A Distant Melody

Sarah Sundin
March 2010, Inspirational Romance (1942)
Revell, $14.99, 422 pages, Amazon ASIN 0800734211
Part of a series

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Kisses

Whenever I am super busy I try to avoid getting overly caught up in a new novel. On the other hand, I have never gone a day without reading some portion of a book. For those tough moments, when I have to find something to read that won't keep me so engaged I forget all about what I should be doing, I turn to comfort reads. This ensures I get a good read but being familiar ground, I can lay it back down when I need to. For the past month, my go to comfort read has been this little gem of a book.

Heiress Allie Miller is looking forward to a whole week of freedom. Her life at home is quiet, always in line with what her parents and boyfriend want. And what they want seems to be that she live the dull placid existence they love. But a week at her friend Betty's house is sure to bring fun and spontaneity to her life, and she can hardly wait to begin. Right from the start, from the first several moments of the train ride to Betty's home town, the trip is full of fascinating people and memorable moments. And no one is as fascinating to Ally - or shares more memorable moments with her - than pilot Walter Novak.

Lieutenant Walt Novak is on leave just in time to attend a friend's wedding. He is looking forward to time with family and friends, but knows that romance is out of the question. He freezes around eligible, pretty young women. But when he meets what he thinks is a young, married mother on the train he finds himself relaxed, happy and enjoying a great conversation with a compatible soul. What a surprise to find she is actually single and attending the same wedding he is! The two share a magical week of furlough, but the vacation ends much too quickly for his taste. Finding out she has a boyfriend all but ruins his hope of getting to know her better, but circumstances - and some encouragement from their friends - results in some pretty special correspondence. Could the woman of his dreams really be his if he can only find the right words to put on paper?

Normally, long distance relationships don't work for me in romance novels, but the author did a fantastic job of giving us enough time with the characters together to overcome that. Allie and Walt really connect during that initial week, having fun, adventure, and enough meaningful conversations for us to see the connection they feel for each other. The letters and gifts they send each other while apart only underline their growing relationship, showing us how well they understand one another. And they are able to visit again within the novel, so that all their time isn't spent only in letters or calls. These two are such a perfect fit the relationship flows very naturally both when they are together and when they are connecting only via paper.

Another great aspect to their time apart is that it is used to show us who they are as people. Walt, shy by nature, faces some challenges to his authority as pilot of a B-17. He does a great job of really handling that situation and shows growth as a man and leader while doing so. Allie, always the obedient daughter, learns to seize control of her own life - something I felt she really needed to do in order to be a good partner for Walt. In fact, Allie's loving but firm withdrawal from under the thumb of her parents was one of the things I loved most about this novel. It was a refreshing antithesis to many romances where the daughter sacrifices everything for daddy.

The history here is blended into the novel beautifully, never resorting to a lesson or serving as wall paper. I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel; again, that is a time period I love. One thing that wasn't so easy to deal with was the realistic prejudices of the times. In one scene, Allie mourns that people won't offer an elderly African American woman a seat on the train because of her race. Just when it looks like either Allie will have to offer her seat or the lady will have to stand for the duration of the trip, Walt offers up his. Part of what drew them together was that kind act. In other moments, people are speaking of a man they suspect of being gay with less than respect. Allie points out how wrong it is to make such dangerous slurs (which is exactly what that would have been at the time) against the man. The realism really captured the time and place, even if at some moments it made me squirm in my seat.

The religion level of this novel is high. The author doesn't preach (though she comes dangerously close some moments) but she does strongly emphasize the characters' faith throughout, and their growth in that faith plays an important part of their growth as people. If you are uncomfortable with that aspect in a novel this may be a hard read for you.

For a first book, everything was shockingly close to perfect. What kept it from being a DIK for me were the issues with the possibly gay character (the book would have worked without it) and the reaction to a lie that Walt tells. The importance of honesty was a major theme through out the novel, but some of the characters' reactions to dishonesty came across as overly dramatic. I just didn't think people would respond that strongly to what occurred.

Those minor quibbles aside, I adored this wonderful tale of two shy, gentle people finding their perfect match. I would strongly recommend it to any reader of Inspirational Romance.

-- Maggie Boyd

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