Title: Wingmen (Audiobook)
Author: Ensan Case
Narrator: Adam Schulmerich
Publisher: Lethe Press
eBook Release Date: 06/18/2014
Audiobook Release Date: 12/16/2014
Story Rating: 5.0 of 5 Stars
Narration Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars
Overall Rating: 5.0 of 5 Stars
Jack Hardigan’s Hellcat fighter squadron blew the Japanese Zekes out of the blazing Pacific skies. But a more subtle kind of hell was brewing in his feelings for rookie pilot Fred Trusteau. While a beautiful widow pursues Jack, and another pilot becomes suspicious of Jack and Fred’s close friendship, the two heroes cut a fiery swath through the skies from Wake Island to Tarawa to Truk, there to keep a fateful rendezvous with love and death in the blood-clouded waters of the Pacific.
My View – Story:
I have a particular fondness for the WWII period and was intrigued by the blurb for this title and the fact that it was first published over 35 years ago. Wingmen is a rare jewel of a read, just as much a historical war novel as it is a gay romance. The publisher’s note states that it is heavily reminiscent of From Here to Eternity, and this is quite true in that it is an elegantly balanced love story set amidst the intense Pacific air campaign of the early 1940’s. Added to this is the element of two men, both naval pilots, falling for one another and the repercussions of such a relationship during this time period. Because I loved this story so much, I am going to write this review from a more reactionary and personal standpoint.
Let’s start with the historical aspects of the novel. First, I didn’t feel as though I was being hit over the head with war facts, nor was the narrative bogged down with so much military jargon that I couldn’t understand it. The author does an excellent job of creating a compelling story, with pertinent and interesting background information seamlessly and expertly woven within the events and dialogue. I was gifted with fascinating details about Hellcats, Corsairs, aircraft carriers, and other military facts that not only connected me to the action but also enhanced the narrative and provided insight into the operations of a Navy combat unit of the time. Learning about the early stages of the campaign in the Pacific, how inexperienced so many of the pilots were, and the trial and error surrounding the use of new military war crafts added more layers to the incredible danger these men faced on a daily basis. Never did I feel that war was glorified or depicted as anything other than a hellish job that had to be done, resulting in lives forever altered and ultimate sacrifices made.
This brings me to the action scenes, which literally had me on the edge of my seat. I kid you not. The author’s descriptions of the intense, adrenaline-saturated, heart-pounding dogfights and battle scenes on and over the Pacific are vivid and riveting. I sat in breathless anticipation and suspense, the pilots zooming, soaring, twisting, and plummeting in their clashes for control over the remote islands and tranquil blue waters. There were many gripping moments when I found myself gasping out loud or murmuring, “Oh, no,” my fingers to my lips in alarm. The author had me sitting in those cockpits and standing on that carrier with those men, barely able to breathe and nearly sick with the fear that they weren’t going to make it. Wow, talk about emotional investment.
The characterizations in this story are not incredibly deep, but they are written perfectly and with honesty. Jack and Fred are good guys. Period. They are typical of the honorable men we see so often within the context of WWII books and films, and that worked for me here. A third character, Jack’s longtime friend and crewmate Duane Higgins, brings in an additional POV, plays a vital role in the action and plot, and adds another element of tension with his suspicions about his skipper and the new wingman. Secondary and peripheral personalities of fellow crewmembers lend humor and depth to the story, and their group scenes were some of my favorites. The colorful dialogue and affectionate camaraderie give a clear picture of how these men feel about each other and the fact that any day on this mission could be their last. Though the content of some of these exchanges is definitely on the sexist side, I felt it was appropriate for the time period and context of the story and clearly marked the contrasts between the heterosexual and homosexual experiences of the characters.
That leads me to how the love story in this novel plays out. Though the romance and sentimentality are subtle, they still provide a constantly vibrating undercurrent of sexual tension and emotional connection between Jack and Fred. These two develop an easy friendship early on when Fred is transferred in to the unit, and the build up to something more is a slow, steady progression as the two work together within their flight squadron. The reader gets to know them apart from one another and together, as their relationships with the other members of the squad and with each other develop and unfold. Their intimate scenes are few and could be described as more romantic than erotic, which I felt aligned with the overall tone of the story and helped re-create the ambience of the time period. Jack’s sexuality is not as clearly defined as Fred’s, and both men are involved to some extent and for different reasons with women in the story. There are additional m/f scenes that don’t involve the main characters, yet they exist for the movement of the plot and to help develop the dynamics of character relationships.
There is so much more I could say, but I will leave it at this. I loved this book as a historical war novel and as a m/m romance. With its vivid action scenes, interesting and relevant military facts, and its beautifully crafted cast of characters and relationships, it is evocative of war movies of the past and a bygone era. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
My View – Narration:
Adam Schulmeric did an excellent job with his narration. He was emotionally intense when necessary, never straying over the top, and maintained a moderate and appropriately engaging tone during the more information-laden passages. Unfortunately, there are several instances of repeated sentences, which I assume is an editing issue that needs to be corrected.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the audiobook of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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