When I grew up in Holland, England was across the sea horizon. So close that when my 6 foot 2 father walked into the sea at the beach with my younger sister on his shoulder, she screamed full of anxiety, “not to England father, not to England father!” That happened just after we were liberated from Germany and we could go to the beach again. In Holland, we loved England despite what we were taught in class about our 100-year bloody sea-wars with each other in the 17th and 18th centuries. These wars were mostly “commercial wars” about sea trade to the Far East for “spices,” and hegemony in the Americas and West-Indies. We lost New Amsterdam to the Brits who renamed it New York. That was bad, and I am still mad about that. But in 1945, England helped liberate us from the Germans. ” The Tommies,” as their soldiers were called, conquered many blonde Dutchies.
Everyone wanted to build a new Europe free from division and wars. The US helped rebuild Europe with the Marshall Plan. Regional collaboration started between Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, “The Benelux”, launched by representatives of the three countries exiled in London in 1944, with a Secretariat in Brussels. At the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, I participated in those activities. It was mostly built on commercial interests. I adored Brussels for many reasons, foremost good French fries, mussels, delightful steak salade, white Mosel wine from Luxemburg. And the beautiful Grand Place with its many sidestreets where you can dine and wine was always like heaven.
My greatest fun was that we received a tax-free compensation for those Brussels meetings that I used to buy my liquor with back home in The Hague. That compensation always increased if the meetings lasted beyond 4.30 PM. So, even if there was nothing to discuss anything more, somebody always came up at the last moment with some urgent issue to resolve. And we went happily home with the extra bonus. Later, when I had a girlfriend living with me, it saved me from ruin because I had to pay for her telephone calls.
“The Coal and Steel Community” came to life in 1951, covering the Benelux, France, Italy, and Germany, which was the precursor of the European Economic Union (EEC), established in 1958. The UK wanted to be a member of the six-country union, but former President de Gaulle blocked its membership because he said it would be the Trojan Horse bringing in the USA to meddle in “Europe’s affairs.” The UK then joined with other European countries bordering the EEC to establish the competing EFTA (Economic Free Trade Association), among others with Ireland, Switzerland, and the Nordic countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. So from the outset, the EEC was a continental European affair. The UK became only a member in 1973 after La Douce France lifted her veto skirt. But it has always been a lukewarm relationship. And now it is out again. The good idea of unification after WW II became entangled in overly centralized governing by Brussels and uncontrollable borders with undesirable immigrants.
Churchill, by the way, wanted a federal Europe like the US, but it excluded the UK because that was a self-standing entity. The Brits wanted “self.” It took only 43 years, a blip in history.
It was basically a matter of English breakfast versus Continental breakfast. I love English breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, sliced baked potatoes, smoked mackerel, English tea, so good that we could not stop eating at the Heathrow airport Hilton and missed our flight. Also, because access to Heathrow airport is like a real bottleneck and continuously jammed. Conversely, a continental breakfast consists of espresso, a croissant with some jelly, and perhaps a little cookie. That’s all.
The French continental breakfast
Although I prefer my Douce France for dinner, I prefer my Perfide Albion for breakfast. With the British pound down for a while, I may just go and get it. I remember the dollar was high in 1984, and we stocked up on good English shoes, coats, and curios, and had a ball at Selfridges and Harrods. And we gauged on a succulent English lamb that had become ridiculously expensive because of the EEC.
A feast that warrants repetition thanks to Brexit. God Save The Queen.
Oh! those beautiful swans! Ever listened to that wonderful Swan melody by Camille St. Saëns? It’s the core of the moving and heartbreaking story of Paul and Fiona, two lovebird musicians at the venerable College of William & Mary in Virginia – that beautiful State with the logo “Virginia is for Lovers!”- who form a duo in their last graduate year. Paul at the keyboard and Fiona playing cello. They fall in love when playing “The Swan.” And kiss for the first time on the famous Crim Dell Bridge in the W&M gardens.
And agree to get married after graduation. But then bad luck strikes and their future together seems doomed.
Fiona’s Belgian godparents who raised her – her parents perished while sailing off the Belgian coast when she was two – block the marriage because Paul is an American. She must marry a titled Belgian as her parents had wished, a nobleman and family friend she knew early on. When Paul lunches with Fiona at the Grand Place in Brussels, she tells him in tears she is forced to break up. Noblesse oblige…
Right: Bistrot Roi d’Espagne at the Grand Place
For Paul, it means a terrible psychological setback, for Fiona it means forsaking her love and hope of a life shared in playing classical music together.
Paul is offered a job in a bank in Geneva and takes the TGV.
but his life there is without light despite skiing and mountains. He falls for a selfish career girl. Then gets used by another in a bank fraud. His career seems doomed and he must return home. Through a sheer coincidence, he hears Fiona is back in the US and divorcing. A miraculous encounter at a house concert brings them back together, but Fiona is broken and has suffered severe abuse. Paul faces an uphill battle to win her back. As the trailer puts it, will they ever play the Swan again?
