What a delightful Hawaiian plunge into the wartime lives of women recruited into the Women’s Air Raid Defense (WARD) during WWII. This uplifting historical novel opens in 1941 right as the Japanese dramatically strafe the island in a surprise attack Pearl Harbor. The men have all been called off into active military duty. For the first time, the military needs to enlist women in the war zone for positions vacated by male soldiers.
An Air Force Commander runs into Daisy, a 23-year-old horse trainer, sea diver, and school drop-put who lives in a ramshackle beachside shack with her emotionally checked out grieving mother. Daisy has had a job for the Montgomery’s, a rich elite and condescending Island family. Daisy worked in their stable in a horse trainer position priorly held by her deceased Dad. Daisy, who’s taken without permission one of the thoroughbreds on a beach joy ride just as the Japanese attack, spooking the horse into galloping away, has just been fired from her job. The Commander’s interest is peaked in Daisy’s bravado, athleticism and self-reliance. After securing Mom passage on a ship to the Mainland, Daisy shows up for duty unsure she’s even up to the task.
Daisy joins the top-secret WARD program, which trained women to guide pilots into safe landings on lights-out airstrips, as well as to track potential enemy planes in the Pacific skies. Not only does she need to prove her worth to herself, but as a group the women have to overcome sexism and skepticism as to whether they’re up to the job. From a lone and self-reliant tomboy, Daisy suddenly finds herself top in her class thanks to her math skills as well as immersed in a circle of tight friends who in addition to saving pilots get into adventures and mischief on the side.
What would the untold tale of heroines saving the day in wartime be without a dollop of heart-thudding romance. For Daisy, this presents in the form on the wealthy son of the Montgomery’s, a dashing pilot who Daisy sees way beyond her reach. Meanwhile, Daisy’s new friends embark on island treks to search for the missing Montgomery thoroughbred as well as picturesque picnics.
An amazing insight to the lives of women stepping up into men’s roles during wartime and having to overcome misogamy to win the hard-earned respect they deserve. I suggest you pair this reading with The Rose Code by Kate Quinn, that offers up a wondrous parallel story of women codebreakers in London during the same war time period.
Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reader’s copy.