Girl Power in Wartime – Review of “Girls on the Line” by Aimee K. Runyan

Ruby Wagner’s only brother wound up as “cannon fodder” in Europe after enlisting to help America fight in WWI. Ruby badly wanted to do her part and her experience as a telephone operator was in high demand by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe.

The fighting was still raging in France when Ruby’s deployment took her to that war-ravaged country where she quickly learned that a no-nonsense attitude helped establish her credibility as crew leader and still allowed her to promote a team spirit. It was a way to do her part in the war effort while honoring her brother’s combat death.

When Ruby met army medic Lt. Andrew Carrigan she began to have misgivings about her engagement to the son of a Philadelphia Main Line family. Her mother would be furious to know Ruby even considered breaking her engagement but the heart wants what the heart wants and Ruby’s choice will be either a deal maker or a deal breaker. Whichever way, the choice has to be hers.

Protagonist Ruby Wagner is not the only character of note. Lt. Andrew Carrigan is equally interesting in his own right but as the man who makes her heart beat like a tom-tom, he is also deliciously swoon worthy

In “Girls on the Line” Aimee K. Runyan has penned another inspiring story set in the early 20th century about the extraordinary women of the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. I can’t help wondering why I never heard of this group of courageous women who served in the Great War. My first “real job” many years ago was as a long-distance operator at one of the Bell companies and Runyan’s descriptions of the old corded switchboards was spot on.

But what really sets her apart as a writer is her talent for bringing to light these heretofore obscure womens groups and weaving historical facts with fictional narratives for some excellent reading.

I loved Runyan’s “Daughters of the Night Sky” also about women excelling in jobs previously done by men during WWI. Her talent for showcasing them is evident as is the background and accuracy of the era she is portraying.”

“Girls on the Line” is not as strong or as chilling in its intensity although in all fairness, that is likely a function of the differences portrayed in job risks. However, characters are strong and the reader gets to really know them through Ruby’s eyes. It’s not all sweetness and light either. As in real life in any century, women are made of tougher stuff and we often don’t get adequate credit for our stamina and fighting spirit. But Runyan does an admirable job of portraying that toughness while maintaining their femininity and using it as a tool to pull us into the story and better showcase her characters. On that count she scores a perfect ten. Five stars.

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