A Kiss to Build a Dream on
A Kiss to Build a Dream On is a story of the much-lauded women civilian pilots, employed to ferry military aircraft by the US Air Force during World War II. Only very experienced pilots with more than five hundred flying hours under their belt were hired, and employing women freed up men for combat overseas. While the timeline as to when the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) organization came into being is a bit fudged in the book, the reality of the organization is exciting and is superbly shown,.
Rachel Prentiss is a pilot and instructor with hundreds of flying hours on her record. However, the death of Scott – her husband and childhood sweetheart – and the loss of Pete Reynolds, her So when she receives an invitation from an Army Air Force general to join WASP, she’s flatly against it. It is left to her beloved uncle to convince her that that is where her future lies in a finely-nuanced and moving scene:
“There cannot be a whole helluva lotta gals so qualified as you are to take up this task.” Though his words were strong, his voice was gentle, coaxing. “And you’ve been handed what amounts to an engraved invite from an Army general to do this thing. Don’t let [the deaths of your husband and that kid] keep you from doin’ what you love. You have a lot to offer, and I never figured you for a fool and certainly not a coward.”
However, it’s a scathing and threatening letter from the trainee’s father, Walter Reynolds, that makes Rachel determined to join WASP and do well. Reynolds holds her responsible for his son’s death, and in his letter, tells her that she should not accept the WASP offer, because if she does, he will use his influence with the higher-ups in the military to not only get her discharged but also relieved of her pilot license forever.
Captain Jack Lassiter is the new training executive at Camp Trask in North Carolina and thus, Rachel’s boss. His first meeting with her is to impart the news that her best friend and co-pilot Lieutenant Gracie Abbott is dead. His feelings about this task are described in a rather over-the-top manner: it was easier being shot down, wounded, and scarred than imparting such emotionally scarring news to Rachel.
Gracie’s plane is found untouched on the ground where she must have employed great skill in order to land in difficult circumstances – but then she just died in the cockpit. Rachel suspects that there’s something questionable going on, especially after a mechanic finds no fault with the plane. Investigating this case along with Jack, who was a police detective before going into the military, brings them closer together.
There’s a superb engineering scene here that shows how talented female pilots and female mechanics were during WW2 despite the fact that they were frequently disparaged by their male colleagues. While the women were accepted by some of the men, they were resented by others who felt that by taking up their jobs of ferrying planes, they themselves had to go into potentially fatal combat situations.
And there’s one man on the base who pays lip service to the eminent WASPs but secretly hates these women. He feels it’s his duty to show them their correct place in a man’s world and how a man-woman relationship works. Add to this the fact that one woman on the base has died under mysterious circumstances and another shows distress out of proportion to the stresses of the job. Part of the storyline centers around discovering the truth behind exactly what is going on.
There’s one plot thread about the treatment of non-Caucasian women by the military that is depicted really well. Non-white women could not become pilots and were forced to become mechanics if they wanted to work in the air force. Those women who could pass off as white did so, so that they could fly. This is outrageous and disheartening
The emotional passages in this book are well-written, except for a tendency for over-the-top and mixed metaphors. The writing is skilled enough without the need to employ hyperbole, and rather than enhancing the emotions, it detracts from the overall impact.
I’m not fond of insta-lust and distrust it, so the meet-cute felt off. After this, the romance generally moves forward at a measured pace, but there are still flashes of emotional connection that feel forced rather than organic to the characters, and the urge towards hyperbole makes for a jagged build-up of emotional tension.
Despite these quibbles, I do recommend reading A Kiss to Build a Dream On if you’re fond of stories set in World War II. We usually get stories set in Europe, so it’s a treat to see a book set in the US and telling the stories of such an accomplished set of women.