Welcome Home, Captain Harding
Author: Elliott Mackle
Cover artist: Ben Baldwin
Publisher: Lethe Press
Amazon: Buy Link Welcome Home, Captain Harding
Genre: gay fiction
Length:198 pages/61000 words
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
A guest review by Sirius.
The third book is just as fast paced and exciting as the first two and delivers some interesting developments in Joe Harding’s personal life.
Returning to California after eighteen terrifying months in Vietnam, Captain Joe Harding is assigned a trio of duties: assisting his fatherly former commander at base operations, spying on misbehaving bomber pilots and organizing an air show designed to counter the anti-war fever sweeping the state. Meanwhile, his much younger tennis partner has enrolled at Cal Berkeley, enmeshed himself in pacifist politics and resumed his role as Joe’s lover. When a playmate from Wheelus, a one-time fighter pilot now flying for TWA, shows up at Joe’s house in Merced, the three men must navigate the joys and difficulties inherent in creating their own sort of ‘welcome home.’ Continuing the adventures and misadventures begun in Elliott Mackle’s award-winning Captain Harding’s Six-Day War and Captain Harding and his Men, Joe and his fellow officers and men are up against a hot-dogging, risk-taking aircraft commander, a pair of drug-abusing co-pilots and a married administrator with a taste for sexual blackmail. When a Broadway show causes a death in the family, a test flight goes terribly wrong and Joe’s honor and patriotism are questioned, he must fight to clear his name and rebuild his imperiled career.
I reviewed the first book in this series here and the second book here. I am not sure whether the third book is the last one in the series, but it certainly brings the trilogy to (mostly) satisfying conclusion.
As you can see from the blurb a lot is happening in the third book as well and Joe Harding is as always thrown in the middle of things. I really appreciate that the writer always makes feel that I was thrown back in time when I am reading these books and this is one of the main reasons I read historical books for – to travel back in time the story portrays. It is strange to call the book which portrays late sixties – early seventies in the twentieth century a historical, but that’s what it is now, right?
We get to see and feel the atmosphere in San Francisco – much more liberated than in many other cities at that time from what I have read and while I understand and support anti – Vietnam War sentiments, I have never been in the army and it was nice to see some skepticism from the soldier who just came back. Not that Joe is shown as a stringent supporter of the war, definitely not. But this is only a small part of what Joe finds himself being involved in. As blurb tells you he once again has to investigate some incompetence and some criminal things going on in SAC because his commander wanted him to do that. And the story really does not pull any punches with this storyline. The result of Joe’s investigation was surprising to me in the most unpleasant (but fitting) way, however I should have expected it based on some things which had happened at the end of the previous books.
Once again I was surprised (why I was surprised I am not sure, because by now I should get used to Elliott Mackle’s writing skills) how realistic everything that took place felt. Most characters in the book felt like living, breathing human beings, their reactions made sense, their actions, no matter how stupid or dangerous made sense to. They did not act like characters who know that they are in the book if that makes sense; they acted like people living their lives.
I thought Joe Harding definitely matured in this book – in both personal and professional life, I thought his love interest from previous book matured a great deal as well. I never thought of these series as a romance, even if the second book took more romantic turn in my opinion, I thought of it as an action/adventure gay fiction. However I wondered about certain romantic development which occurs in this book – I wondered the point of it. The blurb hints at it a little bit, but I thought it is a really BIG spoiler, so I am going to put it under the cut and I highly suggest not you do not look unless you really want to know.[spoiler name=”spoiler”] So, Joe and Cotton became a threesome in this book. Joe’s buddy Sam becomes an addition to the couple. I am not quite sure I understand myself why this development felt a little off to me, but here are some ramblings and if it feels conflicted, it is because I was and still am. While I do not go out of my way to seek the book which has m/m/m , I read a lot which I loved (and some that I hated too of course). For me it is not a problem that they became a trio, but it felt a bit out of place in this specific book. I mean, on one hand Joe was always shown to have a casual buddies and even in this book it is shown that while they were apart, they were mostly committed to each other, but they had their needs and sometimes satisfied it with somebody else (rarely).
I had no problem with that at all. It felt real, it made sense to me, but while Sam’s addition was made in a very matter of fact, very “non-romance” way (they negotiated it in a very male way :)), I still wondered why it was there in the first place? And to continue contradict myself, I actually liked them together. I thought they were sweet and very real. Maybe I am not sure because I thought it had the potential to add unnecessary drama to the guys’ life. Maybe despite Joe’s found maturity he would still whine few times throughout the book that he was not sure he could commit and so I questioned whether their arrangement would last. Anyway, if you guys looked, you know what I wanted to say and it is up to you to decide. [/spoiler]
The end of the story made me think that this is the end to the series, however there is certainly a room for telling more stories about Joe Harding and his life and if the author chooses to do so, I will be there.