My “women at war” reading list has continued into 2021, finding me in England during WWII with Marty Wingate’s Glamour Girls (January 12, 2021, Alcove Press). Wingate, a cozy mystery writer, slid quite easily into the historical genre, and Glamour Girls is a quick and easy read with much of the violence of war (and pleasures of sex) happening off page. In addition to war-time depictions, Wingate does grapple with rather heavy topics of the time (homosexuality, premarital sex, children born outside of wedlock, gender norms, societal norms, etc.); but her tone remains light and any conflict is brief and readily resolved, a formula to her writing that is very much reminiscent of a comfortable cozy.
The novel centers around Rosalie (Rags to her brothers) Wright, a young girl who longs to leave the farm life for the skies. For her eleventh birthday, she convinces her adoring father to take her to the Flying Circus. He pays for her to go up twice, and she is hooked. Her father promises her flying lesson when she is old enough. For the next several years, she saves her money and, much to her mother’s chagrin, never gives up on her dream of being a pilot. When the novel opens, she’s had several lessons but has been grounded just a few flight hours short of getting her license due to the war; her instructor says the planes will be needed for things a bit more important than teaching a girl to fly. Rosalie’s nearly given up until she reads an article about Pauline Grower, a pilot who had been appointed to the Women’s Division of the Air Transport Auxiliary – the head of the women ferry pilots who assist war efforts by ferrying planes to where the Royal Air Force needs them. She’s initially denied due to her incomplete experience, but through sheer determination and grit, she’s admitted.
The women ferry pilots, known as Glamour Girls or Attagirls, are a remarkable lot – both the fictional women in Wingate’s novel, and the very real women who inspired the novel. These women would fly numerous hours a day, ferrying planes to where they were needed. Once they landed, they might have enough time for a cup of tea before they were up in the skies again. They weren’t trained on all the planes, but they flew all the planes. Their knowledge came from Ferry Pilots Notes, with new pages being added as new planes joined the war. The women had to fly the planes low, their only navigation a knowledge of English typography and their own eyesight. The planes were unarmed, and the women would have to use their skill and quick-thinking to maneuver away from enemy planes and other dangers. Often the planes being ferried needed repairs, rendering them not the safest. Engines cut midflight and emergency landings were a common occurrence in the open fields of the English countryside. These women pilots were phenomenal, taking to the skies to risk their very lives for home and country despite being doubted and disrespected by many.
Rosalie loves what she does; she is never more comfortable than she is in the skies. Through her experiences as a ferry pilot and her relationships with other pilots, including the brief love triangle with Snug and Alan Chersey, Rosalie finds her wings and her voice. It’s an uplifting story about a remarkable woman who came running when needed.
Glamour Girls is a light read about a heavy time in history. Inspired by a true story, it shines a light on the bravery and joy of the Attagirls, as well as the risks and sacrifices they took for home and country. A huge thank you to Alcove Press for getting this ARC into my hands. The novel is available for pre-order now and will be released on January 12, 2021. I would recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction as well as fans of sweet romance and cozy mysteries. It’s a comforting candy of a read that reminds us how resilient and amazing women truly are.