Fans of World War II novels and historical fiction featuring strong, capable women won’t be able to get enough of Noelle Salazar’s The Flight Girls. Get a sneak peek at an exclusive excerpt ahead of its release!
Inspired by the brave WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) who supported the military during World War II, The Flight Girls gives us all a glimpse into what life was like for female American pilots during the war. Equal parts exciting and heartbreaking, this novel will surely earn its spot among the best historical fiction novels in no time.
Just take the exclusive excerpt below, for example.
Pulled from one of the early chapters, this excerpt gives us all a glimpse of the main character’s adventurous spirit, impressive flying skills, and down-to-earth personality. It also conveys just how valuable female friendships and working relationships were at a time when women were being underestimated left and right.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out this exclusive excerpt from The Flight Girls right now, ahead of its July 2, 2019, release!
Read an exclusive excerpt from ‘The Flight Girls’ by Noelle Salazar
The wind whipped past my head as my warplane cut across the sky. Above me, streaks of pink and orange stretched from one end of the horizon to the other. Below, the Pacific Ocean sparkled with light and the shadow of my aircraft.
From the corner of my eye, I watched the silver plane keeping pace with me. I turned my attention to the array of gauges in front of me, checking each one in quick succession.
“Ready?” I asked the blue-and-yellow Fairchild PT-19.
She’d been sitting in the back corner of the training hangar for months, damaged during a training session last year. Bill, the old crew chief, had been fixing her up on his own time and I’d fallen in love with her at first sight. He’d let me take her up as soon as she was ready and I’d named her Roxy for her fiery attitude in the sky. Originally she’d been white with navy stripes down the sides of the fuselage, but Bill had let me pick new colors to paint her. Remembering Jenny, the little sunshine-colored plane I’d learned in so many years ago, I asked him to paint Roxy yellow with blue tips and stabilizers, and he’d delivered. She was recognizable everywhere for her bright colors, which had gotten me into a bit of trouble when Bill learned I’d been flat-hatting all over the island on my off hours. After getting grounded for a week, I stopped doing it as often. But it was hard to resist.
The silver plane moved closer and I grinned, biding my time. The AT-6 Texan may have been the faster plane, but the PT-19’s smaller engine had its own benefits.
It wasn’t about the plane though. It was about the pilot. And the pilot of the Texan was as green as the five-dollar bill Ruby was going to owe me when I beat her trainee in this race across the Hawaiian sky.
We sped toward the northern tip of the island, the goal to swing around, race back and touch down at the base first. The AT-6, as expected, hit the northern tip first, flying past it, going too fast and blowing his turn.
I laughed. Male pilots were all the same, their arrogance getting the best of them. And the trainees were sometimes the worst of all.
As he tried to correct, making a wide arc around, I pulled the throttle back toward my stomach.
The little plane slowed for a moment above Oahu’s beauty before I gave it full throttle, using the rudder to roll as fast as possible. I idled and applied full opposite rudder to stop the roll as we dove, my heartbeat quickening as the nose dropped and sent me hurtling into a steep dive. I watched the gauges in front of me and held my breath, counting in my head before pulling the stick hard once more to complete the maneuver and level out, speeding now in the opposite direction and ahead of the AT-6.
“Winner!” Jean yelled as I climbed down from the landed plane a few minutes later with a grin.
There was a small commotion near the AT-6 and we glanced around the Fairchild to see Ruby’s airman recruit jumping to the ground and running outside, his hand over his mouth. The Texan was notorious for making its pilots sick.
“Good job, Parker!” she yelled after him and then shook her head at us. “Damn kid just cost me five dollars.” She linked her arm through mine. “Nice work.”
We hauled our gear to the supply room, discussing our dinner options as we hung our parachutes and stored our helmets and goggles.
We stopped and nearly stood at attention, our gazes steady on our boss who had entered the tiny supply room behind us on silent feet.
Mae Burton would’ve been a soldier had they let her. Tall with gray hair pulled back tight, a daunting stare and the rigid stance of someone ready to give or take orders. She’d hired each of us after we’d answered the same call—an advertisement we’d all seen promoting the need for flight instructors on the island of Oahu.
The flyers had hung in airfields and airports around the nation, but you had to have a certain number of flight hours logged and your pilot license to apply. The four of us arrived within hours of each other that summer.
Jean hailed from St. Louis, where she’d earned her hours as a crop duster in the early mornings before working at her family’s restaurant during the day. Ruby came from Kansas, disembarking her flight with lips the color of her name. Catherine, from Wisconsin—where the only ocean she’d ever seen was the green of the fields she’d flown above doing deliveries for the postal service—arrived with more bags than the rest of us combined. And I’d flown in from Dallas on the ticket from my father, a month after graduating college with a teaching degree, and a week after refusing an offer to take on a third-grade class at my old elementary school. Teaching, in my mind, had always been a backup plan. The real goal was to buy the airfield. Much to my mother’s dismay.
Genevieve Elizabeth Rose O’Hare Coltrane was a force in pale pink Chanel, pecking out orders for my life, my future and the happiness she thought I was assured if she was at the helm.
