Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
In the midst of a battle between Union and Confederate airships in 1869, Billy Leary knows he’s about to die. After leaving Ireland, neither he nor his brother Jimmy thought to become entangled in this bloody war. But the Union hadn’t offered them a choice. No sooner had they stepped ashore than they were conscripted into the air corps, and now, the Rebel commander, Garrett Prescott, has fired on the Union airships after they surrender. In spite of being an engineer there is nothing Billy can do to prevent his vessel’s explosion. At least Jimmy yet lives.
But Billy’s demise doesn’t occur. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself in a Rebel field hospital where Prescott offers him a choice – serve in the Confederate Aerial Navy or be confined in Andersonville. Since the latter is more a death trap than prison camp, Billy opts for the former. To prevent the possibility of being called a traitor for switching sides, he changes his name to Billy Reilly. When the War of Confederate Independence finally ends, Billy eventually marries, has a family, and decides to open a store in the Dakota Territory. That decision leads to a tragedy that alters his life, and Billy finds himself once again crossing paths with the infamous Prescott.
In 1880, Captain Gallagher, aka Jimmy Leary, has finally found something he’s good at. He loves being a buccaneer of the air, and he’s worked hard to create a haven where the aero-pirates can gather in relative safety in a fledgling mining town in the Arizona Territory. He and his crew, aboard the Anna Sable, swoop down and attack trains, regardless of whether they belong to the Union or the Confederacy. His favorite targets are those carrying cargo and money belonging to Thom McGuire, a rich and powerful man who’s determined to rid the airways of the aero-pirates.
Justine Arthurs dreams of commanding an airship, but she’s too darned good at being an agent. During the war, she was a Pinkerton agent working behind enemy lines. Now’s she works for McGuire, and her current assignment is to offer Garrett Prescott a lucrative job. He agrees on two conditions: declare the Arizona Territory a company protectorate and name him as its governor. With assistance from the Union Aero Corps, Prescott vows to defeat the aero-pirates in a year or less.
Union airships converge on the aero-pirates safe haven and an overeager officer offers them a pardon. If they renounce their old ways and swear allegiance to the Union, the buccaneers will be granted amnesty for past crimes. Gallagher counsels feigning acceptance, but Bart Scharf refuses to sign and vows to make war on those who do.
Not believing the aero-pirates have truly surrendered, Prescott sends Justine to find out all she can about Gallagher any way she can. Her task proves easier than she expects, but as she gets to know him and he lets her command the Anna Sable, she finds that she’s not immune to his charms. Best to put an end to this charade as soon as possible. To that end, she arranges an ambush, but killing the buccaneers isn’t as easy as she expects. Nor is it a simple thing to keep Gallagher far from her thoughts.
In spite of losing his heart to the woman he knows as Faye, Gallagher has enough sense to be wary of her. Her betrayal cuts him to the quick, and he’s determined to make her pay. But getting revenge must wait until after he and his fellow aero-pirates stage the biggest haul of their lives.
Fire Aloft is a rousing steampunk adventure filled with intrigue, romance, and treachery. While much of the story is set in 1880, numerous flash backs covering a time span of twelve years are interspersed throughout the story until the death-defying, heart-pumping, spectacular show-down. Doc Holiday is among the host of unique characters populating the story, and there is a restaging of the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone. This may be about air pirates, but historical piratical elements are seamlessly woven into the story. For example, the offer of amnesty, Prescott’s no-nonsense suppression, and Scharf’s belligerent refusal to renounce his criminal ways are reminiscent of Governor Woodes Rogers’ ousting of the pirates from the Bahamas and Charles Vane’s audacious escape.
Review Copyrighted ©2019 Cindy Vallar
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