Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
In 1942, Ben Williams had it all – a fulfilling job, adoring friends and the love of his life, Pete Montgomery.
But World War II looms over them. When Pete follows his conscience and joins the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot, Ben must find the strength to stay behind without the love of his life, the dedication to stay true and the courage he never knew he’d need to discover his own place in the war effort.
Good friends help keep him afloat, until a chance meeting on the home front brings him an unexpected ally—one who will accompany him from the stages of New York City to the hell of the European warfront in search of his love.
Written in the style of a 1940s film, Right Here Waiting is an homage to classic wartime romances from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Right Here Waiting by K. E. Belledonne is a first novel (as far as I can tell) by this author. I have used their blurb and note to highlight one of my issues with this novel. Supposedly written in the overly dramatic style of a 1940’s screenplay, this story suffers from some of the same excess that those movies and screenplays exhibited, to the occasional detriment of what was an otherwise terrific story.
That’s not to say that I didn’t love parts of this book, because I did. Some sections and elements had me in tears they were so well done. But I had to wade through some not so fabulous scenes, elements, and dialog to get there. Let’s take a closer look.
First of all, I admire Belledonne’s taking up the challenge of not only writing a historical romance but one written in a particular style. Double the challenge, double the courage, double the way a story could fall short. Historical fiction is one of the hardest things in the world to get right, doubly so (again) to do it in your first novel. The author must be able to fold those historic elements from the era they have chosen into their story in such a way that its not an information dump. Instead those pieces of history must be subtly fitted into the plot in such a way that the reader absorbs the information as a natural part of the narrative.. What the author shouldn’t do is make a reader feel as though they have been whapped over the head by historical “things” throughout the story. Pointing out that Ben’s large wooden radio with its glass tubes warming up is a little too explanatory. Ben would have simply turned on the radio, not been aware of the cabinetry or other elements, rickety table included. For me, it felt that everything had one or two or three more adjectives than was necessary (here and throughout the story) in hopes to make everything seem more authentic. This included, unfortunately, people talking about doodlebugs, robot bombs and buzzing when all around are screaming and dying. Falling bombs are killing people and destroying everything around them. What type of bomb is probably the last thing anyone would care about. Sigh. The author goes overboard in trying to make the reader see every historical detail she has researched and included. And that bogs down the emotional flow of the story. And yes, this is a pet peeve of mine, if you couldn’t already tell.
And then there is the dialog, at least the dialog from the “civilian” scenes. At one point Ben reminds Peter to “stay hydrated”, something I’m not sure they would have said in the 40’s. Plus there’s an awful lot of weeping going on (not that men can’t cry, far from it), no, more that its done in the overly dramatic manner you might expect from a 40’s drama and damsel in distress. The situation was poignant enough and didn’t need that embellishment (that’s what it felt like) for the reader to find it powerful.
Now on to what I loved. The war scenes. Once Belledonne whisks her characters away from New York City and into the various locations of WWII, then this story starts to come alive. Pete’s squadron and their camaraderie is wonderful. I felt like I became intimately acquainted with these men, their aircraft and their stories. I cared about them and their questionable survival up in the air against the enemy. Ben too solidified into someone I truly liked and committed to once he became a part of a sort of USO traveling show. His relationship with the effervescent and fabulous Gwen Andrews (how I loved this character) vibrated with life and energy! They were fun, snarky, real, and you felt in the moment with them and the rest of the show troopers. The same goes for Ginger, a good friend of Pete and Ben’s back home, who went to war with Pete as a nurse. Their relationship felt as though they were truly old, close friends and their dialog and scenes not only reflected that but made us believe in it as well.
Looking back, I wish that a great editor had made one or two more passes over this manuscript, that could have solved most of the issues that I felt kept this from being a 5 star story. Belledonne can right some fantastically believable relationships, her dialog can snap with verve, and her scenes make you sob or laugh depending upon the situation. And I appreciate the chances she took in her style of writing and era. From looking at her website, it’s clear that the 40’s hold a special place in her heart so I hope she will continue to put her own touch on M/M historic fiction. I look forward to seeing what new stories K. E. Belledonne will give us.
I do recommend this story, not every issue that bothered me will bother another reader. Pick it up and decide for yourself.
Cover Artist Colleen, cover design by buckeyegrrl. What a gorgeous cover. Perfect in style and content, its definitely one of my favorites this year.
Published February 10th 2015 by Interlude Press
original titleRight Here Waiting
ISBN 1941530281 (ISBN13: 9781941530283)