Release Date: June 15th, 2021
Saint Louis, 1923. The golden age of flight has just begun, and pilot Mattie McAdams refuses to cede the skies to cocky flyboys. She longs to perform daring stunts in her family’s flying circus, but the men in her life stand in her way―including the show’s star performer, Leo Ward. They can wring their hands all they want; Mattie won’t stay grounded for long.
In the Great War, Leo Ward watched his best friend and Mattie’s twin brother, Alfred, perish in the skies over German territory. Since then, he’s vowed to protect the McAdams family, taking on the most perilous stunts himself. But the skies are too big for any one man.
Mattie joins a female-dominated flying circus, kicking off a tantalizing aerial dance as the two pilots make efforts to one-up each other in the skies across America. As planes and passions soar, can Mattie and Leo look beyond their egos to see the great heights they might reach together?
The Aviatrix was such a treat! It’s a historical romance that is 100% about women empowerment. And Violet Marsh did such a wonderful job crafting this world, the characters and this story. If you read her acknowledgements and her historical notes, you’ll see how much she was inspired by the women of that era and the things they were able to achieve when the world was working against them. In The Aviatrix, we are introduced to a group of women who won’t let anyone or anything stand in their way of making a name for themselves.
“But here, she didn’t feel like she straddled two spheres. Among these women—who fixed automobiles, chased after trespassers, and embraced little girls who treated their airplanes like dolls—Mattie may just have finally found her place.”
Mattie McAdams is the youngest in her family and the only girl, so her brothers and her father have always gone out of their way to protect her. But Mattie is a pilot and she knows her way around a plane better than anyone else. She even taught Leo Ward, the only non-family member of the McAdams troupe, how to fly. Being a woman, everyone believes that she needs to be protected and stopped from doing reckless stunts that everyone else can do. Truth is, Mattie is better than all of them combined. And Mattie isn’t afraid to let them know. So when she gets an offer to join an all-female flying circus called the Flying Flappers, Mattie knows this is her only way to show her family and the world that women can do everything men do. Much to her family’s chagrin, Mattie takes the job and Leo tags along and that is where the story gets interesting.
Like I said, it’s a story about women empowerment. In 1923, when the book is set, women were obviously meant to stay at home and be housewives or look good and flounce around at parties and the like. But Mattie is not one of those women. She believes that she can do everything a man does, but better. I loved Mattie. She’s a tough woman and she doesn’t back down from a fight, no matter who she’s going up against. She’s also extremely smart and talented, which just lends to her overall awesomeness. Mattie was born for adventure and she’s not going to let her brothers, Leo or other men she meets along the way stop her from achieving that goal. She’s truly such a powerful character, but she’s not only reckless and adventurous, Mattie is kind and genuine and she’s lovely in a way that so few notice. Mattie has spent her whole life around men, so when she meets the Flappers, she takes some time to adjust to being around so many women. But she never loses her sparkle and shine, all the things that make Mattie who she is.
“She always managed to look like adventure, even after she’d nearly terrified his soul into leaving his body.”
While it’s a story about the Flying Flappers and Mattie McAdams, it’s also a story of love. And that’s where Leo Ward comes in. Broody, silent, grumpy and protective Leo. After the Great War, Leo’s taken on the responsibility of taking care of the McAdams family. Which includes Mattie, the one great love of his life. Sure, nobody even knows how Leo feels about Mattie, but he’s never needed to tell her, because he’s always been around her and she’s his best friend in that sense. Leo is such a wonderful character. While he’s difficult at times and always getting in Mattie’s way when she wants to do something that he considers reckless, Leo is also willing to learn where he’s going wrong. He’s not just being difficult for the sake of it, he knows that Mattie can take care of herself, but he also wants to be the one she leans on when she needs assistance. But like any man, he comes at it the wrong way. However, Leo learns that in order to have a relationship with Mattie, he first needs to build a partnership with her.
I was really glad that we got to see two PoVs, even if they were in third person, because seeing Leo’s side of things really amplifies your respect for Mattie and the women. Ah, the Flappers. These women are so brilliant and so different from each other, but they support each other too. Every single one of them brings something to the circus and the friendships, relationships and bonds they create are so wonderful and powerful. I really enjoyed seeing these women interact with each other, exploring topics like sexism and racism through their dialogue. There are women of colour, there are women from all fields of life and altogether, they make up the most brilliant Flying Flappers.
“Being near you is like being hooked up to a dynamo. I’ve never felt more alive, more filled with life. I would never call you a vamp. If anything, you are an amp, a bolt of raw energy. You charge me, Mattie McAdams.”
The romance! So brilliant. I loved the slow burn, I loved how Mattie and Leo are constantly bickering and arguing with each other before they realise that all of this just means one thing. The moment their relationship shifts, you see a difference in the characters too. Mattie is still an independent woman who wants to make a stand and Leo is still a broody, grumpy man who wants to protect her, but they become softer and more loving. And the more Leo and Mattie smile, the more you fall in love with them. It’s mostly closed-door, but there are some truly steamy scenes that you’ll wish were longer and you got to go further.
The one thing I haven’t spoken about, but really loved about this book was the time period it was set in. It’s not your typical historical novel, but it’s set in the Roaring 20’s and it includes all of the wonders of prohibition and the introduction of flight, and all of that wonderful fashion. There’s so much information about that era packed into this book to transport you there and it’s so wonderfully written. I admire how much research went into making this book grounded in the time period, which also includes the language and the slang. I find that those are things that really completes the whole historical element.
Thanks to Violet Marsh, Montlake and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.