It was quite funny to me, this vision my mother had of my life, so different from what I imagined—from what I wanted. She would never understand me, and I knew the real fight to live the life I wanted hadn’t yet begun. And as much as I dreaded the confrontation, the hysterics and threats…I would not be shoved into this archaic mold she’d made for me.
“Reports?” Mae said and we handed over our reports for all the men we’d trained that day. “How’d they do?” she asked without looking at the paperwork.
“Could use some work on maneuvers, ma’am.”
“Good. Good. Fine,” Mae said, glancing at the report on top. “And who won the race?”
We glanced at one another, trying to keep the grins from our faces. I slowly raised my hand.
“Again, Dallas?” We were all a city or state to her. She never called us by name.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said.
“Y’all need to work on your skills. Dallas is flying circles around you,” she said, raising her eyebrows at the others before leaving us to finish stowing our gear. “Just don’t let ol’ chrome dome catch you racing in his precious planes.”
Ruby and Catherine snickered as we glanced at Bill, who stood rubbing his bald head and swearing under his breath while staring at the engine of a half-gutted plane.
“Good night, ma’am.”
Jean snorted a laugh as soon as we were alone.
“God, that woman scares me,” Catherine said, sinking onto a bench. “I thought we were about to get in trouble. And how does she know about the racing?”
“One of the boys probably told her,” Ruby said. “I’ll twist a few arms and find out who.”
“Oh, leave them alone,” Jean said. “If you terrorize those boys, you’ll just confuse them, and they’re already confused enough having to do what a bunch of women tell them to do all day long.”
“Poor little pilots,” I said as I backed out the door—and straight into Lieutenant Hart.
I cursed myself as I pictured him on the beach and felt my face heat. “My apologies, sir.”
He nodded at the three women who’d exited behind me before meeting my gaze. “Miss Coltrane,” he said. “I was looking for you.”
“You were?” Ruby sidled up next to me. “For an after-work rendezvous perhaps?”
His cheeks turned as red as I feared mine were.
“Mae informed me of your…shall we call it…spirited teaching method?” he said.
I heard Jean swear quietly behind me.
“It’s fine,” he said, his lips curving up in a small smile. “I’m in favor, actually. I find a little friendly competition beneficial. Makes one
think on their feet, so to speak. As long as everyone keeps to regulation and is safe, of course.”
“Oh, we are, sir,” Ruby said. “Always. I assure you.”
“Wonderful,” he said, his eyes locking on mine again. “I am wondering though about the maneuver I hear you’ve been doing in the Fairchild. Mae says you’ve been performing a low altitude split-S in it and I’m a little concerned. It’s a daring and slightly reckless move, being performed with one of my men in it.”
I bit my lip, my gaze lowering.
“It’s been a while since I’ve flown a PT-19,” he said. “I’d like you to take me through it so I can see it performed for myself.”
“She’d love to,” Catherine said, discreetly pinching me on the behind.
“Of course, sir,” I murmured, my heart sinking. “I’d be happy to.”
“Tomorrow morning then?” he asked. “Say at zero five thirty?”
“Wonderful. Thank you, Miss Coltrane.” He nodded at the four of us and walked away.
“Shit,” I said under my breath as we headed to our car.
But the girls were excited, talking of nothing else all the way to Skip’s, our favorite spot for burgers, fries and milk shakes.
“Did you see the way he focused on Audrey?” Ruby asked, resting her cheek on her palm dreamily during dinner. “He barely even noticed we were there. No man ever looks at me like that.”
“Men look at you all the time,” I said, dragging a fry through my vanilla shake. “He was only focused on me because he was angry.”
“I don’t think so,” Jean said. “Concerned maybe, but not angry.”
“I think he likes you,” Catherine said. “Did you see the way he blushed when Ruby asked if he wanted to take you out?”
“She embarrassed him,” I said, shooting Ruby a look.
“I think Catherine’s right,” Jean said. “I saw the way he was watching you on the beach the other day.”
I sighed and pushed my plate away. “You gals done?” I asked.
“Why the hurry to get home?” Ruby asked. “Anxious to get a good night’s sleep so you’re fresh for your date tomorrow?”
I threw my napkin at her.
“Ruby,” Jean said. “Don’t you have a date tonight?”
“Oh shoot!” She stood and gestured for us to follow. “Shake a leg, ladies.”
About ‘The Flight Girls’ by Noelle Salazar
A stunning story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, whose courage during World War II turned ordinary women into extraordinary heroes.
1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvements, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.
To make everything she’s lost count for something, Audrey joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The bonds she forms with her fellow pilots reignite a spark of hope in the face war, and–especially when James goes missing in action–give Audrey the strength to cross the front lines and fight for everything she holds dear.
Shining a light on a little-known piece of history, The Flight Girls is a sweeping portrayal of women’s fearlessness in the face of adversity, and the power of friendship to make us soar.
The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar is set to hit shelves on July 2, 2019. You can preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or Indiebound. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!