The Foxhole Victory Tour
Grade : A-

The Foxhole Victory Tour takes us on a journey through the non-celebrity entertainment offered for the enlisted troops during WWII and provides two fascinating heroines as a focal point for that trip.

Trumpet player Maggie McCleod has never met a rule she didn’t want to break. Her latest bit of bother has found her unemployed yet again, fired from the Swinging Sweethearts, a wartime orchestra in the style of Glenn Miller but made up of pretty young women. It had been Maggie’s dream job, but her free spirit, coupled with her big mouth, ensured that this latest escapade into the working world ended in failure, too. Maggie is, therefore, deeply surprised when a man approaches her in the lobby after her last performance, offering her a position with the USO. She doesn’t even have to think about it and signs up on the spot. She is equally surprised when co-worker Catherine Duquette, the beautiful chief violinist and star of the Sweethearts, overhears the conversation and asks to join as well. The two have never been friends - Catherine is by-the-book perfection, whereas Maggie is a funny, scrappy mess - but maybe that will change on the tour.

Eh, maybe not. Catherine didn’t sign on in a burst of camaraderie or patriotic fervor. Her wealthy, influential parents' contentious divorce has placed her in an impossible situation between them, with her mother wanting her to join the Philharmonic and her father wanting her to settle down and marry the man he plans to have run his company. Catherine wants to earn her place in a prestigious orchestra, not have her mother’s contacts give it to her, and she is in love with a handsome pilot who went to fight in North Africa and hasn’t written since. Maybe this tour will give her the chance to find out what has happened and why he’s not writing. It will at least give her a respite from the emotional war her parents have dragged her into.

Eh, maybe not. The strangers who join Maggie and Catherine on the tour are acrimonious. Judith, the blues singer, is determined to be the star. Howie the tap-dancer, a widower, is aging out of the business and struggling with concerns about what to do next. Gabriel, the handsome, surly magician, has a chip on his shoulder and is none too fond of Maggie’s brash ways. The situation is worsened when they learn Bob Hope is looking to their manager for a recommendation for his own tour. Only one of them can have the coveted position, and each of them is determined to be that person.

Adding to the stress is the fact that life on the road isn’t pretty. Their unit visits soldiers who are combat adjacent - the USO isn’t being sent to the front lines, but they are being sent to the bases and places where the men are either on their way to active battle or just returning from it. Bathing has to be done with river water out of a helmet. Their transports break down on the regular, and the accommodations can be pretty uncomfortable. But the work they do matters, and the soldiers they perform for are beyond grateful for it. Will their little troupe come together as friends, becoming comrades in arms as they serve their country? Or will they remain fighting for the top position, unable to recognize the importance of unity in the face of war?

I think we all know the answers to those questions. As they travel from England to Tunisia and struggle through bombings and crash landings, this disparate group slowly learns each other’s stories. And what they learn helps them to realize that everyone has depth and value. Maggie and Gabriel initially have an especially hard time with this as they spar almost constantly. It takes a while to break through the surface tension and realize they each have a reason for what they do.

The story is told from both Catherine's and Maggie’s viewpoints. This works really well since the rich, sheltered Catherine and the street-wise, bold Maggie truly experience the exact same things differently. Maggie knows how to take care of herself, she knows what she wants from life, and she knows, essentially, her own worth. What she doesn’t know is how to get on with people - she always seems to rub those in authority the wrong way - nor how best to serve God. Her family are all in the Salvation Army, but Maggie doesn’t feel called to that. She wants to bring glory to God through her music and life but hasn’t been shown how that can be done outside of full-time ministry.

Gabriel is another conundrum for Maggie. He seems to single her out, wanting to be in her company one moment, picking a fight (or so it seems to her) the next. He flat-out tells her he is not interested in love or marriage, but everyone else on the tour is convinced he’s courting her. It seems her first taste of romance is proving as disastrous as her work history.

Catherine loves music, but her family can’t understand that. Her mother sees it only as a means to an end - climbing as high as she can via her career and social status. Her father sees it as an impediment to what she should be doing - marrying the man of his choice. Her naïveté has her struggling to circumnavigate the real world without their help. A good example of this is her love affair with a brash pilot whom Maggie swears isn’t what he claims to be. The tour has been a good training ground for Catherine to learn how to live life on her own terms, but it just might prove a disaster for her romantic dreams.

This novel is published by Bethany House, which raises expectations of a strong Christian theology in the narrative, but the author handles this portion of her story with an extremely light hand. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a high level of religiosity and 1 being zero mention of God, I would rank the story a 4. Maggie would appear to be the only devout Christian in the troupe, and her struggle, as mentioned above, is how best to serve Him. The author handles this arc very well and I enjoyed watching Maggie grow in her faith.

There is a romance here, but the focus of The Foxhole Victory Tour is finding your place in the world and the people you are meant to share it with. I appreciated the author showing us the seriousness of war while still focusing on the light within those tumultuous shadows. In fact, the book’s only flaw is that everything works out perfectly for everyone. That said, I found the novel a quick, enjoyable read with a fascinating look at the history of the USO and how it worked. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction.

Reviewed by Maggie Boyd
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : January 23, 2024

Publication Date: 01/2023

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Maggie Boyd

I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
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