brilliantly written I highly recommend A Light Beyond the Trenches. Now as in times past, a hopeful light is needed. 

The publisher through Net Galley provided a digital ARC. I have voluntarily decided to read and review, giving my personal opinions and thoughts.
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by Alan Hlad
Kensington Books

As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read this book. Set in WWI when the first school for training guide dogs for the blind began. 

I fell in love with the three main characters, Anna Zeller, a Red Cross nurse who joins the school; Max Benesch, a Jewish soldier who returns from the front blinded by chlorine gas; and Nia, a German Shepherd with injured paws suffered in the trenches.

We see a different perspective as the impact of the war on German citizens is presented, with the extra humanizing factor of the new guide dogs for those blinded in combat. 

A wonderful read, highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction, romance, and animals. Out March 29. 

Thanks to the author, Kensington Books, and 
NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine.

#alightbeyondtheyrenches #alanhlad #Kensington Books #NetGalley
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When Alan Hlad wrote The Long Flight Home I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed his story and how much I loved his writing.  A Light Beyond the Trenches, does not disappoint.  The story is full of sadness, which comes with war, danger, hope and love.

Anna, Max and a Shephard named Nia are the centerpiece for this story.  The reader cannot help be get swept away with this unputdownable story of WWI and the breakthrough work the German’s made with training German Shephard’s as guide dogs for the blinded soldiers.  This fictitious story based on fact is well worth the read.  I personally have not found too many WWI stories so I always look forward to the story when I find one.

Thank you to #netgalley and #kensingtonpublishing for allowing me to read the eARC of this book.  Also thank you to #betweenthechapters for sending me a hard copy of the book.  All opinions expressed above are my own.
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Guide Dogs for Veterans

An inspiring story of the start of a guide dog school for blinded veterans during WWI and the German Shepherd dogs trained to guide them. This provided these brave men with a way to regain some of their freedom and former lives.

Anna is a nurse at the hospital in Oldenburg Germany. Maybe not the most experienced. She struggles with everyday tasks at the hospital. What she lacks in technique she makes up for in compassion for the many wounded soldiers she cares for every day.

The war is taking its toll on everyone. Anna's fiancée Bruno is fighting at the western front and rationing is slowly starving the civilian population. There are a few bright moments in her job. One day as she is in the hospital garden talking to Dr. Stallings they both watch as a German Shepherd dog guides a blinded soldier along the garden path. At that moment, they have a vision of a training school to provide shepherd guide dogs for the blinded soldiers returning from the war.
Anna asks Dr. Stallings to be included in this venture and although she wishes to be a trainer, as a woman she is put in charge of feeding, cleaning and taking care of the dogs. When she nurses a wounded ambulance dog named Nia back to life she wants so badly to be a trainer and to save this dog as a guide dog.

Max is a Jewish veteran who lost his sight in the battlefield. Since the trainer his is assigned to will not have a Jewish man in his home, Anna takes Max into her home where she lives with her father and Nia whom she is still caring for. As Max trains, none of the dogs bond with him and he does not do well with the trainers, especially the one that doesn't like him because he is Jewish. Anna starts training him with Nia a home and eventually is allowed to train with him and Nia. This is their story and the story of the school for guide dogs.

This was an inspirational story with some very special characters. I really liked the character of Anna's father he was such a special person with so much hope, encouragement and love for Anna. The character of Max was as very special. I didn't like the trainer with anti-semantic views , nor did I especially like Bruno's character although both of them were good for their parts.

I enjoyed reading this book and I would most definitely recommend it to others. You will enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Thanks to Alan Hlad for writing a great story, to Kensington Books for publishing it and to NetGalley for making it available to me.
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Beautifully written, heartbreaking, and not at all what I expected. I'm not usually a fan of world war novels, but the unique take sold me, and I'm glad I gave it a chance. Anna, Max, and Nia (the German Shepherd) are all wonderful and relatable characters who come alive as the story evolves. Each one brings their own dynamic to the story, yet together they seem as a cohesive unit, as though one cannot fully exist in the book without the other. 

