Eloreen reviews ‘When Skies Have Fallen’ by Debbie McGowan. Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance (2016). Published July 8th 2015 by MM Romance Group / Beaten Track Publishing, 222 pgs.
Why I read this book: This is awards week where we review an award winning book in the LGBTQ universe.
This book is free of charge and available for download below.
For many in war-torn 1944, love blossoms in the dance hall, and airman Arty Clarke is no exception. He’s a thinker and a dreamer; however, it’s not the beautiful, talented dancer in his arms—his best friend Jean—who inspires his dreams. For when his gaze meets that of Technical Sergeant Jim Johnson, Arty dares to imagine a different dance.
Their love is forbidden, by both the armed forces and the law, but with Jean’s cunning and support, Arty and Jim try to bridge the distance between them and find true love despite the danger and a life-threatening disaster that could destroy Arty’s dreams for good.
Can the pair stand strong together, no matter how many skies have fallen?
* * * * *
Part of Love is an Open Road (Don’t Read in the Closet 2015)
Based on the prompt:
Life isn’t a fairy tale. These two know that better than most. These men are survivors. Against all odds, they made it through hardships, separation, and war. They clung to hope where little existed and, as the skies fell around them and the world was torn apart, found strength in loving each other.
Suddenly, the war was over. Battlefields lay silent and troops prepared for the journey home. These two were more than ready. They had experienced enough loss, grief, and pain to last ten lifetimes. The country they left behind may not have been ready to accept them, but they were prepared to live no matter how many skies had fallen.
You can tell me the story of how these men met, but what I really want to know is what happened to these men after this photo was taken. Did their love endure the trials of a return to civilian life? Were they able to overcome the trauma of war and find peace together?
I’m a fan of historical romances so when I read this blurb I wanted to read it for this week’s theme of award-winning stories. This one won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance (2016) award and it deserved it.
It is both light and slightly dark tale with the two men in the armed forces across two continents and the law against them for men who dare to love men in World War II era. This is the story of two lonely souls, RAF airman Arty Clarke and USAF Technical Sergeant Jim Johnson who met at a dance hall in war-torn London where Arty is dancing with his dance partner and best friend Jean. Between Jean, Charlie, Robert, and other’s who work with and around Arty and Jim, we see the story of their tender love unfold as Jean leads the way to help them be together while they are all stationed in England. It’s a beautiful story as they do the best they can to be together through thick and thin of several periods where they were apart for many months at a time.
Their story spans many parts starting in 1944 and ending in an epilogue in 1967. There is a happy ending on several fronts along with near tragedy and pains of separation in between. It has a very epic feel but not nearly a bogged down in a “historical” fiction novel of twice the page count. The descriptions are very realistic and you laugh and cry, become angry at times, and surprised at some of the things that happened in this time. There is a glossary at the end and I would recommend reading it before starting (or have a way to reference it while reading). There is not a lot of contextual clues within the story especially given for ranks in the various military. The time lines in the beginning of the parts/chapters were helpful seemed a little disconcerting later on with the jumps. I would have loved to more in between but understandable considering how much time this story spans, especially during and immediately after the war.
There is sex between Arty and Jim, although it’s few and far between. It is hot when they come together, and bittersweet, especially when opportunities were not a prevalent in the era and they had to hide most of the time. It does make you sad that they did not have the comfort of present day tolerance, but makes you think as well because this was basically the very beginnings of LGTBQ rights. It’s a very good story and I recommend every one read it.
With this, I give ‘When Skies Have Fallen’ 9 out of 10 pot of gold. This is equivalent to 4.5/5 stars.
I live in Lancashire, UK, with family and rescued dogs. It’s green and pleasant, and we get long, long, lovely perfumed days in late spring / early summer. My favourite place in the world is Watergate Bay, Cornwall, but I haven’t travelled much. My most amazing experience is listening to the call to prayer at 11 p.m. on a terrace in Istanbul.
I write character-based/driven fiction – mostly general/contemporary, some (M/M & F/M) romance and a bit of sci-fi fantasy (light). Basically, I write about life. I’ve written a few stand alone novels and short stories, but my main work is the Hiding Behind The Couch series, which, these days, I’m referring to as a literary soap opera. Each novel/novella concludes, but there are always a few loose ends to be picked up and threaded on to the next instalment. There are longer threads and shorter threads.
I know readers find it hard to navigate a series, so I put together a timeline (http://debbiemcgowan.co.uk/HBTC_timel…).
Here it is in order (July, 2016):
1. Beginnings (novella)
2. Ruminations (novel)
3. Hiding Behind The Couch (season #1)
4. No Time Like The Present (season #2)
5. The Harder They Fall (season #3)
6. *Crying in the Rain (standalone)
7. First Christmas (novella)
8. In The Stars Part I (season #4)
9. Breaking Waves (novella)
10. In The Stars Part II (season #5)
11. *Chain of Secrets (novella – included in Love Unlocked)
12. A Midnight Clear (novella – included in Boughs of Evergreen)
13. Red Hot Christmas (novella)
14. Two by Two (season #6)
15. Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium (short story)
16. Those Jeffries Boys (novel)
The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1 – novel)
Reunions (season #7)
*Stand-alone – can be read at any point after Season 3 without spoiling earlier stories.
You can download (for free) book 1 and the short prequel Beginnings from my website (www.debbiemcgowan.co.uk). I will also send a free ebook to anyone who asks nicely! Why? I write because I have to. I want you to read and, hopefully, enjoy the worlds I ‘channel’.
I also run a socialist (profit share) independent publishing company: Beaten Track Publishing.