Romantic triangles are Steel's forte, and this narrative, set mostly at the brink of WWII, finds her in familiar territory. Although Cassie O'Malley, 17, knows more about planes than her father, Pat, who runs a small private airport outside Chicago, he refuses to let her fly. So Nick Gavin, Pat's WWI protégé and new employee, teaches Cassie in secret, and soon she can pilot like an ace. After Pat grudgingly gives Cassie a job at the airport, she takes several medals at a local air show and captures the attention of Desmond Williams, a young tycoon who offers her the chance to test planes and set world records. Nick encourages Cassie to take the offer, despite his heartbreak; though 18 years her senior and with little to offer, he secretly loves his young apprentice. Flying for Desmond, Cassie becomes the darling of the press even as war breaks out in Europe. When Nick joins the RAF, he and Cassie confess their feelings for one another, but he refuses to tie her down in marriage. In time, Cassie marries Desmond, but she manages to spend one magical night with Nick before setting off on a world tour that ends with her crashing onto a Pacific island where she suffers a horrific ordeal of cold and starvation before she's saved by the Navy and taken to Pearl Harbor-just in time for the Japanese attack. After a slow start that's bogged down by excess background information, the narrative takes off, with a mix of colorful characters bringing the heady early days of aviation to life. Though the ending is predictable, Steel's fans wouldn't have it any other way; she knows how to make her writing fly to the top of the bestseller lists. 1,000,000 first printing; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club dual main selection; major ad/promo. Large print edition available (ISBN 0-385-31295-4, $28.95). (Dec.)
Best-selling author Steel heads for the wild blue yonder in Wings, which tells the story of a daredevil flygirl who sets her sights on breaking Amelia Earhart's aviation records on the eve of World War II.