by LK Campbell, historical (2007)
Another Era Books, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-4303-0551-4
LK Campbell's A Soldier's Love is set in 1941. Our heroine Katie McNeill is a clerk in the University of Maryland. She finds herself being pursued by two men: Lt Ron Miller, a reservist who is hoping to obtain his Masters and one day become a history teacher, and the rich kid James Edward Garrett, III - who happens to be only eighteen to her twenty-five. Don't worry, this is not a threesome erotic romance, it's actually a mainstream historical drama, so Katie can't have the cake and eat it too with plenty of leftover to invite the rest of the neighborhood over in this instance.
Katie naturally gravitates towards Ron. When Jimmy finds out that those two had done the deed behind his back, he forces himself on Katie. As a result, Katie finds herself pregnant without knowing for certain who the father of her baby is. And Katie being Katie, she decides to break things off with Ron without telling him what happened between her and Jimmy or even that she's having a baby because, you know, it's a far more noble thing to do than to "trap" Ron in a marriage when the baby may not even be his. Or when he doesn't love her, even if he has told her that he does, because, you know, this is a Noble Heroine Thing to do. Fortunately, the third fellow that share a place with Ron and Jimmy isn't so stupid and tells Ron what happened between Jimmy and Katie so I am spared of a melodramatic soap opera of big misunderstandings. Ron catches up with her before she manages to leave for Martyrville forever and they get married, just in time for him to get drafted.
Thankfully there are no more near-disastrous close calls for the rest of this story as Katie and Ron start being sensible. Of course, war makes people grow up whether they want to or not, but World War II is merely a backdrop in this story. Ms Campbell focuses on what happens when Ron is home with Katie instead of Ron being in the war, so this is not one of those "letters from the home front to my heroic husband at war" stories. Instead, it's a soap opera about Ron, Katie, and the people around them back in America from 1941 to 1972. Yes, 1972.
The thing about A Soldier's Wife, though, is that this story is not interesting at all. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere for a long time as Katie and Ron suddenly become the paragons of nuptial bliss while Katie and Ron try to fix up a marriage of their friends that has soured. Katie gives birth to the baby and gets pregnant again. Katie loves her husband and he loves her. While I'm so happy for these two, when chapters after chapters are about all these day-by-day things that happen in their lives, I wonder whether the story will go anywhere. Will there be a climax? A major issue to overcome? Even when Jimmy shows up late in the story and I finally become more alert, hoping that something will happen now, that particular development peters out soon enough.
I'm sure Ron and Katie are likable characters once they stop scaring me with the possibility of them having all kinds of big misunderstandings early on in the story, but I never truly get a grasp on what makes them tick. After all, Ms Campbell spends so much time glossing over any trials and hardships faced by her main characters that their story never comes alive to me. World War II in this story just happens and then it's over; as if Ron has been away on a business trip instead of to war for all the effect it has on his character development. Apart from Jimmy and the separation of the two characters during World War II, there are no genuine conflicts in this story. Even landmark moments in the relationship of Ron and Katie, like the arrival of their children, are described superficially. After Ron and Katie get married, the story seems to lose it way and wanders around in the land of the doldrums all the way to its pleasant but anticlimatic ending.
I find A Soldier's Love therefore a story that turns out to be far more ordinary than it should have been. Perhaps if the author has expanded the story and add in more emphasis and details on landmark scenes in this book instead of just glossing them over within a few paragraphs, this story will be make more of an impact on me. The writing is clean and the author has a pleasant storytelling voice that is engaging and easy to follow, so it's pretty unfortunate that A Soldier's Love has flatline storyline build-up and packs so light a punch as a result.
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