Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Into the Storm by Lisa Bingham

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: March 31, 2015

RueAnn Boggs meets Charles Tolliver, a handsome Brit with a secret job, and in the course of twenty-four hours, RueAnn is swept off her feet—seduced, wed, and then left by dashing Charlie, who hastily departs for an assignment in England. When weeks go by and she hears nothing from her new husband, RueAnn becomes determined to find out if she’s a wife in name only, and she travels to London for answers. But what she finds there is not at all what she expects... Susan Blunt has spent her life staying put, retreating into her books while her vivacious twin sister, Sara, lives life to the fullest. The start of the war hasn’t stopped vibrant Sara from collecting a throng of beaus in uniform, including Paul Overdone, an RAF pilot heading for the front. When Sara pressures Susan into switching places and going to a dance with Paul, Susan reluctantly agrees. Little does Susan know that a single night is more than enough time to fall deeply in love with Paul—who returns her ardor, even though he thinks she is someone else... When the Blitz begins and bombs start raining down on London, both RueAnn and Susan must find the strength and courage they never knew they had in order to survive. They form a friendship out of the city’s ashes, one that helps them weather the storm as they wait for news from the front—from the men they love, have lost, and hope desperately to find once more. Set against the backdrop of a remarkable era, Into the Storm brilliantly explores relationships in wartime, when the passion shared in just one day could sustain love for a lifetime and the love borne of one night’s deception could become the truth that saves a life.

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If I were more discerning, I'd put Lisa Bingham's Into the Storm somewhere between a three and a four, but I don't give partial ratings and ultimately decided I'd too many concerns to round up. Don't misunderstand, I liked a lot about this book, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that many elements of the piece left me wanting.  

Fair warning folks, Into the Storm is a character heavy narrative. Bingham sets a brilliant pace from the start, but she doesn't spent much time introducing her audience to each of the players so it should come as no surprise that I spent many of the early chapters flipping back and forth to ensure my understanding of both people and events.  

Later, I noted a distinct imbalance between RueAnn and Susan's storylines. RueAnn's backstory is more interesting than her war time experience, but Susan can't catch a break during the blitz and as much of the novel takes place during the war, I often felt Susan received the lion’s share of the novel’s intrigue and drama. I don't mean to be harsh, but with the exception of a few shared scenes, Susan and RueAnn could have easily headlined their own narratives and excuse me for saying so, but I feel it might have been better if they had. 

To add insult to injury, the romantic elements of their stories felt forced and unbelievable. Like the characters involved, these relationships are grossly underdeveloped, something that is especially evident in comparison to Charlie's non-romance with Elizabeth. If you’re wondering who Elizabeth is, I’m sorry, I'm not in habit of incorporating spoilers in my reviews so read the book and find out. Suffice it to say, the relationship she shares with Charlie is the only one that develops naturally and proved more authentic than his passion for RueAnn or the love triangle involving Paul, Susan and Sara.

At this point you might be questioning what I liked about the piece and I don't blame you. I haven't said much to the positive, but I hope you don't think the book without merit. I really enjoyed Bingham's illustration of life in the shadow of the Luftwaffe and fell in love with many of the supporting characters. The author obviously put a lot of thought into those elements of the story and I have great appreciation for that sort of care and attention to detail.

Would I recommend Into the Storm? Yes and no. It's certainly better than War Brides and Tuscan Rose, but it doesn't really compare to Battle Hymns, Night in Shanghai, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, or A Life Apart. Not exactly what I'd expected, but a pleasant diversion if you like WWII fiction. 

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Who would have thought that such proper, mild-mannered English gentlewomen could have formed so quickly into a bloodthirsty mob? But then, as she was resolutely pushed forward into the shop, RueAnn thought: Who could blame them? It was a wonder that the women of London didn’t stream into the streets each night to overpower the gun operators in an attempt to shoot down the bombers themselves.
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