Wings of a Dream
I read inspy romances from time to time, and I have to admit that the often gorgeous cover art tends to draw me in. A disproportionate number of books in that genre are blessed with above-average cover art. While not a seamlessly perfect read, Wings of a Dream is an appealing romance/coming-of-age story, and I enjoyed the good parts far more than I cringed at the weaker ones.
Set during the waning days of World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic, this novel explores how these events alter the course of a young woman’s life. The book opens in the fall of 1918, and Rebekah Hendricks has lived her entire life on a small family farm in rural Oklahoma. Her overbearing mother pretty much dictates her life for her, and Rebekah unsurprisingly dreams of more than staying in town and marrying the less-than-thrilling young shopkeeper her mother keeps throwing at her.
Then two big things happen. First of all, she meets a dashing aviator who is quite flirtatious and full of promises of life in the city. Rebekah is convinced that they are meant to be together, and dreams of marriage as soon as Arthur finishes flight training and perhaps the war is over.
A letter from Rebekah’s aunt starts her down another path all together. Though Rebekah’s mother and aunt were estranged from one another, Rebekah cherishes memories of the kind and smiling woman who came to visit during her childhood. When that aunt reaches out for help in the face of illness, Rebekah does not hesitate to go to her. Rebekah’s first solo journey takes her to a small town in Texas, where she discovers her gravely ill aunt – and the four children her aunt has been tending while their widowed father is away at war.
This is where the story really starts moving. Readers see Rebekah truly coming into her own. At first, she somewhat helplessly fumbles through tending to the farm and caring for the four children. However, as it becomes obvious that her efforts are very much needed, she shows herself to be clever and resourceful. Keeping everyone fed and clothed when paychecks from the front come unreliably or not at all is no mean feat, but Rebekah proves equal to the challenge.
This story worked in large part because things don’t come easily or naturally to Rebekah. Her relationships with the children are built in fits and starts – and Rebekah is not a perfect, selfless heroine. She has dreams for herself and she makes mistakes she has to learn from while in the process of figuring out what she wants and going for it. Rebekah does things that will make plenty of readers cringe but she changes as the book progresses, so I would never call her TSTL.
On the romantic side of things, I did get a little bored with every single man in the novel seeming to develop at least a bit of a crush on Rebekah. I liked her as a heroine, but it did feel a bit like overkill. Rebekah’s budding friendships with the neighbors and people in town who help her out were a lot more interesting, and the give and take of those relationships tell the reader a lot more about her as a person than the various men pining after her do.
When Frank Gresham returns home to his farm, he is surprised to see Rebekah there. And the arrival of Frank adds a whole new level to the romantic plotting. Not only do we have Arthur the pilot down the road in Dallas, but we have Frank, who turns out to be a young father, and another gentleman or two in the running as well. Rebekah goes from being trapped to having a bewildering world of options – not all of which involve choosing a man.
At times parts of this novel seemed a little overly simplistic. However, the fact that Rebekah has to really figure out who she is and what a happily ever after even looks like for her before she can make any big decisions with her life made this book appeal to me. What makes her happy isn’t always what would make me happy, but the author does write it all convincingly. Much of this book focuses on how the Spanish Flu and, to a lesser extent, the First World War, changed the lives of communities. However, while these events have a huge impact on Rebekah’s life, many of her struggles will feel universal and familiar to young adults and that’s what made this book read like more than a period piece.