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Love & Retribution

A wartime story of love, loss and revenge

(19 customer reviews)
Authors: Catherine McCullagh
Historical Fiction, World War II
153mm x 230mm

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It’s July 1943 and the world has been at war for almost four long years. One morning, young widow Emmy Penry-Jones discovers two men washed up on the beach below her house on the west coast of Cornwall. Emmy is used to rescuing washed-up sailors, the deadly Battle of the Atlantic exacting a heavy toll on shipping. But these men are not like the shipwrecked sailors she has rescued before and Emmy is soon drawn into a web of intrigue that will test both her ingenuity and her patriotism. Rocked by accusations of war crimes against a man she knows to be innocent, Emmy launches a bid to defend him, all too aware that the accusers could turn on her. The trial marks a turning point and Emmy is drawn further into a deadly cycle of post-war retribution from which only one man can save her.

Catherine McCullagh

Catherine McCullagh

Catherine McCullagh is a highly respected editor and author. She has worked as an editor and advisor on numerous military and Australian history books and has two published works to her name, Willingly into the Fray, a narrative history of the first 100 years of Australian Army nursing, and War Child, the true story of […]

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19 reviews for Love & Retribution

  1. Catherine McCullagh once again gives us a page-turner that reflects her meticulous historical research. Set mainly in Britain in World War II, Love and Retribution vividly portrays the impact of war on the lives of both ordinary citizens and men in battle, focusing on choices made in times of fear and uncertainty. A tale with many twists, the story is dominated by love, grief and revenge and is set against the backdrop of pitiless conflict. This is Catherine McCullagh’s third book, and I would highly recommend all three. Now, I’m looking forward to the next one!

  2. Love and Retribution is a pacey, well-structured story with a tightly woven plot and realistic characterisation. I loved the richness of the descriptions of life in a Cornish fishing village and others set amid the carnage and destruction of war. I particularly enjoyed the breadth of the plot, which transports the readers from the cliffs of western Cornwall to the grim horror of the shattered ruins of Hamburg and then to blitzed and battered London in the grey misery of winter. The characters were complex and edgy and I found myself caring deeply about their fate. Love and Retribution is a great read!

  3. Love and Retribution opens with an innocent rescue. From there the story unfolds within an authentic and detailed illustration of life in wartime England, quickly giving way to adventures rich in revelation, subterfuge and fiery passion. Plot twists to make your palms sweat run concurrently with heartbreaking studies of the human condition. This story is a vivid reminder that even the quietest of lives can attract the most unforeseen of circumstances.

  4. Love and Retribution gives the reader an insight into the inner worlds of some of the people and communities affected by World War II. Much of the story is situated in the fictional Cornish fishing village of Tot where Emmy, briefly married and now widowed with the death of her husband at Dunkirk, moves to her parents’ house to care for her ageing mother and father. Her life is changed one morning when she rescues two shipwrecked sailors who have been washed up on the beach. What happens next takes the reader into the worlds, lives and different perspectives of those living through and affected by the war.

    Given Tot’s position on the Cornish coast, we learn about battles between the German U-boats and Allied navies and the fight for intelligence both during and after the war. Morals, ethics and values are called into play. The strength of community, friendship, family and allegiances is tested and shines through. The story is gripping, moving, suspenseful, yet there is humour and light-heartedness amongst the fear and pain. Love, compassion and hope win over fear, nastiness and selfishness. Emmy proves to be a strong woman, standing by her values, morals and ethics, as do others, while they are tested by those who behave badly. The beautiful descriptions, images and engaging narrative take the reader on an immersive journey, stepping back in time many decades. Readers will often find themselves not only asking ‘what would I have done in this situation?’ but also ‘what will I do when I’m faced with adversity; what kind of person do I aspire to be?’

  5. Love and Retribution is the latest historical novel by Catherine McCullagh. While her previous novels were set in occupied France, in this one, the setting is shifted to Cornwall in England during World War II. The book tells the story of an impossible love set against desperate times in a Britain weighed down by war.

    Main protagonist Emmy is a memorable character — a perky, sassy heroine who is forced to balance loyalty to her family and country with her desire to love and be loved. Her counterpart, Max, is an atypical hero whose past comes to haunt him in a variety of unexpected ways.

    The setting in Cornwall highlights some of the lesser known aspects of the war in Europe and the background history is researched with great detail and accuracy.

