The Saga of the Ellen Jane: Inventing a Legend was such a fun book! It's World War II, Adolf Hitler is on the move and a small ragtag group of misfits, with a transport Beech-18 transport plane turned fighter jet, is determined to protect Brazil by tricking the Nazi regime. How could it be anything but enthralling? When I first received the e-mail from Stearman Press pitching their book I was instantly intrigued. Historical Fiction...an airplane...colorful characters...intrigue and romance...what could go wrong? As it turns out, not much, it was a pretty great book!
The characters were fabulously written! In the opening pages when a certain handsome airman can't keep his eyes off a lovely red skirt with a French accent you just know there is going to be love in the air. Then we meet the rest of the ecletic group and we have them all. There is the pilot, the French spy, the pacificist missionary and his daughter, the guy who makes really good pancakes and happens to own a landing strip, the double-agent and, of course, the mechanic. They all have their own stories and background and are fascinating but the character who really steals the story is Ellen Jane herself.
What a magnificent plane! When we first meet the Ellen Jane she's just a battered transport plane but give that mechanic a little time with her and she's transformed into a proud makeshift fighter jet complete with bombs and guns and a sexy woman painted on the side. The author really makes her the star of the book. He introduces some technical details on aircraft and provides some lessons in aviation but nothing that overwhelmed the book or led to monotonous chapters full of nothing but minute details on aircraft construction. It was just enough to make you feel like you knew and understood Ellen Jane. The World War 2 involvement, double-agent and spy intrigue and airplanes made this story absolutely fabulous to me! It was just fun to read.
It wasn't all fun characters and a beautiful plane though. There were a few serious themes that ran throughout the book. There is the obvious conflict between the pacificist missionary father and daughter and the war that looms out across the rest of the world. There was a struggle between good and evil, between honesty and deceit, simply put, it was a struggle between right and wrong. The characters, specifically Jeni (the French woman in the red skirt), have to confront anger, rage, revenge and ultimately, forgiveness. The characters were so well-written that you really get wrapped up in their story and in their journies, both the physical and the spiritual.
I admit the book was a little slow in the beginning and it did take a little bit of time to really pick up the pace of the story but it is worth sticking with it. There was also one sexual depiction which I didn't care for but the author was honest with me when he pitched the book and told me it was in there so I expected it. It wasn't graphic or offensive however and I doubt that the average reader will be offended or turned off. It's a really great book and it's a lot of fun to read.