Leo's War by Patricia Murphy Blog Tour with Excerpt & Giveaway @_PatriciaMurphy

Welcome to our stop during the blog tour for Leo's War. Our stop includes an excerpt and giveaway. Let's get this started!

It’s 1943 and young Leo tries to protect his disabled sister Ruby as the Nazis invade Italy.  After his mother is arrested, he turns to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty to save them. But he is no ordinary priest.  Known as ‘The Pimpernel of the Vatican’, the Monsignor is the legendary organizer of the Rome Escape Line. Soon Leo is helping out with this secret network dedicated to saving the lives of escaped prisoners of war, partisans and Jews.  But as the sinister Nazi leader Kappler closes in on the network, can Leo and his sister stay out of his evil clutches?

In this extract from chapter 9, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty and 12 year-old Leo visit the Jewish ghetto on the east side of the Tiber, one of the oldest ghettoes in Europe. This is significant for Leo whose father is from a Jewish family in London.

The details based on real events. In 1943, the Nazi commander of Rome, Herbert Kappler had offered the Jewish people a deal – the chance to stay in the city if they paid him a ransom in gold. But while the Jewish people kept their part of the bargain their trust was to be betrayed.

“I love it here,” Hugh said. “The Jews are a mighty
We stopped at another Jewish pastry shop on a corner of
the Porta di Ottavia, called the “Boccione”, behind an

unmarked double wooden door that Hugh said was a local

landmark for two centuries. It was locked. He knocked a
special knock, another signal.
The owner of the bakery, her hands floury, came out. She
was old with a big flabby face. She pinched my cheeks. Her
name was Bianca and she explained she only opened every
other day because she didn’t have the ingredients.
She led us in even though they were closed and cut me
an extra-large slice of pizza ebraica, a special Jewish pizza
that she had in a special cabinet. Not the familiar doughy
pizza with tomatoes at all but a dense nutty-fruity
coffeecake, a brick of sweet dough bursting with whole
almonds, pine nuts, raisins and chunks of candied fruit,
burnt almost to a crisp on top. Bianca told me proudly that
the Boccione had been her family’s business for generations
and that her mother devised the recipe for Torta della
Ricotta, a sweet and lemony cheesecake topped with pine
nuts and icing sugar.
“That is my last cake for a while,” she said sadly. “I
cannot get ingredients for love nor money.”
Hugh ate his with relish and Bianca refused to allow him
to pay. “Put it in the box for the orphans,” she said. “Ah,
how I wish I could give you a slice of your favourite
mandora e visciole crostada! But the Nazis have stolen all the
Hugh’s eyes lit up. “Ah, the wild cherry and almond paste
tart! A taste of heaven. And the chocolate one too.
Paradise dancing on your tongue.”
His face was so expressive I could almost taste it myself.
But Bianca frowned. “Chocolate is rarer than gold now.
The greedy Nazis have eaten it all, pah!”
They were making me mad with the hunger!
“The Nazis have demanded 50 kilos of gold from us, you
know, to save ourselves,” she said, mopping her face with
her apron. “A ransom. Kappler says if we pay it we will not
be rounded up and deported to the workcamps.”
“I know,” said Hugh. “The Pope has offered help with a
loan but the Jewish people are raising it all themselves.
Quite impressive to gather so much in such a short time.”
The woman shrugged. “It should save us. I think. I have
given them my second-best candelabra. My wedding ring.
The Nazis are rashanim – evildoers. But they are men of

I puzzled over her words, how could they be opposites –
evil and honourable? But I thought maybe she meant they
would keep their promises.
Hugh looked grim and not too convinced either. “I pray
to God they are. If you are worried, Bianca, I can arrange a
place for you.”
But she shook her old head. “Aren’t we the oldest
Romans? Here since the second century before you
Christians turned up. This is my home, why should I run?”
Hugh patted her on the arm and she held his hand for a

moment, like old friends.
Out on the street, people were talking in their own
dialect, a mixture of Italian and Hebrew. It sounded throaty
and clotted. Like the people were feeling a lot and put it all
into the words.
“Why does Hitler hate the Jews so much?” I asked Hugh
as we continued our walk.
“They are scapegoats,” he said. “You understand what
that means? When you don’t want to lay the blame on the
real cause, you invent an enemy. Then you don’t have to
own up to the truth. So Hitler can blame all that is wrong on
a people who cannot fight back.” He frowned.


Patricia Murphy is the bestselling author of The Easter Rising 1916 – Molly’s Diary and Dan’s Diary – the War of Independence 1920-22 published by Poolbeg.
She has also written the prize-winning “The Chingles” trilogy of children’s Celtic fantasy novels.   Patricia is also an award winning Producer/Director of documentaries including Children of Helen House, the BBC series on a children’s hospice and Born to Be Different Channel 4’s flagship series following children born with disabilities. Many of her groundbreaking programmes are about children’s rights and topics such as growing up in care, crime and the criminal justice system. She has also made a number of history programmes including Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson for Channel 4 and has produced and directed films for the Open University.

Patricia grew up in Dublin and is a graduate in English and History from Trinity College Dublin and of Journalism at Dublin City University. She now lives in Oxford with her husband and young daughter.

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