Review: When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner


Co-authoring novels seems to be a “thing” right now–this year’s The Lost Summers of Newport is a good, recent example of one. I’ve read books by two of the three–the best being Ariel Lawhon’s Flight of Dreams. [For others, see the end of this post.] So, right away this book peaked my interest. But wait? Didn’t I just read a novel on this very same story? Yep–another “book twin” as I call two books on the same story appearing at around the same time. Earlier this year I read and reviewed


Angels of the Pacific by Elise Hooper. Both books are about military nurses (Army and Navy) surviving the Japanese invasion and take over of the Philippines in World War II. I’m curious why this phenomenon of what I term “Book Twins” keeps happening. I want to be published so I am reluctant to say anything that would damn me, but I do wonder if rival books are now encourage to boost sales? (Marketing Departments already think we are too stupid to tell one book from another with a very similar cover–why not similar stories, right?).

The Story

Three nurses, Minnesotan Eleanor Lindstrom (U.S. Navy), Texan Penny Franklin (U.S. Army) and Filpino nurse Lita Capel meet and forge a friendship as the two military nurses arrive in Manila. They endure all that the Japanese throw at the Island. They watch MacArthur run to the safety of Australia with his much-younger wife and late-in-life born son, and endure the rule of the Japanese in prison camp or in Manila. Along the way they develop life sustaining friendships, care for the sick and injured with whatever is available and see themselves tested by the hottest of refining fires of the soul.

My Thoughts

This was a believable story of courage and even heroism. I liked each of the women and the other characters. I thought their responses and reactions were true-to-life. Their emotions were genuine. If I’d had to go through what they went through, I’d have survived a bit easier (a teeensy tiny bit) with them at my side. They were real women.

Sadly, there are two whopping historical errors that I hope, since this book is from Net Galley, the publisher has identified and fixed. 1) A soldier speaks of the G.I. Bill before it was even announced. And, most ridiculous, 2) One of the three spends her first post-war days in a hotel in San Francisco in March 1945 watching TELEVISION for two days. Yes, television. Not only was it barely a thing, all manufacture of sets was canceled during the war. She also marvels at commercials. Really? Radio had them? So weird. (This occurs in chapter 41). [Even sadder, one of these three authors has a history of whopping errors or problems within her stories].

Another oddity was one of the ladies mentions “Daddy-daughter dances at school.” I’m not saying that never happened but it just really doesn’t fit the times. There were a few other little things like that.

Then there was the blatant overuse of the word “tasked”–several times in the first few chapters and again later in the book. I dislike the word, but hearing it that many times made me want to scream. Try a thesaurus, please!

My Verdict


I took off for the ridiculous t.v. thing. The story was very good and well told, but that and the G.I. Bill reference was just sloppy fact-checking. A Google search would have taken care of it.

When We had Wings publishes tomorrow, October 18. You can pre-order it by clicking on the linked title.

For a Nonfiction book on the nurses in the Philippines see:


We Band of Angels by Elizabeth M. Norman

My reviews of other books by Susan Meissner:

As Bright As Heaven

The Last Year of the War


11 thoughts on “Review: When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner

Add yours

  1. You’re great at spotting historical errors; a publisher should really hire you to find those. Agree the “daddy daughter” stuff in the WWII era seems off. Funny on “tasked.” A while ago I read a book where the author must have discovered (and loved) the word “reticule.” She used it ten times if she used it once …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hummm…. I’m writing my review today. Thanks for your insights…I’m linking to your review! My concern is that he story seemed very much like 3 separate stories to me. Even though they had met, the bond they had didn’t seem that realistic. And although realistic and historically interesting, the unrelenting captivity made it a difficult read for me. Good catch on the inaccuracies! Authors need to hire you as a fact checker!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have the ARC of this book, but my trip abroad and then an illness in the family put me off my reading schedule, so I haven’t started reading it yet. I am a bit wary because the Hooper books was very good, but Lawhon is a favorite author of mine, so… Too bad about that inaccuracy – I doubt that was Lawhon; she’s very meticulous (I’ve read all her books, and yes, Flight of Dreams is amazing, as are her others).


      1. Yes… I see that now. Have you read any “Team-W”? Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White have written a few books together. I’ve read solo books by all three now and well… White is the weaker of the three, Willig is very good, but Williams… her books just sparkle!


  4. I found another anachronism in this book. Before the Japanese take over, Lita says she was busy taking samples to the lab… um… nope, there weren’t any labs in that area at that time.


  5. I liked your review and the fact that you find so many inaccuracies. I agree with Susan, you should be a highly-paid editor and bring these findings to the attention of those who need to know so they can be fixed. I always cringe when I find inaccuracies because I feel it’s the laziness of the authors who didn’t fact-check the subject. I feel better now that I’ve had my say. LOL.


I enjoy reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: