January 2008, Turn of the Century (1910s Long Island, New York)
Harl Hist #881, $5.99, 288 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373294816
I've long thought that the 20th century would make the perfect backdrop for a historical romance. While the latter half of the century is still a little too close to living memory, the earlier part of the century is filled with all manner of events and fascinating characters waiting to be discovered.
Alexandra Bromley, heiress to a weapons fortune, lives a pampered but ultimately unfulfilling life in Long Island. Her father expects her to marry well and produce children and Alex moves through her days meeting social obligations, while yearning to break free of it all. Her dissatisfaction comes to a head on the day that an airplane falls from the sky during one of her parents' parties.
Rafe Garrick has no desire to hobnob with the rich and wishes only to perfect and build his aircraft designs. However, when he lands near the Bromley house, he finds himself drawn into their world rather against his will. Rescued from the wreckage of his plane by Alex, he spends time recuperating with the family and, though he is initially repulsed by the dysfunctional Bromleys (more on that later), he begins to believe he may find the means to realize his dream.
Though Alex and Rafe start off on the wrong foot, to put it mildly, each cannot help being attracted to the other. Alex initially feels drawn to Rafe on a physical level, but as she gets to know him better, respect and deeper feelings soon follow. Rafe certainly notices Alex's beauty and he is well aware of the family fortune, but, unlike previous admirers, he also notices her intelligence and empathizes with the restless spirit that has her butting up against convention.
While the romance in this story succeeds overall and has some very touching moments, Lane's masterpiece in this story lies in her creation of the entire family. The other members of Alex's family do not simply function as mere backdrop for her and Rafe. Lane draws a nuanced picture of a family in crisis and Alex and Rafe's interactions with Mr. and Mrs. Bromley play important roles in the plot just as their budding romance does.
One of the reasons Lane's portrait of the Bromley family succeeds is the same reason that Alex ultimately succeeds as a heroine. At the opening of the novel, the Bromley parents appear almost as flat characters and Alex herself is a feisty pain-in-the-behind straight from central casting. But then something happens. When Rafe enters their lives, the event causes the Bromleys to show more layers of themselves than previously. In Alex's case, something even more profound happens. Through her relationship with Rafe, she grows up. She backslides a few too many times for me to have totally enjoyed the story and, toward the end of the book, the pacing on the romance felt a little off. Still, even with those issues, I thought Rafe was a genuinely decent hero and I surprised myself by growing to empathize with and even like Alex on occasions.
While the story could have used a little more meat and I suspect an increased page count would have helped with the pacing, On the Wings of Love ended up being a strongly satisfying romance. The aviation history woven smoothly into the plot makes for a rich backdrop and I found myself quite reluctant to leave Alex, Rafe, and the other characters when the story reached its end.
-- Lynn Spencer
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