The heartbreaking horrors of war--for soldiers and civilians alive--are vivid and tearful, and yet, I appreciate how the author managed to interject hope throughout. Alan Hlad has created such a realistic telling that one cannot help but be transported to the battlefields, the training fields, and at each character's side as they battle demons, within and without. 

There is so much to recommend this book, and rather than retell every aspect of it, I will simply recommend it to anyone who appreciates well-written historical fiction.
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I decided to read this book when I saw it was a WWI read, and involved dogs. Then it puts faces and people that I soon cared about, but would have been the enemy.
Most of this story takes place in the German Empire, and we are walking with Nurse/Trainer Anna Zeller, and fate puts her with severely injured and blinded gifted Max Benesch.
This was a page turner, I was so involved in what was happening, and how it would all turn out, and the author does a great job of bring this read to a conclusion.
You might want the tissues handy! In the end who really wins in war?
I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Kensington, and was not required to give a positive review.
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This is an absolute *MUST READ* book! It's a beautifully written heartbreaking story that will keep you up way past your bedtime. I hated to see this book end. It deserves more than 5 stars!
I received a complimentary copy from Kensington Books via NetGalley and I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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The guess I never knew when they first started using German Shepherd dogs as seeing eye dogs for the blind. This book gives a different slant on the war and the training for the dogs. It’s full of hope but also great sadness and loss. I would have loved to hear Max’s piano concerto.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
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A Light Beyond the Trenches by Alan Hlad is set during World War I.  I was interested in the story of how guide dogs for blind veterans came about and was intrigued with the characters and their development as they were intertwined throughout the book.  Anna, a Red Cross nurse, works in a hospital in Oldenburg, Germany.  She requests the opportunity to transfer to a newly created guide dog program founded by Dr. Stalling, director of the Red Cross Ambulance Dogs Association. The idea is to train dogs to be companions for veterans blinded during the war, offering mobility and independence. Her fiancé, Bruno, is a lieutenant in the German army.  As a chemist, he is recruited into the army’s newly formed chemical warfare unit.  Max, a Jewish soldier stationed on the front lines, is accidentally blinded by chlorine gas intended to be used against the Allies.  Ultimately, he is chosen by the government to participate in the new program offering mobility rehabilitation to sightless veterans.  

As the story unfolds, we read about the atrocities and horrors of the war including the threat of starvation, the anti-Semitism Max experiences from one of the trainers at the guide dog school, to the prejudices of a woman working in a man’s field.  This is an emotional story well worth reading.  It is a beautiful story about dogs giving veterans their lives back with the opportunity of independence.  But it is heart-wrenching as we read of the horrors the war inflicts upon soldiers and civilians alike.  I highly recommend this book on so many levels.  

Many thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  If I could give it more than five stars, I would.
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Alan Hlad continues to be a trusted author for me because he creates a world so real that I can feel and see history developing around me. I finished this book feeling like I’d been on the battlefield with Bruno and at the seeing eye dog school with Anna and Max instead of simply reading about the Germans’ use of toxic warfare and the first seeing eye dog school in a history book. 

One thread of Hlad’s wartime fiction deals with a soldier’s integration after being released from duty. In the wake of WW1 many soldiers were left blind and a German doctor, Dr. Gerhard Stalling, saw the potential benefits of training guide dogs to help them. Hlad shares how Dr. Stalling and the German Red Cross Ambulance Dogs Association opened the first seeing eye dog school in Oldenburg. Readers will see the introduction of the rehabilitation project from the ground up; the type of dog’s chosen, the training, the pairing with soldiers, and the success of the first graduates. I’m happy that Hlad didn’t write about how love heals PTSD and trauma. He showed how love and patience help, but it can’t erase the effects of battle trauma. Integration in this character’s arc is Hlad’s focus. We see Max’s family life before he enlisted, his career potential as a pianist and aspiring composer, his battlefront experience, and then his initial lack of integration back into the society he’s come from. War permeated everything for Max and readers are ever aware of how the war changed his life. 

