In 1939, the arrival of war prompted 'Teddy' Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty - Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine - their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.
After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy's life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?
This really wasn't a bad book by any means, but the postscript revealing that the narrator wrote it to tell his life story to his son does beg the question as to why there were quite so many explicit blowjob scenes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I grew up on the Biggles books and their ilk, so I love a good wartime adventure story; while these days there’s not such a shortage of those books where gay characters play a considerable part in the plot, nor is there any shortage of gay romances set in war time, it’s still not as easy to find adventure stories centred on a gay hero, where romance features but doesn’t necessarily dominate. Having said all that, I’ve been excitedly awaiting this debut novel from Sandra Lindsey, featuring not just a gay hero and his comrades, but also a very special aircraft and a complicated love story (it’s not a conventional romance for those who insist upon those kind of things).
Teddy Garston – very few people are allowed to call him by his given name of Maximillian or its short form, Max – has grown up knowing his duty as the heir to his grandfather, Lord Albury, whose only son was killed in the First World War; however, Teddy is more down to earth than many of his class, spending most of his holidays from school and then university in a Welsh mining village, home to his former nanny as well as to his best friend, Huw. When war breaks out again, Huw is destined to remain a miner – coal being essential to the war effort – while Teddy joins the RAF.
On the final day of his last visit to Huw’s village before receiving his posting, Teddy finally finds the courage to confess his feelings for Huw and is amazed to discover that they are reciprocated. The war separates the men for long periods after that, and Teddy finds solace with one of his crewmates on the Sunderland Flying Boat he has been assigned to. They both acknowledge that the relationship is unlikely to last beyond the long years of the war – Teddy still corresponds with Huw on a regular basis and knows that once he returns home he will have to marry and provide a son to inherit his title in the future. Meanwhile, Teddy’s wartime lover has a string of girlfriends and seems to be serious about the latest one, Sylvia.
I loved the glimpses we get of life on the Sunderland as well as on the various bases at which her crew are stationed, and then, after Teddy’s world is dramatically altered again, those of military hospitals and the work of the ATA – the Air Transport Auxiliary – back in Britain. Teddy manages to do his duty to his men, his lovers and his title, but as I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a conventional romance by some people’s standards, and being a war story, not everyone survives – or comes through the war in one piece.
I loved this book, both for the story told within it and for the style in which it is told – addressing the reader throughout, as Teddy passes his story on to an individual whose identity only becomes clear at the very end. There’s a lot of scope for sequels – and possibly a prequel about Teddy’s grandfather here – so I hope this isn’t the only visit we pay to the characters and their world.
2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Under Leaden Skies by Sandra Lindsey 1) The characters in this story, although in love with each other, have kept their feelings for fear of losing what they have; a strong friendship which goes above their feelings, plus the fear of being found out. It's 1939 war-time and one of the boys goes to do his duty while the other stays behind working in the coal mines with his father and brothers. While at war, Teddy matures and becomes sexually involved with other men, while Huw, the man who holds his interest and his heart remain faithful. It was a pretty good story. It kept me curious as to what would come next. 2) There must be a new "Must have" in recent gay novels, to quickly add a sex scene a few pages to the end, maybe to appease certain readers. It's unnecessary, hit me off a bit and - for me - takes off value of overall really well done works.
(Originally reviewed for Love Bytes Reviews with a copy provided by the publisher / author for an honest review.)
This was one of those books I finished reading and then sat there gazing at my Kindle…reflecting on the story I had just read…and the book hangover it left me with. Did I like it? Yes, very much. Did I like it all? No, to be honest…there were parts I didn’t like, but only because they tugged at my heartstrings. There was also a fairly major event in the story that I had to flip back and make sure I had read correctly, because there was no emotional outpouring at that time (so stereotypical British) and it came as a little bit of a shock to this Yank. Only a little later in the story did the emotions show up via a letter which Max read in the story. No spoilers, but, yes…I was sad.
We meet Max when he is headed off to war. He can’t leave without confessing his undying love for his best friend, Huw Roberts. He waits until the very last minute, in fear that Huw will not want anything to do with him after he tells him. When the opposite is the truth, and Huw shares his feelings, what are the two men to do? Torn apart by the events of World War II, it will be years before they can be together again…if ever.
I think my favorite character in the story was “Cheeks”, and I fell in love with his character. A non-apologetic bisexual, who sleeps with both Max and a woman named Sylvia, his character also has a soft side which made it all just a little more bittersweet. Then it happened. I was shocked, and maybe I even got a little teary eyed.
My only minor complaint with the book was the ending. Did the story wrap up? Yes. Did we have a happy for now? Yes. But I would have liked a little more…like what happened next? Does Jem show up? Do Sylvia’s parents arrive for their visit?
Is the book complete as it is? Yes. But I enjoyed the story and would like more, darn it! I recommend the story to anyone who enjoys a tale set in World War II, when remember…being a homosexual was punishable by arrest and imprisonment in the UK. The tale of these men and their friends, families and crew mates reads as a true historical story, probably because it could easily be true. Told in First Person from Max’s POV, it read in some parts like a personal memoir, and I really liked it because of it. It left me a little sad though. Now I’m typing this review and an old song by The Smith’s is playing on Pandora which is making me even sadder. Quick give me something light and fluffy to read next!
The characters in this story, although in love with each other, have kept their feelings from each other for fear of losing what they have; a strong friendship which goes above their feelings, plus the fear of being found out. It's 1939 war-time and Teddy goes to serve in the military, while Huw stays behind working in the coal mines with his father and brothers. While at war, Teddy matures and becomes sexually involved with other men, while Huw, the man who holds his interest and his heart remain faithful. Before the war ends, they finally get together and confess their feelings, Teddy buys a large house once the war ends and brings Huw to live with him, living a secret life as lovers being careful not to let their relationship be found out. It was a pretty good story. It kept me curious as to what would come next. Well done for a first published story.