Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let the Twenties Roar - The Aviator's Angel by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy


If I could choose one decade from the past to visit or even live in, it would be the 1920’s.  Called The Roaring Twenties for many reasons, it must have been an exciting time.  Thanks to Prohibition, all manufacture and sale of alcohol was illegal in the United States but bootleggers made and sold the stuff everywhere.  Bathtub gin became popular as the wealthier set became flappers and sheiks.  Jazz music went mainstream, hemline roses, and for the first time, women chopped off their long hair in stylish bobs.  Wearing make-up became more common and the early automobiles made a population mobile that had been rooted in place.  New conveniences appeared in huge numbers, electric sewing machines, irons, and ice boxes for food storage made life a little easier.  Radios brought music into the home at the switch of a button and also delivered news from the outside world.  Movies brought the world to everyone’s doorstep and Rudolph Valentino was the first major celebrity and heartthrob. Soldiers and sailors who served in the first World War returned from Europe changed forever as a popular song asked, “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

Scott Fitzgerald captured the life of the rich and often famous in his fiction.  Ordinary people were less likely to dress as vamps or drive fancy cars or party but they benefited too.  I grew up listening my paternal grandparents’ stories of the era, the airplanes that soared overheard, the music, the speakeasies, the mod cons that made things a little easier, and the flivvers that gave poor folks the chance to travel.  So when I sat down to write my latest historical romance under the pen name of Patrice Wayne, the 1920’s seemed the perfect era as the setting.

Set in my hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri, an old river town with a rich frontier history perched on the bluffs above the wide Missouri River, The Aviator’s Angel captures some of the excitement of the Roaring Twenties.  I did my best to recreate the town before my time and bring the old neighborhood alive.  My main male character is Guy Richter, a World War flying ace now eking out a living flying a war surplus Jenny – a Curtiss JN-4 – like those he flew in France.  He does air shows, he delivers bootleg whiskey, and takes people up in the air for a price.  He also suffers from PTSD although it wasn’t known by that name yet. Guy meets a determined young woman, Angel Ryan, who wants to fly.  Although she works at the local dime store, she has big dreams and soon after meeting Guy, she cuts her hair, puts on her brothers pants, and begs for flying lessons.  Captivated by the spunky gal, Guy takes her up in the air and they fall in love.  After all, it is a romance!

To bring to life the time, I used some 1920’s slang.  I described the clothing my characters wore, used actual news events to give the story credence, and recreated the world my grandparents had described.  I read books about the 1920’s, watched old films of flying Jenny airplanes, poured over back issues of the local newspaper, and studied fashion from the period.  Writing any type of historical requires in depth research and I am a stickler to making sure my facts are correct, probably because my college degree is in both History and English.

I must have succeeded because at least one reader in my hometown shared the story with her aged grandmother, reading it to her and taking the elderly woman on a tour of all the places important to Guy and Angel in the novel.

It’s one of my favorites among the novels I’ve written.   Here’s the blurb.

When Lorraine Ryan decided she wanted to pursue her long standing dream of
flight, she sashayed out onto the local air strip in 1925. Although most
of the fellows heckled her, Guy Richter, a former World War I flying ace, offers
 to teach her. He nicknames her "Angel" and before long she's flying with Guy.
The two are also falling deep in love but Guy is a haunted man. His
demons include his war service, the death of his only brother in an accident the
previous year, and the Valkyries that he evaded in France who trail him in the
hopes that they can complete his destiny. Set against the backdrop of the
Roaring Twenties in St. Joseph, Missouri, Guy and Angel struggle
to enjoy life, each other, and to find a way through his personal hell for a
happily ever after life together.


Here’s a brief taste and the links:

Her need to make the moment last, to somehow give it significance trumped any remaining shyness she might have had, so she quipped, “Cash or check?”

Guy grinned. He got her drift.

“So it’s like that, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s like that, ace.”

Tenderness softened his face as he bent toward her. “Then cash, Angel, cash all the way.”

His mouth fastened over hers like it was made to fit. She arched her body toward him until he put his arms around her. Angel snuggled into his embrace as her lips melted beneath his. He kissed her slow, with enough heat she thought she should hear a sizzle, like bacon frying, but the warmth expanded from her mouth to travel through her body. His lips made her feel very wicked and yet delicious as she craved more of the same. Beneath his obvious passion, sweet affection lurked, and caring resonated within her heart, just as her body sang to his kiss.


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