Another thread of Hlad’s wartime fiction deals with another soldier’s integration into his role in toxic warfare. The Chemistry Section in the Ministry of War utilizes Oberleutnant Wahler for his skills as a chemist. Bruno accepts because of his quest to be noticed and seen as worthy by his family. Readers will see the introduction of chemical warfare during WW1 and its effect on both the soldiers producing and placing the canisters on the frontline in addition to the effect on the soldiers who became victims. I’m happy that Hlad didn’t make Bruno an egomaniac superhero who took pleasure in gassing the enemy, but rather a real and ordinary guy who had doubts about what he was doing but who followed through on the nocuous project because his career and his future at home depended on him following orders. We see what craving human love and comfort does to Bruno and we see him wrestle with his conscience. Hlad’s use of primary sources to give readers insight into Bruno’s character is a necessary personal perspective. Integration for Bruno is only possible when he’s honest about what he’s done. 

It was a thought-provoking read and I’d never considered that soldiers often have a ‘self’ and a ‘military self’ and that they hide information from each side of their life and the people in it. I’d never considered that Jewish soldiers were limited in rank and regardless of education and combat training and performance, they were given the lowest rank of enlisted men in the army and were often assigned to the front. I’d never considered how awkward military leave was for soldiers. Hlad has written to give readers pause and opportunity to aid in integration for our servicemen today. 

I appreciated Hlad’s panoramic lens with which he viewed WW1. His primary action takes place on the battlefield and then pans to a domestic setting of the Zeller family and the German Red Cross Guide Dog School in Oldenburg. His panning captures the economy, highlighting the blockades, rations and hunger as well as captures the mindset on the homefront, highlighting delayed engagements/marriages, reliance on communication from the frontlines and a desperation to survive. His battle scenes are taut, only focusing on one regiment, the Pioneer Regiment 36, otherwise known as the Disinfection Unit, his characters are well-developed and capable of empathy, and both battles and romance are sensitively written. 

Hlad reminds us that “in war, there are no winners, only losers.” Maximilian and Wilhelmina Benesch, Anna Zeller, and Bruno Wahler will attest to that fact. 

This 5-star historical fiction about how war renewed interest in man’s best friend’s guiding eyes
needs to be on your reading list. 

I was gifted this advance copy by Alan Hlad, Kensington Books, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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Beautifully written and well researched story about the German side of WWI. Readers are taken through the years during the war and a year after the war ended. I thought the story was educational as the writer wrote about the start of a seeing eye dog training center for German Soldiers who had been blinded during their service to their country. I loved all the characters except for two, but all of them leapt off the pages and walked through my mind as the story unfolded. There was romance that blended in with the hard times of rationing and food shortages. The story was very realistic and I was totally drawn in almost from the first page. 
Anna Zeller worked as a nurse at the hospital in Oldenburg Germany. Her duties were caring for wounded soldiers and assisting the Doctors who treated them. She was engaged to be married to a German Soldier, Bruno Wahler who had been wounded and recovered and had returned to the war. There were things Anna didn’t know about Bruno and he kept secrets from her. 
Max Benesch was a German Jew who was a gifted musician before the war broke out. Germany had told Jews that if they became soldiers in the war that they would be considered equal to a German citizen. Max signed up to serve but soon found himself along with other Jews fighting on the front line against the British and French soldiers. Secretly Germany had decided to engage in chemical warfare. German soldiers on the front line were unaware that dangerous chemical gas tanks were buried in their trenches. The first time the disinfectant unit turned the gas valves on the wind shifted direction and bought the gas back on the German Jews on the front line. Most of the soldiers died but Max lived through it losing his sight and developing a serious lung condition from the gas he had breathed in. 
Dr Stalling worked at the hospital in Oldenburg where Anna worked. He planned to start a training center for blind German Veterans teaching them to depend on German Shepherds to be a guide for them and be their eyes, allowing them to have a better quality of life. He opened the first school in Oldenburg Germany and used Ambulance Dogs to train as seeing eye dogs. Anna wanted to work for this school training blind Veterans in the seeing eye dog programs. Would Rolf Fleck, the manager of the seeing eye dog training center agree to hiring a woman to train his dogs and the blind veterans?
I recommend this book to readers of WWI and WWII fiction. Readers who enjoy reading Historical Romance will enjoy this book. It is a stand alone book. There are a few situations of light intimacy so readers that are sensitive to this might not appreciate this book for that reason. 
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced readers copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions expressed here in this review are my own.
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Oh my what an exceptional story
Deserves more than a 5 star rating

