NEIGHBORHOOD HEROES: LIFE LESSONS FROM MAINE’S GREATEST GENERATION

By Morgan Reilly

Down East Books, 2014

176 pages, $15.95

ISBN 978-1-60893-263-4

Some adults might think that today’s teenagers don’t really appreciate the sacrifices American veterans — men and women — made during World War II.

But they would be wrong.

Teenager (and aspiring historian) Morgan Reilly spent his four years at Westbrook High School interviewing Maine veterans of World War II, collecting 25 oral histories in a considerate effort to preserve their stories before they are lost forever.

This may be Reilly’s first book, but his conscientious research and thoughtful presentation reveal a young man passionate about history and the people who lived it. He admits: “All of these veterans taught me something: not just about how to fight a war, but how to live a life.”

The veterans portrayed here represent the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, and a variety of military specialties like infantrymen, tankers, aviators, mechanics, yeomen, engineers and radio operators. They came from all over Maine: from Portland, Bath and Gorham to Lincoln, Rangeley and Machias.

These veterans are humble — they do not claim to be heroes — but are proud of their service and wartime experience. And they teach us much about humility, humanity, courage, sacrifice, discipline, teamwork, endurance and responsibility — all traits they learned in the service and carried on into their personal, family and professional lives after the war.

Among these colorful veterans is Harold Lewis, who bailed out of his crippled B-24 bomber over Italy, landed behind enemy lines and had to evade capture for a whole frightening month. Herman Boudreau complained of seasickness in the Pacific, but getting shot at Guadalcanal wasn’t much fun, either.

Funniest is Fern Gaudreau’s tasty story about a delicious spaghetti and meatballs dinner in Italy, and then wondered what happened to all the neighborhood cats. This book is a fitting tribute to all WWII veterans.

HALF MOON HARBOR

By Donna Kauffman

Kensington, 2014

356 pages, $14

ISBN 978-0-7582-9279-7

Romance novelists have it easy. There are only two parts to a romance novel — the romance itself (handsome hunk meets beautiful woman, add sparks) and the setting (historical, contemporary add conflict).

The romance part isn’t difficult to write, depending on the level of romantic intensity intended — passionate, syrupy, mature, young love or just plain sophomoric groping and heavy breathing.

However, the success of a romance novel depends not on the romance, but on the author’s ability to create a believable, entertaining setting.

Unfortunately, Donna Kauffman’s romance, “Half Moon Harbor,” misses the mark on both counts. This is the second book in her series, “Bachelors of Blueberry Cove,” a sappy melodrama set in a too-cute, stereotyped coastal Maine town (think Cabot Cove without Jessica Fletcher and a pile of dead bodies).

Brodie Monaghan is a “drool worthy,” handsome bachelor Irishman complete with a corny Irish accent and an “exquisitely sculpted chest and fantasy abs.” He’s trying to resurrect his family’s boat-building heritage on the waterfront of Half Moon Harbor. Grace Maddox is a gorgeous estate attorney, new in town, intending to open a bed-and-breakfast inn in an old boathouse on Brodie’s wharf. Their horny attraction is instant and electric, but messy business arrangements, a jealous and vindictive female real estate agent and a wealthy, amoral local tycoon provide the setting for small town scandal and general unpleasantness. Then the tycoon offers Brodie a business deal he cannot refuse.

Kauffman presents Brodie and Grace’s romance from tingling hand-holding to sweaty sex, but her descriptions fail to elevate anybody’s pulse rate. And the business setting’s conflict, while offering the best potential for interest and suspense, is settled at the end with just one limp sentence and no explanation. A poor ending indeed, leaving plenty of uninspired loose ends to justify a sequel.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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