Author ~ Sandra Lindsey
Publisher ~ Manifold Press
Published ~ 1 August 2016
Genre ~ Historical M/M Romance
Love. Loss. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Honour. Duty. Family.
In 1939, the arrival of war prompted ‘Teddy’ Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty – Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine – their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.
After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy’s life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?
Under Leaden Skies begins its tale in a Welsh mining village. Max and Huw are social opposites, with Huw being a miner and Max an Oxford-educated member of the aristocracy. Nevertheless, he frequently spends time with his nanny, who lives in the village. There, he forms a childhood friendship with Huw that continues into adulthood. Sadly, war intervenes, and while Huw stays in the mines, Max joins the RAF and goes to war. On the day before he departs, he confesses his love for Huw, who returns his affections.
Having a secretive long-distance relationship is an issue. Therefore, with every day possibly one’s last, Max lives in the moment and finds comfort in the arms of the willing Cheeks (aka Charlie), who is also Bi.
Life is complicated for Max. Being caught in a gay liaison can put a man in prison. Also, to fulfil his family duties, he is expected to marry and produce an heir. You’ll have to read the book to find out that works out.
The story is from Max’s POV and reads like his memoirs, with the odd sentence giving an inkling of what happens in the future before reverting to the timeline. This is a private tale told with the backdrop of war, and to that end, prior knowledge of WWII aircraft is a help, but not essential. Although, I suspect said knowledge would give a person an extra depth to the story. War has a huge bearing on Max’s life, but it is its effect on his personal life rather than the war itself where this story lies – though the consequences of battle are recounted.
The classic British Stiff Upper Lip comes into play during the story, along with the language and manners associated with a well to do gentleman from the RAF. This aspect is a pleasure to read, but occasionally restricts the emotional impact of a scene.
Under Leaden Skies is a delightful, engaging tale that took me into a world far from my own. There is death, dealing with life in difficult circumstances, injury, drama, loving from a distance and making the best of the hand one is dealt. This would be a lovely story to lose oneself in during that sunny afternoon, lay in a hammock under a shady tree, with a cup of Earl Grey at your side.