I wrote this book because I am a romantic, like Nicholas Sparks, or Barbara Bradford-Taylor; love romantic classical music, and adore W&M’s Department of Music. What this story tells is that luck is not a given and that it can be taken away from you; that you must fight to gain it back; that you must persevere; that you must learn to accept the changes that take place in your beloved and yourself. And that when you do all that, you may enjoy happiness again, but at a different level, one that is matured to accept life as it evolves.
What readers said about this story on Amazon.com:
MJM: “John writes beautifully – I found the book difficult to put down – an easy read, full of intrigue, love, passion, international travel and dubious banking business, and lots more – a must read.”
Dan: “John Schwartz has written a fine romantic thriller that doesn’t let go until the very end…”
Doris: “…I loved this book!…After only 3 chapters I was hooked…”
Neal: “…a beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world, and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie…”
Vera: “Enjoyed the book. Well written book. First book to read by the author, but sure will read more books by him in the future…”
So, would you not want to read it, too, at the special e-book price of $2.99, or spoil yourself with a nice paperback?
Give yourself a chance!
THREE THINGS INSPIRED ME WHEN WRITING ENCHANTING THE SWAN: ROMANCE, LOVE FOR MUSIC AND MUSIC IN LOVE. IN SHORT: FOREVER ROMANCE:
HERE IS THE TRAILER: https://youtu.be/8vHdGKGWQEo
(If the links do not function just cc it into your URL)
Don’t take me wrong: it is not only love that makes the world go round: pigheaded ultraconservative family rules preventing a SHINING love blossoming from the heart and conceived in music, GREED versus compassion, JEALOUS PURSUIT to snatch away someone else’s love, ABUSE IN MARRIAGE, desperate escape and FINAL REDEMTPION in music: it’s all in ENCHANTING THE SWAN, a love story as no other.
Paul Cramer, MBA graduate and Fiona Baroness de Maconville, cellist, play The Swan, a famous cello-piece by Camille St. Saëns, before their William & Mary Audience. That’s where their love bloomed: at the Department of Music in the Ewell Hall, located at the College of William & Mary, situated in rustic Williamsburg, Virginia. They play it also at the Graduation Ceremony!
Neal Cary, Professor and cellist teacher at the College of William & Mary, writes about Enchanting The Swan: “…a beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world, and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie. Enchanting the Swan is a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.”
What does VT Mom say: I loved this book! I had not read a novel in several years. After only 3 chapters I was hooked. I live in Virginia so I was very familiar with the college where Paul and Fiona met. Very impressed with the author and his attention to detail. Hope he writes many more.
And Vera: Enjoyed the book. Well written book. First book to read by the author, but sure will read more of books by him in the future. They seem to click and make beautiful music, have plans for the future when graduate, but when go by her place she has now gone. Not even a word to Paul. Seems like wishes of her Godparents are more important. A very heartbreaking love story. How can every thing seem so right, and now so wrong?
And MJOrlean: John writes beautifully – I found the book difficult to put down – an easy read, full of intrigue, love, passion, international travel and dubious banking business, and lots more – a must read.
(If the link does not function just cc it into your URL)
As you see from the back flap, the beginning of their love seems doomed in a bitter family feud of old stiff Belgian nobility with modern times. Fiona, an orphan raised by godparents after her parents died sailing into a storm at the Belgian coast, must break off because her noble godfather wants her to marry into their Belgian circle. At a heartbreaking lunch in a restaurant at the Grand Place in Brussels, The Roi d’Espagne (right on the photograph) she tells Paul she can’t marry him.
Paul joins a financial postgraduate course at the Free University of Brussels for a few weeks in the hope Fiona and her godparents change their mind, but eventually must capitulate, and when offered a promising internship at First Swiss Bank in Geneva he takes it. And off he goes, heartbroken, not knowing this step leads him into lots of trouble. Read the story in http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
Paul skiing in Swiss Alps
Brussels is again the focus of Islamic radicalism. Brussels is the center of the European Union and has been the center of Europe since the European reunification began after World War II. I worked and visited Brussels many times for work and pleasure. Like I mourned with my friends in Paris last November, I mourn with my friends in Brussels now. It is a place with great treasures, such as the Grand Place. Now Islamic Radicalism is overwhelming the city with brutal force to stem the growth of Europe as a symbol of Western Union and Civilization after it stabilized after two terrible wars in the twentieth century and many more before since the Middle Ages.