    The story is easy to read and will appeal to readers interested in both war history and historical romance.

  6. With a backdrop of the beautiful coast of Cornwall, Love and Retribution describes life in a seaside village during World War II. When two men are washed ashore, young widow Emmy will be thrust into a life of love, upheaval and drama. Meticulous research by Catherine McCullagh describes a world of intrigue, passion and revenge as the story moves from Cornwall to London to Europe. A page-turner!

  7. This is a novel I highly recommend to lovers of historical fiction with a focus on WW2. It slips a wedge in your heart and stirs up your mind. It leads you to question and think about loyalties and appearances— particularly in war. A nice romantic triangle maintains the human thread as it weaves its way through the war’s dark tapestry; drawing us in at a personal level. For this story is not just a history lesson weighted down with facts and figures of WW2. The relationships make it real and provide a vibrant beating heart to which we can connect.

  8. A fictional story that creates believable characters based on real events can be a tall task. But Catherine has delivered well and shown us that war is not just a machine led by faceless men. Through her careful design and fascinating cast, we experience what it is like to live through loss and betrayal. And how love and faith can and has helped many endure. For the bloodiness of war can paint a grim picture of humanity. Yet still there were and are real heroes who braved its challenges and torments. And survived. ‘Love and Retribution’ offers a positive resolution to suffering—and that there are such things as second chances and happy endings. I sincerely recommend this 5 Star novel.

  9. ‘Love and Retribution’ by Catherine McCullagh is perfect for historical fiction readers. It’s great to know when you are reading a book that you can rely on an author’s meticulous research and this is the case with this story. In the author’s notes at the end of the book the author explains a few instances when, for the sake of the story, certain things have been changed. WW2, a period I love reading about, is the focus of ‘Love and Retribution’. The story has all the things that make a good novel: a romantic triangle, how people maintain their humanity, and characters that are brought to life. The history is woven through the story with a light touch. Thoroughly recommended

  10. A fictional story that creates believable characters based on real events can be a tall task. But Catherine has delivered well and shown us that war is not just a machine led by faceless men. Through her careful design and fascinating cast, we experience what it is like to live through loss and betrayal. And how love and faith can and has helped many endure. For the bloodiness of war can paint a grim picture of humanity. Yet still there were and are real heroes who braved its challenges and torments. And survived. ‘Love and Retribution’ offers a positive resolution to suffering—and that there are such things as second chances and happy endings. I sincerely recommend this 5 star novel.

  11. his is a novel that will still linger for some time to come.
    I am most definitely not a historian by a long shot, but I am a lover and follower of historical fiction and especially those containing a good history lesson. Once again, Catherine McCullagh managed to not only give an excellent history lesson, she brought the war-filled years of the 1940’s to life in the pages of Love & Retribution. From Cornwall, England to the heart of Germany. Every side has two stories.
    This apt titled book, mainly revolves around Emmy Perry-Jones, a young war-widow and trained nurse, and Max, one of two soldiers who washed ashore Emmy’s Cornwall beach.

    Although washed ashore soldiers are no uncommon occurrence and the sad reality of unmarked graves on the shoreline were just another reminder of the harshness of war, there was something different about Max and his silent companion.

    To say too much about events unfolding in this novel, will be a spoiler alert and the plotline diverts in various directions that unfolds in a believable and thought provoking manner.

    With wonderful character building and true to events unfolding in Europe and England during WWII, this is a historical novel that will be worth adding to your collection.

    With a mixture of a fertile imagination and extensive research, Colleen McCullagh perfectly captured the rich details describing the circumstances of the various characters and she paid respectable homage to organizations like The Women’s Institute who were invaluable in the War Effort.

  12. Once I had entered the wartime world of Emmy, her family and her lover, I was hooked. What a great read. Catherine has created a believable and intricate scenario, the backdrop to an extraordinary love story and a tense tale of retribution. The real history is accurate and detailed, and the fictionalised story is gripping. There were some twists and turns that I did not see coming, always the sign of a skilful writer.

    The author has a fine descriptive eye and the story develops with a good pace. The point of view shifts deftly throughout the story, with new insights into motivation and behaviour with each change in viewpoint. Young widow Emmy finds two men washed up on the beach near her home in Cornwall. What happens after that is a satisfyingly riveting story that I found hard to put down. The love story transcends the usual boundaries created by war, while maintaining credibility despite its unexpected storyline.

