Author: Bonnie Leon
Title: Joy Takes Flight
Publisher: Revell

Those who know and love Bonnie Leon’s Alaskan Skies stories will be thrilled at what must be a satisfying finale to the series. Those who are new to the series would be better off reading the first two volumes (Touching the Clouds and Wings of Promise) before tackling this one. Seriously: newbies will be lost as parts of the story pick up midstream . . . so if that’s you, go ahead and read the earlier books now, then come back to this review to avoid potential spoilers.

In a bit of a twist on the usual romance timeline, the book opens with the main characters’ wedding. Kate is a career girl with an unusual job: she’s a pilot—this in the late nineteen-thirties, yet! Paul is a ‘bush doctor’ who treats patients around Alaska Territory, often flown to his house calls by Kate. Seems like a perfect fit, doesn’t it?

Maybe . . . but the path of true love rarely runs smoothly, even after the wedding. Kate is a feisty lass with an independent streak as big as Alaska, so settling down to mind home and hearth isn’t exactly her style. This gutsy gal thinks nothing of landing her little plane on a frozen riverbed but marriage (and possible motherhood) will bring her back down to earth in a hurry. Many modern women will relate to Kate’s career vs. family struggle as she tries to carve out her new life as Paul’s wife while retaining her identity as Kate.

Paul is a great guy, but he’s carrying a lot of baggage (and a lot of secrets) from his first marriage. He manages to be alternately romantic, bull-headed, and kind of clueless—in short, a fairly typical nice guy. But when Kate turns up pregnant, past memories rise up in a swirl of guilt and insecurity. Since he won’t talk about what he’s feeling, even to God (see earlier note re: typical guy), Paul and Kate’s relationship suffers.

Even without secret issues, two such strong-willed people are bound to butt heads occasionally and they do. He wants her to give up flying—especially after some death-defying incidents in the air. She can’t imagine such a thing. He toys with moving back to San Francisco. Her heart belongs to the Yukon. Conflict and forgiveness, love and loss, friends and family all have their moment. There’s a lot of drama, but then, such is life.

Leon paints a vivid picture of the wild beauty of what was then Alaska territory. The flying scenes, and there are many, sound authentic without blinding the reader with aircraft science. She sets up a lot of heart-tugging moments, too, the kind that set romantic movie music playing in the reader’s mental sound system.

I would have liked a little more of a thirties’ vibe to the story, as I frequently forgot this wasn’t a modern-day tale. I suppose that just goes to show that times may change but people stay the same. In that sense Joy Takes Flight reflects the story of countless couples and offers hope for a happy ending.

*This Review First Published 8/27/2012