The issue of Radical Islam has become so predominant in current times that many believe it is something new that only now comes out of the woodwork. In fact, Islam has always been a political movement, starting with Mohammed whose armies swarmed over the Middle East to suppress peoples into submission. Islamic religion, the Quran, has many good thoughts, but it is also a religion of strife. Christ was a prophet of the cross, whose sacrifice we are remembering this week. Yes, many religious and political leaders have also abused and misused Christianity for political purposes. Popes, Emperors, Bishops and priests. Christian fundamentalism in the Middle Ages and many wars between Catholic and Protestant forces caused huge suffering and destruction for four centuries long. With the last remnants of these terrible fissures finally solved with peace in Northern Ireland only some fifty years ago, Europe no longer has religious wars between their main religious beliefs.
Yet now Europe is again overtaken by Islamic Jihadism. Actually, Islamic strife has never really stopped. The Islamic march to conquer Europe was defeated several times, in 732 by France, in 1492 by Spain, in 1683 by the Austrians when the Turks laid siege to Vienna, and in 1918, when the last caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, crumbled at the end of World War I. But jihadism continued to rumble on after the creation of artificial Middle-Eastern countries from the broken Ottoman Empire, and the birth of Israel. Political Islam has consistently grown. Out of a deep hatred for whatever is “Western” or “Jewish,” activist Islamic groups have been attacking and murdering: Iranian Mullahs, Hezbollah, Hamas, then Al-Qaeda born from Saudi-Arabian Wahabism, and now ISIS and its offshoots. Islamic migration to Europe has been largely unassimilated. Zones of Islamic radicalism are created in Europe where police is not even allowed to set foot.
Millions of people of Islamic belief live peacefully, doing their daily work, growing their kids, going to their mosques, trying to live a decent life. So why is it that many of their leaders continue their strive towards Islamic supremacy? The killing, at genocidal proportions, abhors every reasonable person, even peaceful Islamic believers. Why do they not stand up against their own?
Rational Muslims must eradicate the cancer in their Islamic religion. Like any cancer, it kills. If the Muslims themselves do not eradicate this built-in cancer of jihadism in their religion, it will ultimately kill the religion itself. So far, few Muslims have spoken out. How many more terrorist disasters must happen before they realize they must put a stop to it to protect their own religion from oblivion? Christian and Western peoples are not going to let themselves be pulverized into Islamic submission. Jihadism will lead to further war, as it has done from the times that the religion emerged in 632. If that is their wish, it will cause Europe and the USA to lean more and more to leaders who will execute a radical counter-terrorist military offensive, and vote out politicians who practice peace, political correctness, and weakness. It will make the life of innocent Muslims more threatened than ever. They will only have themselves to thank for it.
The Christmas and New Year period is a great time to read or gift a few heartwarming stories to suit the holidays!
ENCHANTING THE SWAN ends at Christmas, a moving end which I will not give away here. You can read the novel at http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o and at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys (Barnes & Noble). Consistent 5 star reviews so far: Dan Dwyer comments: If you like old fashioned romance stories, you will like Enchanting The Swan. Paul and Fiona meet at the College of William and Mary in Virginia where they fall in love after playing “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens. There’s more to this story than Dewey eye romance. John Schwartz has written a fine romantic thriller than doesn’t let go until the very end.
Neal Cary, professor and cellist at William & Mary, writes: Enchanting the Swan is a beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world, and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie. Enchanting the Swan is a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.
MJM Orlean writes: John writes beautifully – I found the book difficult to put down – an easy read, full of intrigue, love, passion, international travel and dubious banking business, and lots more – a must read.
You can still get it for a good read at the fire place: http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
or at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys. ENJOY!
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN is a memoir /coming-of-age story. Our unforgettable Audrey Hepburn was a central personality in our home and especially for me, as we met as children (she 13 and I 7 ) in Holland well before she became a beautiful and revered film star. Of course, our lives became very different and I only touched hers at her outer sphere, but she did remember me! It is one of the more striking stories in SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN.
You can still get it at http://amzn.to/1QIL94B
Readers seem to like it: Sam writes: This is a heartwarming collection of short stories that portray the path of boy meets world with realism and sensitivity. Perhaps most surprising are the different relationships that each story portrays – some were romantic, while others were more familial or close friendships. Those qualities, combined with the historical backdrop and international perspective, distinguish this book from the more typical and predictable storylines, making it a five-star read!
Kendal writes about the Audrey story: I adore Audrey Hepburn and love to hear new stories about her. Can’t get enough. And this short story was a nice little peek into her life, especially pre-fame, as a young girl… loved it.
Micah Harris writes in similar terms: A pleasant account of an exceptional person. There’s always something poignant about beautiful people recovering from ghastly times. Thanks for the read.
Dan writes: I had read the author’s vignette on Audrey Hepburn a few months ago when I was looking for something short, different and personal because my daughter is a big Hepburn fan. Mr. Schwartz did not fail me then nor has he failed me now with his compilation of the women he has met in his life…One charming and not so charming adventure after another, however, ended the same way until he finally met the proverbial woman of his dreams. She luckily for both shared the same dream.
And how did we!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and pleasant holidays!
John and Joy