by Robert Loewen
My wife’s mother, Hetty Kraus (1920-1994) was a student at Leiden University when the Third Reich invaded the Netherlands on March 10, 1940. She soon joined the Dutch resistance and somehow survived. That story is told in my upcoming novel, The Lioness of Leiden (Greenleaf Book Group).
After my retirement from law practice, I found the time to write this book inspired by Hetty’s stories. I read a lot about World War II, visited Leiden and The Hague, and read everything I could find about the Dutch resistance.
This historical fiction debut introduces the world to three brave everyday women who defied societal expectations and fought against the Nazi Gestapo in World War II. The book shines a light on the female resistance fighters of the Netherlands, who were hunted by the Gestapo and betrayed by spies they thought were their friends.
When the Germans invade the Netherlands, Leiden University student Hetty volunteers as a courier for the resistance along with her roommate, the beautiful Mimi, and a local 17-year-old girl, Maria, the daughter of a slain resistance fighter. At great personal risk, the three women carry documents, secret messages, and cash to protect Jews, downed pilots, and others hiding from the Nazis. Challenged by a gauntlet of spies and betrayal, they heroically fight back and take on increasingly dangerous assignments.
Complicated family dynamics, the tragedies and triumphs of war, and strong female friendships animate The Lioness of Leiden, bringing these true events evocatively to life. Fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network will love this compelling story.
Please enjoy this excerpt from The Lioness of Leiden, out April 4, 2023.
The Lioness of Leiden (excerpt)
Hetty stared at the hand grenades tucked tightly into the suitcase she had opened on the floor of Kees’s living room. “I wonder what would happen if one of these little guys went off right now?” She felt the weight of one of them in her hand.
“It would obliterate every living thing in this room.” Kees stared at the tiny bomb. “But they’re safe as long as you don’t pull the pin.”
“I’ve been daydreaming about what our boys will do to the Germans with these.” She carefully replaced the hand grenade and closed the suitcase. “I just need to get them to Delft, right?”
Kees nodded. “Meet your contact behind the warehouse across the street from the tram station,” he said, taking a bite of toast. “The Germans haven’t been searching the passenger luggage at Delft station recently. So this should be relatively easy.”
“An easy trip sounds good,” said Hetty as she practiced carrying the suitcase around Kees’s living room.
“In case it isn’t easy—” Kees held a small white capsule with his fingers. “Hide this.” Hetty glanced skeptically at Kees.
“Cyanide,” he whispered, dropping it into her hand.
“Oh,” said Hetty, examining the capsule between her fingers. “You don’t think this will be easy at all, do you?”
About the author: Robert Loewen was born in Bakersfield, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and raised his three children in Laguna Beach. A 1970 graduate of Pomona College, Robert served two years in the United States Army, including a tour in Vietnam. His 1972 marriage linked him to Hetty Kraus, his mother-in-law, who told fascinating stories about her experiences in the Dutch resistance during World War II. After a year serving as a law clerk to Justice Byron White at the United States Supreme Court, Robert returned to California in 1977, where he built a successful litigation practice at an international law firm. Known for his persuasive legal briefs, he has always been a natural storyteller who yearned to write fiction.
Now retired, Robert has published his debut novel, a fictional history of Hetty’s life in the Dutch resistance.