Review: Walking on Air by Michele Robbe (1985)

Heat Factor: It’s not just a bunch of hot air, this one gets steamy.

Character Chemistry: I mean, it’s basically Tom Selleck and Linda Hamilton in a book involving blimps, how could there not be chemistry?

Plot: Lexy has carved out a space for herself in the very male-dominated airship ground crew industry. But then womanizer Cameron Ramsay joins the crew and throws everything off, with his furry chest and bristly mustache and dimples. How will she manage to withstand the misogyny and his heated glances??

Overall: This was actually fascinating. Cameron starts out just genuinely gross—he lies to her about who he is, asks her out, and then punishes her for rejecting him. But then…

First things first, to answer the most obvious of questions—was the mustache described in steamy detail?? And the answer to that is yes. Cameron is essentially Tom Selleck, only maybe with a slightly hairier chest. That mustache is black, bristly, framed by a matched set of dimples, and he’s got twinkly eyes. That’s really all you need to know.

As for the plot and other necessary factors…

Lexy is an airship crewman, and it’s kind of incredible. They basically bus from place to place and haul a giant, dangerous balloon to the ground as a coordinated team. It’s really cool. They wear jumpsuits and everything. Had I known about this career path as a young girl, my life might have been very different.

But—it’s the mid-eighties, and the men are really struggling with having a woman on their crew. After three years of proving herself, Lexy has reached a comfortable place where she’s not allowed to possess an ounce of sexuality (even though the guys essentially talk non-stop about sex and women) because if she did, they’d treat her like a common prostitute and she’d lose the respect she worked so hard for. She also can’t show weakness or react in any way when the team criticizes her or talks crassly. It’s old school sexism, folks. Blatant and gross. 

When Cameron joins the team, he goes to the airship during her “watch” and pretends he’s a random guy in order to meet her slyly and see what she’s like. He asks her out, but she refuses. When she discovers he’s actually Cameron, renowned womanizer and her new crew mate, she gets angry with him. So naturally he punishes her by doubling down on being sexist and gross in order to…punish her for rejecting him? Some of his best gross moments involve telling the other fellas loudly that women belong in the kitchen, and suggesting Lexy should have been hazed by having sex with all of them one after another? (To be honest, I didn’t really understand what he technically meant using the aviator lingo he did, but the implication was abundantly clear.)

Unfortunately for Lexy, his furry arms and springy mat of curly chest hair were simply too much to resist. Before long, they’re hooking up right and left. Then after an ill-timed misunderstanding, Lexy writes him off. Until he says he’s in love with her and that he’s going to quit ground crew…and wants her to quit, too. 

It’s really bananas, at this point. Lexy has documented how all these men have women who are having to make do while their men are off being gross and sleeping around and traveling all the time, but Cameron can’t fathom following Lexy around so she can have both her career and a relationship. Also, apparently Cameron is a really talented closet watercolorist but he can’t admit that because it’s not manly. Every time I think we haven’t made it very far in feminism, this book lobs another smacker at me. 

Don’t dismay, however; Cameron and Lexy aren’t doomed. Cameron ends up finding small ways to show he’s actually not a neanderthal. He’s open and vulnerable with Lexy about his fears for his future and his interest in painting. He really spends a lot of time thinking about their relationship and what ultimately matters most to him: having a woman fulfilling a role in his life, or having her in his life as she is, and making room for her dreams.

It’s not a bad ending, and it made me aware of sexism (and mustaches/body hair) in a new way, and I really enjoyed it.

Buy Now: Amazon

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