June 17, 2016 by kitmoss
Tortured German fighter ace Lt. Siegfried Krämer has a terrible secret which could ruin him: he prefers men. Hurried, loveless encounters have armed him with a sardonic wit and a bleak outlook, and he faces a life in which his only companion is his dog, Eike.
The young and talented Lt. Valentine Westbrook should be considered an ace, but most of his victories are unconfirmed, and now that his squadron is relegated to bombing missions the chances of him ever reaching the magic number are dwindling. When he encounters an equally-skilled enemy pilot during a terrible storm, Valentine is unable to resist the hunt.
Both men soon abandon all common sense and—with a protracted dogfight at their backs—crash-land in the midst of the German Empire’s last great offensive push. Injured, stranded, and with no idea which side of the Line they are on, they must work together if they are to survive. One of them will become the other’s prisoner just as soon as they figure out where they are, but until then they are stuck with no food and no shelter in storms which don’t seem ready to end. But worse still, their mutual respect blossoms into something dangerously intimate, and their lives are about to become forever intertwined…
REVIEW BY CHRISTOPHER HAWTHORNE MOSS
It seems a popular theme for gay wartime novels is the accidental throwing together of Allied and Axis soldiers who promptly fall in love. Perhaps it is satisfying for both author and reader to think that down deep in our heart of hearts two men will find the ultimate peace together. I have read stories of men who bond over the sharing of Christmas carols, two pilots who crash together, and other themes that explain how two such different but surprisingly similar men can find each other. I would like to read novels where the two men are more different than simply British and German, such as Japanese and white American, but the romance of the German soldier seems to come to mind most often.
In the case in point the British flying ace is Valentine and the German Siegfried. The war is winding down, and neither flyer has much time to make his mark on the romance of the war. But neither is that sorrowful about it, mostly lonely and the whole purpose of the war. When in a dogfight they are both shot down, and they find themselves alone together behind enemy lines—just not sure which lines they are behind. They share their few resources, but perhaps most surprisingly they wind up sharing each other’s bedrolls. We know Siegfried is so inclined, but there has been no indication that Val is homosexual. It’s as much a surprise to him as us. But “through adversity” the two men bond very quickly and hard. When they finally discoverer they are behind German lines, Val is the prisoner, and in a painful moment in the story, Siegfried basically cuts him dead as they take Val away.
Fast forward to the end of the war, both men have managed to correspond, apparently not making anyone suspicious about this fact. Whether this will lead to a spoiler-free conclusion, you will have to read the book to find out.
It is interesting, however, to see how the course of distributing the prisoners works out, how confused and inefficient and frustrating it must have been. That the two men eventually might find each other and choose a neutral nation for their home should not surprise anyone.