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Reviewed by Tom Gauthier for Readers' Favorite
Grounded Eagles is a trilogy of stories revolving around the human side of the world of military aviation in Britain’s WWII. Helena P. Schrader delivers complex plots through the eyes of characters you will wrap your arms around and cheer for to the very end. A Stranger in the Mirror, A Rose in November, and Lack of Moral Fibre follow three different men through three different challenges, all revolving around the deadly dangers of war and aerial battle, and how the mind deals with it all. Grounded Eagles is a blanket name encompassing a picnic of three delicious courses. Helena P. Schrader takes us on this outing, providing a blend of ingredients – plot and characters - that complement without competing to produce a sumptuous reading experience of extraordinary satisfaction, like a great chef. The stories take us into the world of WWII British aviators and aviation in the 1940s from three different viewpoints that never leave the main theme but delight us when their ingredients blend and enhance each other. Through all the tales, Helena P. Schrader deals with the psychological dramas faced by her characters as they repeatedly botch relationships, reflect, and reengage in her brilliant treatment of the most unsettling circumstances.
Beginning with A Stranger in the Mirror and twenty-two-year-old David Goldman in the cockpit of his blazing, mortally wounded Spitfire and his crash landing with his hands burned away and his face destroyed beyond recognition, we are taken on a journey, through his eyes, of a phoenix-like reemergence of life with new, exciting possibilities. Then in A Rose in November we meet Rhys Jenkins, a hard-working mechanic who achieves his dream of being appointed as Ground Chief of a Spitfire Squadron, the very aircraft that nearly killed Goldman, and working for the same leader that guided the young pilot. But Jenkins faces different challenges in life, struggling with family, his emotions, class differences with a woman, and the internal challenges life brings. Finally, Lack of Moral Fibre thrusts us into the search for reasons that Flight Engineer Kit Moran, already a survivor of thirty-six missions, refuses to fly on his thirty-seventh. Is he a coward, or is he facing the limits of his ability to psychologically survive?
You will be drawn quickly, deeply, and for the duration into these masterfully written stories of the true depth of human ability to deal with, adapt to, and overcome the worst that life can offer in times of war. But these are not war stories. These are human stories of the finest qualities to be found among warriors. Helena P. Schrader is a true master at delving into these complex psychological dilemmas and emerging with tantalizing, completely comprehensible tales of human frailty and strengths that blend into a delicious experience for her readers.