19 June 2015

Review: A Flying Affair by Carla Stewart

Great concept but too many issues

Book Description

Ever since Mittie Humphreys agreed to join dashing barnstorming pilot Ames for a joyride in his airplane, her lifelong love of horses has been surpassed by one thing--a longing for the skies. It seems she's not the only one--with Charles Lindbergh making his victory tour in the Spirit of St. Louis, aviation fever is spreading across the country. Mittie knows flying is the perfect focus for the soaring ambition and taste for adventure within her, and whenever she can slip away from her duties on her family's prosperous Kentucky horse farm, she heads to the airfield.

Considering their shared passion, it's no surprise that Ames begins to vie for Mittie's time. But when handsome British aviator Bobby York offers her flying lessons, he is equally surprised-and beguiled-by Mittie's grit and talent. Driven to succeed, Mittie will do whatever it takes to compete in the Women's National Air Derby alongside Amelia Earhart. But when Calista "Peach" Gilson, a charming Southern belle, becomes her rival both professionally and in love, Mittie must learn how to navigate her heart's romantic longings as well as the skies.

My Review

I thought there were good and not-so-good things about A Flying Affair. The writing was polished, and it’s written entirely from MIttie’s viewpoint which keeps the focus firmly on her as the main character. I liked the way the plot provided insight into the motivations and achievements of early women aviators (aviatrixes?), of the way aviation caught the imagination of the common people. It’s something people are still fascinated by, judging by the number of people who attend air shows each year.

But there were issues than things to recommend. Yes, the writing was polished but there was far too much telling, including a couple of instances of telling the reader what’s going to happen next, which reminded me of a 1970’s TV presenter telling us to Tune in next week for the next exciting episode, where … happens. There were also too many instances of 1920’s slang, especially in the first part of the novel. I can see they were trying to establish setting but it felt as though they were only thrown in to tell us, “Hey! It’s the Roaring Twenties, and young people use slang!” It felt forced, and not natural to Mittie’s character.

There were too many named characters, especially in the beginning, which made it difficult to know who was who, and who was important to the story and why. There was too much plot: at times it felt like A Flying Affair couldn’t decide if it was a book about a female aviator or a woman running a horse farm. There were too many subplots. Mittie and Ames, Mittie and Bobby, Mittie and Calista, Mittie’s grief and guilt over causing accidents, MIttie and Iris, Iris and her husband. Again, decide what the story is about and write that story. There were enough plots and subplots in here for an entire series.

Finally, there was no Christian element. Sure, the characters say grace once or twice and I think I recall Mittie making a reference to the man upstairs, but I’d classify this as a clean read rather than Christian fiction. While this is potentially an important issue for those readers specifically looking for Christian fiction, I have to say this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel (or lack thereof).

Cathy Bryant recently published a blog post comparing clean reads and Christian fiction, which inspired a healthy discussion on a Facebook group I’m a member of. I do think there is a place for both, but I'd like it if Christian publishers would brand books better so readers know what to expect. Christian readers looking in the Christian fiction section are looking for some faith in their fiction.

But there is also a market for sex-free novels with no underlying religious theme, and a clever Christian publisher would do both, but market them as separate imprints. (In fairness, I often find FaithWords/Hachette books light on their faith content … which suggests ‘FaithWords’ isn’t entirely accurate).

It’s telling that the author thanks her agent for providing the inspiration for this story. That suggests to me this topic is something the agent thought she could sell, not a subject the author had a deep passion for. I think that’s come through in the writing. Stewart started off writing a book about horses but got sidetracked with the flying. It’s a perfectly good commercial book, but lacks that inspiration that would make it great. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across authors saying their agent gave them the idea, and the other book I can think of in this category was also lacklustre.

Authors, perhaps you need to focus less on following the market and more on following your God-given passions and inspiration.

Overall, A Flying Affair didn’t fly for me. Thanks to NetGalley and FaithWords for providing a free ebook for review.

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