I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for A Wing and a Prayer by MW Arnold, and sharing my review: the first in a planned series called Broken Wings, it was published by Wild Rose Press on 9th November, and is available for kindle via Amazon in the UK, US and Australia, and also via iBooks and for Nook. My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the tour, and to the author and publishers for my advance reading copy.
It’s not the first time I’ve featured Mick on the blog – I just couldn’t fit in the reading of his debut, The Season for Love, but I did manage to run a promotion post (you’ll find it here). I’ve had the pleasure of Mick’s company at quite a few events now – and I’m always really impressed by the support he unfailingly provides to other romance authors. Although it’s not quite my usual choice of reading, I really liked the look of this book – and this time I was delighted to have the time to read and share a review…
When Betty Palmer’s sister dies under suspicious circumstances whilst landing her Tiger Moth, Betty and three other women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII England unite to discover who killed her and why.
Estranged from her family, Penny Blake wants simply to belong. American Doris Winter, running from a personal tragedy, yearns for a new start. Naturally shy Mary Whitworth-Baines struggles to fit in.
Together though, they are a force to be reckoned with as they face the mystery that confronts them.
Against the backdrop of war, when ties of friendship are exceptionally strong, they strive to unravel the puzzle’s complex threads, risking their lives as they seek justice for Betty’s sister.
A World War Two saga, a cosy mystery – they’re not genres I often read, but I must say I knew I was going to enjoy this book as soon as I started to read. I knew very little about the Air Transport Auxiliary – a wartime civilian organisation who transported aircraft from the factories to their required locations – and found the detail quite fascinating. I certainly didn’t realise that it depended so heavily on female pilots, or that they operated under such difficult circumstances, without the benefit of navigation aids or radio equipment in skies where there was always the threat of enemy attack. There’s a real authenticity about the way the author describes the day-to-day reality of their lives in the sky, and some of their scrapes really had me on the edge of my seat.
And I think I really must use the word “authenticity” again about the book’s whole wartime setting – it’s exceptionally well recreated, full of the domestic detail, particularly about living with rationing and the way ordinary people coped, with real insights into the black market and those who profited from it (and I really didn’t know about the fish and chips!).
But the real surprise about this book – given that the author is male – was the fact that the characters are predominantly female, and I really enjoyed the way he portrayed their support for each other and the strong friendships that developed between them. And every single female character is extremely well drawn, three-dimensional and real, from the three young pilots (American Doris is a particular triumph – I loved her!) and landlady Betty, through Thelma and Jane in their positions of authority at the base, and Ruth running the town newspaper. The book’s male characters are drawn in rather less detail, supporting the story, sometimes becoming love interests – and that’s the way they need to be, and it’s very well done indeed.
And then there’s the murder mystery and investigation that drives the story – compelling, but also with a lovely lightness of touch. There’s a real Famous Five feel about the telling, which I really enjoyed – and I liked the fact that the reader always knew a little more about what was going on than the main characters did, the “baddies” introduced and their involvement fairly clear from quite early in the story. And although I mustn’t spoil the story for anyone, those “baddies” were really well drawn too, particularly… but no, I mustn’t! I loved the Agatha Christie-like moments of unmasking – but all the twists and turns and dramatic moments made great reading too. And I really must mention the wonderful Bobby, the most popular dog in Hamble – what a star!
The writing is excellent, and the whole story really well paced – while I really loved the female friendships and the way they developed, I particularly enjoyed the touches of humour that are often quite gentle but sometimes veer towards the raucous and slapstick, both an absolute joy. I’m delighted to see that this is the first in a series – I’m hooked, and already looking forward to my return to Hamble and spending more time with the ladies of the ATA.
About the author
Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elisabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. This he’s replaced somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.
He’s the proud keeper of two Romanian cats, is mad on the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and loving his Manchester-United-supporting wife.
Finally, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. A Wing and a Prayer will be his second published novel, and he is very proud to be welcomed into The Rose Garden.