Knowing my weakness for women in uniform, Indigo Labrys gifted me with a copy of Blue Skies by Ali Vali. Hotshot naval aviator Berkley Levine thinks she has it all: Hawaiian beaches, supersonic jets, and the love of fellow naval officer Aidan Sullivan. But Aidan, who has her sights set on making captain, ends their relationship rather than risk being discharged. Stunned, Berkley retreats to Fallon, Nevada, where she trains a new generation of pilots at TOPGUN. But when Aidan, now captain of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, comes to Fallon to recruit pilots for a top secret mission, can Berkley put her broken heart aside long enough to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program!?
I should have loved this book. But the writing is awful and the plot is so boring I would have stopped reading had I not wanted to review it for this blog. Part of the problem is that the plot does not actually follow the structure I outlined above: we begin with Aidan's return, and are simply told about the fabulous relationship that Aidan sacrificed on the altar of her career. (Of course, now that Aidan has finally made captain, she's ready to chuck it all without experiencing so much as a shakedown cruise and love Berkley the way she deserves to be loved!) Although the characters repeat (and repeat) how made-for-each-other they are, there's nothing to actually convince me of that. In fact, the only character I got a real sense of was Jin Lee, a North Korean fighter pilot (and also a lesbian, because why not), who deserves her own novel by a competent author.
On top of the weak romance, the adventure side of the story doesn't pick up until about page 150, whereafter it manages to be interesting for about fifty pages before the wheels come off spectacularly. It speaks to Vali's failure of imagination that she doesn't anticipate the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but does expect us to swallow caricatures of displaced Bush Administration officials carrying out terrorist attacks on American soil. But even if the plot were better constructed, it would not be enjoyable because Vali's writing fails at the sentence level: it's oddly choppy, with strange word choices, and the dialogue sounds like it was written by aliens who learned English by picking up soap opera transmissions.
How could something with hot naval officers leave me so cold? One out of five atom bombs.