Sentimental Journey
by Jill Barnett, historical (2002)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-671-03534-7

I have put off reading this book for a long time, because the title, Sentimental Journey, scares me. Knowing how romance authors sometime labor under this deluded belief that complete viscera and over-the-top sentimentality are good, I fear that this World War 2 romance will be a two-hour bulimia experience.

But thankfully, this book is not an exercise in preschool over-bombastic patriotism. But on the other hand, like so many recent Hollywood war movies, it seems to exist in a contextual vacuum. If I'm a young kid to whom WW2 is gung-ho all-American beefcakes shooting squinty-eyed Japanese in that Tora! Tora! movie, I won't understand what the heck the people in this book are doing shooting down the enemies. You can't do a war story without explaining the sordid side of politics and human nature gone wrong, you know.

And while the author puts in some war scenes, more Gung-ho Charlie types than Private Ryan bitter realism, if you know what I mean, she also presents romances between the main couples in a very tired and formulaic manner. Therefore, instead of breaking any new grounds, this is just a "Gee, look, at least it's set in WW2, wow" story. It's quite sad when this is the sole reason to get excited over a story.

The cast? Let's start with the men, they are more interesting. Lt Col JR Cassidy - super Gung Ho Charlie, yee-haw. Red Walker - your rough mechanic Luke Skywalker type that reveals the Courage Within (or something like that). George "Skip" Inskip - your Rich Dude who gets Corrupted by War and is now A Tortured Fellow who, of course, will also find the Courage Within. Or something. They are pretty okay Gungho Charlie figures. It's just too bad I am saturated by Black Hawk Down (decent movie), Saving Private Ryan (crap), We Were Soldiers (crap), Behind Enemy Lines (crap), Enemy At The Gates (decent), and then there's Combat Missions on TV. Let's not forget Suzanne Brockmann's SEALs.

Sorry, guys, but I'm kinda saturated at the moment. Maybe next time I'll work up some enthusiasm for you stereotypes.

The heroines? (Nose plug, please.) Charlotte Morrisson. Pilot. Flies plane because Daddy taught her so. Fights because Daddy tells her it's the Right Thing, or so Charlie here infers. Respects Daddy. A tomboy for Daddy. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy yadda yadda yadda. Kitty Kincaid. Introductory scene pegs her down as a bimbo with less braincell than a gerbil - great damsel-in-distress alert. In war for Daddy. Does stupid things to clear Daddy's name. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.

Let's just say I am not surprised that despite Ms Barnett's claims that these chicks rock, she turns those supposedly kick-ass chicks into your usual weeping girlfriends late in the story, as Kitty and Charlie keep the home fires burning while their men wag their overendowed penises at those evil Nazi scums. Oh yeah, one of the men "dies" in the climax, leaving his girlfriend to go "Nooooo!". I get horrifying flashbacks of that really crap movie Pearl Harbor, you know, that one starring that pretty twig insect Kate Beckinsale with that amazing make-up that just won't get smudged by dust, dirt, and tears.

As a war drama, Sentimental Journey lacks the rush of adrenaline to be really engaging. As a romance, it's snoozebore episodes starring snoozebore characters. I may like this story if the author has just concentrated on two main characters and develop their story and characters, instead of putting in an ensemble cast of one-dimensional cardboards and letting them run all over the place. As an epic story, well, Sentimental Journey still follows too much of a "romance novel formula to make your book mediocre" to be actually memorable.

Maybe the next book. Hopefully with heroines that don't need Daddy figures so desperately. And with some context. Don't forget context.

Rating: 74

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