    I do not normally read historical fiction, but I am glad that I picked up this well-told story. I am still thinking about the strong characters Catherine has created and the way the war changed everything for all of them.

  13. A wartime decision to protect and help a German U-boat commander changes the course of Emmy Penry-Jones’ life in Love and Retribution. This book was such a page-turner, taking me in unexpected directions. From a stately pace in the beginning where the author sets the scene of small-town Cornwall and Emmy’s peaceful life there, to a courtroom drama in Hamburg and revenge and espionage in London, this is a cracking story which is very well researched. I loved Max’s character – he is wry, charming and brings such warmth to the story. Peter’s character is complex, as a reader I was unsure of him for much of the narrative, but he shows his true self towards the end. It’s always enjoyable to have characters like him in a novel that are flawed but ultimately likeable. The author explores shades of grey in wartime in terms of loyalties and moral decisions, showing that choices were not always clear cut and what might benefit national interest wasn’t always ideal on a personal level. And that those who on the surface seem like enemies could be something else altogether.

  14. UNPUTDOWNABLE is how I describe this book. A riveting tale where the plot twists and turns continue until the very last sentence. There are many layers built around an historically accurate framework and the reader is taken on an emotional roller coaster as each layer is peeled back.

    Exquisitely crafted characters you love, love to hate, and despise draw you into their world and hold you in suspense right to the end.

    The backdrop describing everyday life in Britain during WW2 is subtly informative, educating the reader on the challenges faced by people living in fear of bombing, the scale of the tragic loss of military and merchant marine personnel, the tightly regulated rationing system and subsequent emergence of a bartering economy between townsfolk able to grow their own produce.

    A tale unfolding like the calm before the storm, the reader is taken through loss, intrigue, deceit, love, jealousy, angst, joy, suspense, amazement and apprehension. Thankfully there is space after the last full stop to catch your breath.

  15. A great read.

    Not only is this a well researched and truly immersive piece of historical fiction that strongly evokes the sights, smells and feel of an English coastal town in war-torn England – it packs a huge amount of story into a tightly plotted and engaging read.
    The writing expertly melds the mixture of genres – romance, historical period drama, family drama and psychological thriller – together in a way that looks effortless but can only be achieved by a very talented novelist. This book gives us a truly human story set in a time of great social and political turmoil, but stays centred on a relationship ( or should I say relationships) which are nuanced, interesting and unfold in unexpected ways. It reminded me in many ways of Outlander by Diane Gabaldon and fans of that series may well find something they love in this equally well crafted tale.

  16. One of the best things is the many twists which keeps the reader guessing. The end is not a foregone conclusion either

    Definitely recommend.

  17. You know when you are starting to read a book by Catherine McCullagh that you are going to get an excellent book with lots of research and an eye for details, and this one didn’t disappoint. It is really good and you get to learn aspects of WWII that you never knew before.

    The story develops mainly in a little coastal town of England and has, at least to my thinking two life stories intertwined in the main one, the story of Emmy, the young nurse taking care of her mother in the house above the cliff at the aforementioned town, and Max, one the sailors she rescues from a shipwreck. Max turns out to be a german U-boat commander.

    As usual in war times things and people don’t always are what they purpose to be and along the pages of the book we learn of Max’s actions during the war and the consequences of those actions.

    This book makes you question loyalties, actions and appearances, and makes you realize that what you perceive as truth sometimes it isn’t truly the reality. Add to that a love triangle and you get a book you can’t put down.

  18. Well-researched and intriguing. There’s a plethora of WWII books around at the moment, but this one is surprisingly original, delivering a unique perspective… There’s a plethora of WWII books around at the moment, but this one is surprisingly original, delivering a unique perspective

  19. While this is a romance and a domestic drama, it is also a well-researched exploration of many aspects of wartime Britain, including the role of the Women’s Institute and the effects on the population of rationing and other war efforts. The nature of war and enmity is also considered – what collaboration means, atrocities and the necessity for compromise and quick wits.

    Catherine McCullagh is a skilled storyteller whose interest goes well beyond a study of the era. She concerns herself with human nature and moral questions and particularly with the lot of women – parlous as it sometimes was and is.

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