Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Distant Melody

The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the cover, and the airplane on it. I liked the fact that Sarah Sundin’s A Distant Melody was set during World War II, and according to the book description the heroine wasn’t attractive or confident (at least not at the start). So I requested it from Graf-Martin Communications and it turned out to be a pleasant if not perfect read.

Allegra (Allie) Miller, the heiress to a large company, lives a stifled existence with her parents, who have already picked out the man they hope she’ll marry. But on a rare trip away from her family she meets Walt Novak, a pilot home on furlough.

I liked Walt from the moment he thought self-deprecatingly of his “chipmunk cheeks and Novak nose”. He’s also usually tongue-tied shy around women, but Allie turns out to be an exception. At that point, though, a Big Misunderstanding occurs. Allie assumes that a mutual friend told Walt that she’s spoken for, so she doesn’t mention the other man. Walt assumes that she’s single and starts planning their future together.

It’s somewhat believable, since Allie is so sheltered and naïve that it never occurs to her to drop a subtle hint or two, and fortunately it doesn’t last for too long. They decide to be friends, especially since Walt has to go off to war, but Allie promises to pray for him and they’ll both write to each other.

In this age of email and text messages, hardly anyone seems to write letters, but I did that for most of my life and enjoyed it. So I liked reading the letters that span the next several months in Allie’s and Walt’s lives, sometimes arriving too late, sometimes censored and sometimes crossing like the proverbial ships that pass in the night. Those were a sweet and natural development of their relationship. I could see why Allie might pour her heart out in those, and why Walt might treasure them so much.

What I didn’t enjoy were the things that kept them apart. For the first half of this book, there’s Allie’s boyfriend. He’s cynical, greedy, snobbish and a cold fish, each quality contrasted with the warm and morally upright Walt, down to the fact that he smokes but Walt doesn’t touch the noxious weed. Finally, he’s suspected of being a homosexual – because all his other faults weren’t enough, I suppose.

Allie keeps hoping that she can convert him, which was unbelievable. It's one thing for the heroine to be naïve about social etiquette, but how could she know this man for years and still hope to somehow make him a devout Christian? It was much more realistic that her parents approved strongly of him and wanted him to manage the family business.

Anyway, Allie finally realizes that God doesn’t want her to marry this money-grubbing smoking cynical gay snob, so she returns the engagement ring he gave her. I rather like her parents’ reaction to this – they refuse to believe her, send out the wedding invitations anyway and warn her that she’ll be disinherited if she keeps that up.

Meanwhile Walt decides that he can’t keep being the best friend of a soon-to-be-married woman, so he writes to her saying that he has a girlfriend. From then on, what kept them apart were Small Misunderstandings, since character-wise, I couldn’t imagine the two of them ever arguing or even disagreeing about anything.

The romance is interwoven with the progression of the war, which was often more realistic than the love story. Sondin has done her research, and I loved the descriptions of aerial battles – Spitfires, B-24 Liberators, the Luftwaffe, and the actual deaths and maiming of sympathetic characters.

Walt stole a glance from the instruments, his group’s sloppy formation, and the charging Focke-Wulf 190s. Even from twenty thousand feet, he recognized the Eiffel Tower. If he survived, he had something good for his next letters. If not? Well, at least he’d seen Paris before he died.

In conclusion, this book is a good enough read if you can get over the unlikeable boyfriend and misunderstandings, plus the fact that neither of the main characters have serious flaws. I’d recommend it for readers wanting inspirational romance, but the distant melody I kept hearing was the roar of engines, the flow of propwash and the chatter of machine-guns. Wish there had been more of that.

This book is available from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications. It is a trade paperback, $14.99, 423 pages.

No comments: