The Ack-Ack Girl (Love and War)

Written by Chris Karlsen
Review by B. J. Sedlock

Ava Armstrong is staying with friends in London in October 1940 when the house is destroyed in the Blitz. She normally works in a library in Coventry, and after she hears the library has been bombed and her boss killed, she resolves to join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service). Ava earns high marks on a test of mechanical and optical problem solving, and gets assigned to train for the new Anti-Aircraft Command of the Royal Artillery. The women don’t actually get to fire the guns, but they act as spotters and range calculators. Yet they run the same risk as the men, since German planes aim to kill those in the ack-ack posts.

During training, Ava has a run-in with a cocky pilot, Lt. Chris Fairfield, but he later asks her out on a date. When he gets transferred to Dover, he uses an influential uncle to get Ava reassigned there also. Their romance escalates as the war progresses. Chris proposes, but refuses to marry until after the war; he is afraid Ava may become a widow if something happens to him. Chris’s premonition proves valid when his plane is shot down over France, but Ava refuses to believe him dead.

The story is refreshing in that it’s entirely linear, no jumping around in time to keep track of, and has a memorable central couple. The role of the Ack Ack women deserves to be better known—an author’s note says that 731 of them were killed. This novel only presents a few scenes depicting Ava working in the bunker during a battle; it concentrates more on her training and interactions with Chris. Fans of war stories might wish for more battle action, but those who prefer romance will enjoy it as much as I did. Recommended.