No Man’s Land by G.S. Wiley
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I’m a big fan of author GS Wiley. While her books may never be 5 star reads, they’re very solid 3 star stories that I really enjoy reading for the lovely romance, intriguing settings, and the smooth almost singsong quality of the prose. I always know what to expect from a Wiley story and I’ve never been disappointed yet. She’s an easy author to recommend too – solid, dependable, and familiar stories in unique settings. The characters are never over the top passionate but instead shimmer with emotion and need. It’s all under the surface and I like how the author peels back the layers. This delightful story is a good addition to her backlist.
In this Father’s Day collection, the story starts in England 1916 with Henry and Jack in the trenches of the WWI, basically waiting to die. They have found a strong connection but also know the likelihood is that neither will survive. They’re separated and years later reconnect after a chance meeting. However, a happy ending is nearly impossible in this age so they have to try to settle for what they can.
The plot and short story itself is very nicely written. There’s a sense of honesty and genuine emotion as the author describes the WWI setting. I’ll admit my skin even crawled a little bit during the lice scene, it felt that real. The characters are attractive but definitely not as well developed as they could have been. I felt the short length of the story very much in this aspect. Henry is the narrator and thus we only see his third person perspective. Jack remains a mystery for the entire story and I couldn’t get a real sense of either man. I got rough sketches of characters but not truly, well fleshed out men.
Another area that the short length affected was the shell shock the men suffered from. There’s a brief scene about a doctor perhaps being able to help both Henry and Jack with their experiences and the fallout but I felt this was pretty minor. It’s clear both men are suffering, to different degrees, from their time in the war and I think the story just didn’t have the space to fully investigate this concept. Likewise, although this is billed in the Father’s Day collection there’s very little interaction with Henry’s daughter. It’s a nice idea but since there’s no real sense of family, and it’s impossible given the time frame of the story, I don’t think the short tale suits that.
I wasn’t particularly bothered by these minor problems and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment. It mostly affected whether I would remember the story. I quite enjoy the smooth writing, lovely sense of timing and evocative prose. It’s always a pleasure to read these stories, even if I don’t always remember them entirely. I always remember the enjoyment of reading them and leave with positive feelings. I can easily recommend this short for any fan of the author and those that enjoy sweet, historical romances. There’s a happy for now ending, suiting the time frame, and I was sorry to see the story end.