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MORAL FIBRE

A richly textured, absorbing war tale that works equally well as a touching love story.

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A novel focuses on a British bomber pilot in the waning years of World War II.

This latest book from Schrader, the author of many historical novels (including 2014’s Knight of Jerusalem), centers on Christopher “Kit” Moran, a pilot and officer in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command. As the author explains in a foreword, Kit appeared in her novella Lack of Moral Fibre (2021), in which he was sent to a psychiatric center after he refused to fly a bombing raid on Berlin. As this novel opens, the action finds Kit being offered a second chance to return to the flying crew, first taking a break to visit Georgina Reddings, the former fiancee of his dead flight leader, in the Yorkshire countryside. During their time at the home of Georgina’s vicar father, the two young people almost involuntarily become closer to each other. “It was ridiculous to pretend he was like a brother to her,” Georgina muses. “She could sense that if she saw more of him, she would lose her heart to him.” Matters between them are unresolved when Georgina goes back to the teaching field and Kit returns to the RAF for retraining and reassignment. The narrative follows both characters as they deal with the world of England in the final years of the war, not just professionally, but personally. Georgina and Kit cope with all manner of people and challenges, from the tedium of bureaucracy to the realities of wartime shortages and how to overcome them. Schrader helpfully adds an index of ranks and definitions for readers unfamiliar with the terminology of the period to aid in the immersive experience of the novel.

The author does a smoothly confident job shifting the action of her story from the very separate war experiences of her two main characters, which include Kit attending the “finishing school” for training on gun flights and Georgina teaching children in the village. The thread binding these two halves of the narrative is the growing relationship between Kit and Georgina, which is overshadowed by their separate loyalties to her former love. Is she embracing Kit as a kind of emotional extension of her relationship with her fiance? And is Kit rejoining the RAF out of some sense of guilt that his leader died instead of him? Schrader does such a great job creating the vibrant, involving scenes these characters share that readers will look forward to them despite the dramatics of the separate plotlines. The sense of the young lovers’ mounting awareness of their feelings for each other is executed with considerable skill. “If he had once felt he ought to die,” Kit realizes at one point in this moving story, “Georgina had cured him of that madness.” Likewise, Kit’s experiences in the RAF are vividly portrayed: He “felt an unexpected thrill to be flying over England again. Roads, streams, woods and hedges broke the green and hilly Gloucestershire countryside into mosaic pieces.” The two narrative strands beautifully balance each other up to the book’s climax.

A richly textured, absorbing war tale that works equally well as a touching love story.

Pub Date: May 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73531-392-4

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Cross Seas Press

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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