What can I say about this amazing story! I loved every page and word! My first book by Alan Hlad and I hope it isn't my last. He pulls you into the story like no other...I felt like I was there while Anna and her father, Norbie would try to make the best of their life living during WWI. The lack of food made me stop and think what I would do if I went back to that time and didn't have the food I have today. It was gut wrenching what they had to endure. Not to mention what happened to the soldiers in the trenches...I literally cried so hard reading this story....I have never had a story touch me like this one did.

Exceptional characters and it was like I was watching them go about their days at the hospital then at the training facility. We went from the town of Oldenburg to the trenches of was heart wrenching what everyone went through during WWI but some good did come out of it...the first school for training dogs for the blind. I learned a lot while reading Mr Hlad's really made me think about freedom and who fought for it. What they went through during the chemical bombings.

HIGHLY recommend this won't regret reading it. Although I will warn you to have a box of tissues handy for the last 45 minutes of the book. I cried so much and so hard. Just when I thought it was over I cried some more.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books, A John Scognamiglio Book for allowing me to read an advanced digital copy of Mr Hlad's book. The opinions in this review are mine and mine alone.
A truly exceptional book.
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Anna is a nurse caring for World War I soldiers in Oldenburg, Germany, when she transfers to the new guide dog school to provide dogs to blinded veterans. She saves a wounded dog from euthanasia and works with Nia in secret.
Max, a German Jewish pianist, is blinded by gas from a ruptured German canister and boards with Anna and her father. He and Nia bond as they train together under Anna’s tutelage.
Anna’s fiancé Bruno is a chemist working in gas warfare but tries to keep this a secret from Anna, as well as other unsavory details.
Anna and Max will win your hearts. Their perseverance amid deprivation and harassment is heart-warming, even with the tragedy that strikes.
This novel brings to light the seldom noted starvation of German civilians due to the British blockade, and how conscientious men become harden to the horrors of war. Contains pre-marital intimacy, though not explicit, and minimal swearing.
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I thought Alan Hlad's A Light Beyond the Trenches was an intriguing and fabulous read. I loved it and am giving it a very well deserved five plus stars.
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This was an excellent WWI-era book that kept me glued to the pages from the first word until the end. 

We follow three main characters, Anna, Max and Bruno as their stories become intertwined with each other. Max is a Jewish German soldier, blinded by toxic gas. Bruno is also a German soldier, however his chemistry background makes him perfect for the so-called Disinfection Unit, which you learn is a top secret name for the until that creates these toxic weapons. Anna is Bruno’s fiancée, a nurse working at a hospital until she has the opportunity to work where they’re training guide dogs. Max meets Anna when he qualifies for a shepherd and he boards with Anna and her father when no one else wants a Jewish man to live with them.

This is a gripping book that was full of love and endurance. These three characters have heartbreaking stories to tell, and Alan Hlad wrote a story that had me rooting for Anna and Max in particular. Without being dreary, this was a realistic look at ordinary, everyday people who suffered during the war. While this story doesn’t have a stereotypical “happy ending” it was a satisfying end. 

Thank you to Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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