Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Length: 13,300 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: m/m historical (WW2) romance
Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.
When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.
But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.
I don’t think I’ve read a story set during World War 2 taken from the viewpoint of a German soldier and so I was curious when this story came to my attention. I was also a little apprehensive at how the war would be shown from a German angle. I shouldn’t have worried though because the story is set at the end of the war, where Germany is tired, almost defeated and desperately trying to defend itself from a stronger force, rather than being the aggressive attackers. It made me think about the cost of that war on the German people and how tragedy spanned both sides of the war.
The focus of the story is mechanic Felix. His job is to get the planes, which are defending Berlin from attack, ready to go and fly safely. He has an enormous, almost worshipful attraction to pilot Baldur which he keeps to himself. When Baldur is injured, he invites Felix to take some leave with him and the pair grow close, but any sort of relationship during wartime is almost impossible.
There were two themes in the story. Firstly there is the relationship between Felix and Baldur. The story is written from the first person point of view of Felix and he’s a shy man who suffers a little from low self esteem. It’s a surprise and delight to him when his feelings are returned and I loved the way that he blossoms with Baldur. Felix’s hesitancy fits well with the period setting, and is almost painfully slow at first with some misunderstandings born of lack of self-belief. I have to admit this was a little frustrating for me as a reader, but once things finally got in the open, I enjoyed Felix’s delight in the change in his relationship with Baldur. Felix’s innocence has a painful intensity to it, but it’s also very sweet and powerful.
The second theme is that of the closing weeks of the Second World War. In terms of research and historical detail, this really is superb with a dark desperate overarching tone to the story. More than that though is that there’s a strong human element to the story, not just in the characters of Felix and Baldur, but also in other minor characters who feature briefly. This is shown through a mixture of snippets of discussions, comments by others, snapshots of other people’s lives and shared tragedies. Along with Felix’s thoughts, these build up a clear picture of a nation brought to its knees, but still retaining its pride. It showed a very sympathetic view of the German people without taking away the reasons for the war or showing the Allies in a bad light. Full marks for the balance there.
For those who may be worried about the way the story ends, there is a HEA. It comes after a period of drama and tension which had me on the edge of my seat and was wholly satisfying whilst still keeping with the time period.
If you like historical stories set during this time, then this short story is a must. The writing is tight and controlled, the setting is flawless and the characters very sympathetic. Highly recommended.