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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Angels Wings

***** Angels Wings by Anne Stuart. Historical romance.

This is a rarity for historical romance: it's not set in England, Scotland, or the American west. And it's not set in Regency times, or Georgian, or medieval times. It's set near Chicago in 1937.

Okay, it's apparently part of a Harlequin collection, "A Century of American Romance," and what do you know? I've read another one in the series as well: Saturday's Child by Dallas Schulze--another favorite author. (I have all of Dallas's books, but I completed my collection some time ago, and they're mostly back in the house in San Antonio).

Angela Hogan is a pilot who owns a struggling air freight company--all that's left of her father, a pilot who died smuggling liquor from Canada. Her fiance died trying to break the record flying from Newfoundland to Havana, and Angela is determined to complete the task for him. But that takes money, and after firing a drunk pilot and an incompetent mechanic, all she's left with is Sparks, a fellow pilot who's losing his eyesight. So she really has no choice but to hire Jack Clancy, a womanizing daredevil.

The two bicker and banter, but it's clear to the reader that they're made for each other. Adding to the story are the owner rival air freight company, who'll stop at nothing to put Angela out of business; Angela's star-struck sister; and Parsons, the down-on-his luck ace mechanic they hired from a shanty town.

The atmosphere is full of the sights, sounds, and events of the 30s, but it's natural and not overwhelming or forced. In addition to Angela and Jack's romance, you also get a feeling of what it was like to have lived then, with the Depression, the Hindenburg, and mostly the beginning of the era of flight, when pilots were adventurers. Of course Amelia Earhart's around-the-world attempt and disappearance were mentioned as well.

Both Angela and Jack were realistic characters. Angela is a pilot and owns her own business, but she's not a crusader. Jack freely admits he's not a gentleman. Sometimes I don't even realize the conventions present in so many books until I read a book without them, and that was the case here. For example, I'd have expected Angela to be more prickly, and I certainly wouldn't have expected Jack to fully intend to get Angela drunk and seduce her.

The secondary characters were three-dimensional, too--and so real that I'd have liked to see a few of them featured in other stories. I'm pretty sure they're not--Stuart doesn't tend to write connected stories, her recent Ice series notwithstanding.

Anyway, Angels Wings was a wonderfully complete story. The historical setting complemented, added to, and was necessary for the plot, as well as being unusual and interesting. The characters were realistic and sympathetic, and while I knew they would end up together, it was wonderful to watch their journey to HEA. And I loved the ending. Speaking of those conventions--it wasn't what I expected, but it was even more perfect because of that.

There's a reason why Anne Stuart is on my must-buy list and why I'm busily collecting her backlist.

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I honestly had to cut back on romance books. :) They gave me too high expectations for poor Jim. :)
LOL, Carmen! It's all in how you look at it. I read them and think "boy, I'm glad I have Carl instead of this guy". So many of those traits that are fun to read about--danger, irresponsibility, etc.--wouldn't be nearly as appealing in real life. :)
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