Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Riptide and Amazon
Purchased by Reviewer
Blurb: Every New Year’s Eve since 1946, Nate Meyer has ventured alone to Times Square to listen for the ghostly church bells he and his long-lost wartime lover vowed to hear together. This year, however, his grandson Blaine is pushing Nate through the Manhattan streets, revealing his secrets to his silent, stroke-stricken grandfather.
When Blaine introduces his boyfriend to his beloved grandfather, he has no idea that Nate holds a similar secret. As they endure the chilly death of the old year, Nate is drawn back in memory to a much earlier time . . . and to Walter.
Long before, in a peace carefully crafted in the heart of wartime tumult, Nate and Walter forged a loving home in the midst of violence and chaos. But nothing in war is permanent, and now all Nate has is memories of a man his family never knew existed. And a hope that he’ll finally hear the church bells that will unite everybody—including the lovers who hid the best and most sacred parts of their hearts.
Review: When Jewish surveillance photographer Nate Meyer’s plane is shot down in a dogfight, the last thing the WWII officer expected to find was love. But find it, he did, with fellow soldier Walter, the man who rescues him, saving his life. Nate and Walter’s story is told in a flashback sandwiched between the present day, where Nate, as a old man in his eighteen, has suffered a stroke that left him incapacitated and unable to communicate. His grandson, Blaine, takes him on Nate’s annual New Year’s Eve pilgrimage to Times Square since he is no longer able to get there on his own. Blaine’s love and respect for his grandfather is plainly evident in not only the way that he speaks to him and the fact that he is happy to push his grandfather’s wheelchair down the blocks to Times Square (not knowing why it is so important, only knowing that it is), but also in his need to confess his love for another man and introduce Tony, his boyfriend, to his grandfather. Unable to verbalise the secret he has kept for decades that would make his grandson understand that not only does Nate love and accept him, he also knows the love of another man, Nate falls into the memories of the only romantic love he ever truly knew.
The 1940s were a much different time than today. Although there is a still a way to go, there is a lot more acceptance of sexualities other than straight than there was seventy years ago, especially growing up in a reasonably strict Jewish household. Nate had no doubt that his mother loved him, and would probably even accept him, no matter what. He was less sure of his stern and somewhat distant father. When the world broke out into the madness of war, Nate joined the airforce where they utilised his skill in photography. That fateful day when his plane was shot down, leaving the pilot dead and Nate as the sole survivor, his life changed immensely for a brief period of time.
Walter, a fellow Amercian, is an escaped prisoner of war hiding out in an abounded farm house on the German/French border when Nate comes literally crashing into his life. Suffering from wounds gained in the plane crash, Walter nurses Nate back to health, using the medical knowledge gained working in a field hospital before his capture and escape. As Nate slowly recovers over the following weeks, an undeniable attraction grows between the two men – one based on genuine affection. Nate’s Jewish background has had him decide to never act on his attraction to other men, believing that to do so would be a sin, but as he gets to know the young man with the beautiful soul, he finds it harder and harder to believe that love, any real love, could possible be sinful. As the two men embark on their loved affair, I couldn’t help but see it through a tinge of sadness that brought me to tears, knowing from the start that their love wasn’t destined to be a HEA. Don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler; we know right from the opening page that their love wouldn’t survive the war, and with Nate’s trek to hear the bells that supposedly rang during the war to guide the troops back home, it’s also pretty obvious why.
There are such wonderful scenes during their time away from the world. The scene of their baths is just so beautiful. It shows them falling in love and it was delightful to see that fall finish unfolding. Walter’s background is one of abandonment by his family when they discovered he was gay, the major reason why Walter enlisted. He grew with harsh realities that left him unable to see any possible future he and Nate could have together back home. Nate had enough hope for the both of them, having had the examples of two men being able to build a life together that Walter had never experienced. I wish I could have felt that hope, but all I felt was sadness that their love wasn’t going to be enough and there would be no life together. When the inevitable happened, my heart was left completely shattered, even though I was pretty certain I knew what was coming. I was left feeling bereft and angry, right along with Nate, unable to move passed the loss of a scrappy, gentle, caring young man barely into adulthood and I mourned for the future taken from them.
This is a bittersweet story that is written with such heartwrenching beauty. While there is no hope for Nate and Walter, the hope is found in the acceptance (acceptance Nate’s generation didn’t really have) for the future generations, like Blaine and his boyfriend. After all, the very reason the war was fought was so that the generations that came after would be free from oppression. There is a lot of sweeteness in Nate and Walter’s love story too. The ending is wonderfully done and the love and hope in it offsets the heartache that came before it with Nate and Walter’s wartime love. I generally avoid war stories, but I’m glad that I have this one a chance. Heartbreak and all.