William H. Coles is a realistic novel set in France during the 1940s. Miles Ballard is the charming young protagonist sent to work as a doctor in the air force. Honest, hardworking, and ambitious, Miles is liked by everyone he meets, except his superior, Colonel Barney Springer, who makes life difficult for Miles. Springer refuses to support any of Miles’s projects and continuously berates him for taking the initiative. He misinterprets Miles’s honesty and desire to do the right thing as insubordination and punishes him for it. Where Miles is ethical and kind, Springer is unscrupulous and callous. Miles also befriends Oliver and Ingrid Stern, with whom he shares many dinners and memories. From ski trips to art and French lessons, Miles’s time in France is life-changing, and the people he meets along the way leave a lasting impression.
William H. Coles uses the aftermath of the Second World War as the historical backdrop for Tour of Duty. He does not overlook the racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and atrocities that plagued European society during this time but instead weaves these themes together to enhance and aid the story’s plausibility. The dialogue is vibrant and assists in carving out the characters’ personalities. Coles should also be commended for his portrayal of the female characters in the novel. Ingrid, Alyce, Belinda-Mae, and Agnes stand out because of their depth and individual storylines. Gripping and unpredictable, anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a touch of romance will find this an uplifting read.