Lt. Valentine Westbrook enlisted when he was sixteen. Now, three years later, like so many others, the war has aged him well beyond his youth. But service in the newly formed RAF keeps him in the sky and in the cockpit of his beloved plane. Lt. Siegfried Kramer is a German flying ace with enough respect for his enemy that when he meets Westbrook in a dogfight, he makes note of the man’s superior flying skills. When they meet again in the air, both are shot down and presumed dead.
Now, unsure if they are in Allied territory or German, each must depend upon the other to survive. Despite their predicament, Val and Siegfried can’t help but enjoy their time together and the mutual camaraderie of two experienced pilots quickly evolves into something more substantial. As the war rages around them, Val and Siegfried must decide if they are fighting for a flag or for one another.
Through Adversity was an enjoyable read, bolstered by a strong sense of time and place and a pair of sweet main characters. It was a short read that moved quickly thanks to good pacing in most areas. The author did a nice job of balancing out the historical aspects with the action and not giving either one too much dominance over the storyline. The writing was generally good, though occasionally there was an awkward phrase or sentence that jarred me slightly and took me out of the moment.
The characters are good men, who grab your attention and as much as you hate to see them stuck in the useless carnage of war, you can’t help remembering that the same conflict brought them together. Sig and Val complement one another well and their relationship, while not always believable, is certainly gratifying. Perhaps the strongest moments of the novel take place in the cockpit. The author richly describes the sense of freedom and terror that accompanied the dogfights of World War I. The reader is truly placed in the moment and given a chance to explore the air from the safety of their armchair.
My biggest gripe with Through Adversity was the lack of realism depicted in the relationship between Val and Sig. They crash land together and Val, who has never previously identified as gay, quickly succumbs to Sig’s charms. They are only together for a few days but are ready to proclaim their love for another by the end of their short time together. They hardly know one another and, save for a few shared moments, they are relative strangers. As a result, this ended up feeling a bit too much like insta-love for my tastes. They are a relatable couple and as a reader you want them to succeed, but I would have found their journey more satisfying had it not been so rushed.
My only another niggle surrounds the letters that Sig and Val write to one another for the remainder of the war. Val is in a POW camp and Sig returns to his squadron and the two exchange letters until the Armistice. Now let me start by saying I don’t know the historical truth of this, so perhaps they would have been able to write to one another without fear of being caught. But even though their letters are tame and neutral, wouldn’t ongoing contact with an enemy soldier constitute treason? This is never really addressed and I find it hard to believe their letters wouldn’t have been read reviewed by a third party. This particular piece of the plot felt a little too contrived and never quite flowed as naturally as the rest of the book. That said, it is only a small portion of the plot and doesn’t detract overmuch.
Through Adversity was a generally fun read and while the relationship between Val and Sig strained credibility, the novel definitely had its strong points. This one is worth the read for those moments, especially if you enjoy World War I period pieces.