🛩️ "The Ack Ack Girl" (Love and War #1) (2021)🛩️ - Book Tour & Review
Love and War
A country under attack and the story of one woman's fight to protect England and her heart.
1941. The German war machine has crushed all of Europe-only England holds fast. To force a surrender, the German Luftwaffe bombs cities and villages the length of the country. As the battle rages, Britain is in desperate need to put more pilots in the air.
To free up more men a new unit is formed: The Ack Ack Girls. These special teams of courageous women will now fight in the anti-aircraft stations. Determined to be part of the effort, Ava Armstrong, volunteers for one of the special teams.
Her unit just happens to be located near an RAF airfield teaming with pilots. Sparks fly, and not just from artillery, When Ava crosses paths with Chris Fairfield, a handsome and cocky pilot stationed there. But nothing is easy in time of war, not even love.
About the Author
Ends May 19, 2021
Thank you in advance to the author, Chris Karlsen, along with Prism Book Tours for providing a complimentary review copy. A positive review was not required or requested and all words are my own.
Obviously when one sees a title of a book they wonder the meaning behind it. I saw The Ack Ack Girl and immediately cringed. What kind of title was that? What kind of book is it? Honestly? What is this? And, the cover was so amateurish I cringed even more. I honestly wanted to pass this one up. I just wasn’t drawn to it.
I read the book’s description and was still a bit leery. I turned to Google (my default search engine) and WAS I EVER AMAZED! Literally AMAZED!
These were REAL women in World War II (WWII). They were members of the
Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) that helped operate Anti-Aircraft Guns in the defense of Britain from German bombing raids 2.
While, I am an American and these were British officers, this is something I was never taught in school. And, it is sad that it isn’t more widely known.
FYI: from 1941 onward, all unmarried British women aged 20 to 30 were required to join one of the Auxiliary services, which included the ATS. Then Princess Elizabeth signed up for the ATS and trained as a mechanic and ambulance driver. She was compelled to service her country as she is now.
I even looked up images about the “ack-ack” girls. Once such appears on the cover of this book. They were extraordinary ladies, and sadly between 1941-1945; 731 “Ack-Ack” Girls were killed.
This story was adding another chapter to a war that so many of my mother’s uncles and her father fought in. Chapters I didn’t know or was never taught in school. I’d read books from all perspectives (mostly fiction, based on real events and/or characters) – the occupation, concentration camp stories, the survivors, allies, and civilians. I’d even read a “real-life” account about the nine women of the French resistance just prior to this.
This story deserves a far better cover to be honest. There is so much in this story taken from real-life events – a legacy, heartbreak, determination, resolve, courage, and faith. The author’s writing – visceral, realistic, graphic; brought the reality of WWII back to life. This was, at times; heart-breaking, sweet, inspiring, and engaging. There was not a dull moment at all in the story. There were moments where the terror felt real and my heart broke for the characters (as well as the real people) who went through this.
I started the book in the early morning hours of Mother’s Day (roughly 2am), and read it off and on throughout the day. The story just kept drawing me in.
While the war was dirty, evil, and brutal – the content in this book isn’t too bad. This is written with some British (UK English) terms. As result, some may laugh or cringe at the wanker and tosser terms. Bloody could be offensive to those from Canada, UK, or Australia. There is some mild cussing – damn, piss, with a reference to “s#$thead”. There is some reference to sex and an off-page scene.
Some readers might find some of the language, expectations, and ideas as outdated and/or offensive. This is due to the time they’re set in, again between 1939-1945. There was also a global war raging as well.
At the time I didn’t know it was part of a series, Love and War #1. It does well as a standalone though.
The main characters are Ava and Chris. The story starts from before they meet to after they are reunited in a sad, dramatic, and beautiful end.
Ava is in London on October 1940 when she and her friend Penny are with Penny’s family as German bombers conduct a raid. From the rubble, Penny and her family are homeless as a result of the destruction. They are thankful to be alive, but are guilt-ridden for those lost.
Ava still has her place in Coventry, and her mother has hers. Ava suggests the Penny, her mother, and grandmother stay with her widowed mother while Mr. Gordon stays at the bank.
After the attack, Penny decides to join the ATS to ferry manufactured planes to pilots. She feels compelled to do something. Readers will not hear about her again until chapter 10.
While Ava feels somewhat compelled as well, it isn’t until the attack on Coventry when her boss is killed and the library is decimated. Ava then signs up for the ATS. Ava’s outburst and animosity towards the Germans is realistic as well as understandable. It is perhaps brutal, cruel, but accurate of the time.
By April 1941, she is working in an office type job when she is given a chance to go for specialized training – the anti-aircraft Command of the Royal Artillery, fulfilling part of what she wants to do.
It is there that she meets pilot Chris Fairfield. At first it is a bit hilarious, and a few cute insults fly. He’s there to recover, she is there to train.
As her training progress and his healing does, the two become close. Ava becomes close to the other girls as they train and become a unit. One girl is Kitty who is getting close to Dennis, another wounded pilot.
One pilot who was obnoxious made a brief appearance then was gone – Giles. I wondered what happened to him. He wouldn’t be the only character I was curious about.
Chris mentions his sister is studying in Hawai’i, safe from the German bombers, thus bringing a new “foreboding” feeling into it. Readers won’t find out until nearly the end what happens to her.
But, Chris is already making post-war plans with Ava in what will become a bittersweet moment throughout the book; mingling a romance with a war. As a result, he and his friend Dennis end up getting Ava and Kitty assigned closer to them.
Karlsen also mentions one of the most interesting notes of the war that some may or may not know. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Churchill wanted Roosevelt to get into the war effort. This is a debate for the characters where Chris assures them the U.S will get into it, and a sure bet Hitler will know.
By November 1941 there were rumors of the Japanese hitting Pearl Harbor, which some felt was impossible. Yet, a month later the event occurred.
Karlsen keeps the story realistic when an event shatters both Chris and Ava’s life. Thankfully, the author doesn’t draw the suspense out – she naturally moves the story ahead to the end of the war with a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking moment. Though, for the genre and story, it does have a “happy-as-possible-ending”. It was a treasure to behold and witness that history. Since this was a real war, there is no real way to remain spoiler-free.
As of note, and slight spoiler – in addition to Giles, I also wonder what happened to Penny’s father. He is not mentioned after chapter one, yet there doesn’t seem to be any mention of him getting killed either. That was one character I wondered about.
This isn’t a “feel” good story due to the subject, so it was hard to really enjoy it. Between the war and the holocaust, it is estimated that 75 million people died. Sadly, many civilians died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation.
But, Karlsen reminds us of the life that did go on, if only in memory and for those who couldn’t. We need to read stories like this so their sacrifice, their fortitude, and their victory continue and we don’t forget. In that respect, I did enjoy seeing the triumph of the allies.
I honestly couldn’t put this down and read it within 12 hours. It was that engaging and fast-paced if you consider the story takes place over a 4-5 year period. It did not lag. This is the first book I’ve read by the author, and I was glad I did. This was definitely a case of “don’t judge a book by the cover”. Had I done so, I would’ve missed a golden opportunity to learn something.
This December 7 (2021); it will have been 80 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor. When 2020 started there were fewer than 20 Pearl Harbor survivors still alive in the United States.
To quote Winston Churchill “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”.
I would definitely read another book in this same genre by the author. Anyone who enjoys fictionalized WWII stories should definitely look into this book.
4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ stars