The best books featuring kick-ass females of sea and sky

Why am I passionate about this?

My wife is a beautiful, intelligent, and determined woman. She took up rock climbing in her forties. She rides a motorcycle on and off-road. She scuba dives with sharks, she’s jumped out of an airplane, and she strapped crampons on her feet when I said we’re climbing a snow-covered mountain. One of my best friends in the world is from Finland. Typical of Finns, and Scandinavians in general, he has a dry wit and keen observations and thoughts which he delivers matter-of-factly in few words. Combining these two with a sprinkling of my own imagination produced Nora Sommer.


I wrote...

Book cover of Deadly Sommer

What is my book about?

One missing girl. Two lives on the line. Four treacherous challenges. Nora Sommer's first case for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is one she'll never forget - if she survives.

When I decided to create a second series, I recognized the logical and most commercial path which checked all the genre boxes, would be a male protagonist in the Florida Keys. But Nora Sommer, a nineteen-year-old Norwegian runaway who’d appeared in several of my AJ Bailey novels, wouldn’t leave me alone. Her personality had become so engaging, her struggle to leave her past behind so motivating; I couldn’t deny her. Nora doesn’t think, act, react, or interact like most people. I fell in love with her character and haven’t regretted the choice for a moment.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Low Tide

Nicholas Harvey Why did I love this book?

Once I finished Low Tide, I binge read Dawn’s series. A year later she kindly steered and guided me in my author career, and a year after that we lost her to cancer. She was a beautiful soul, which shone through in her books.

Her protagonist, Maggie Redmond, is a police detective in the small Florida town of Apalachicola. Having lost her husband, she’s raising her two children and doing the best she can. Dawn drip-feeds us background and character arcs throughout the series, while taking the reader on an exciting journey, case by case.

I’m a sucker for normal people doing extraordinary things, and Dawn makes you feel like Maggie could be your neighbour down the street, who happens to overcome great odds while solving crimes.

By Dawn Lee McKenna,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Low Tide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Apalachicola, Florida, sinister things are afoot, as sinister things tend to be.Lt. Maggie Redmond is called to a crime scene on St. George Island, where she is met with the body of Gregory Boudreaux. The medical examiner calls it a suicide, but no one knows that Maggie has a horrible connection to the dead man.When Gregory’s uncle, Bennett Boudreaux, the richest and scariest man in town, takes a sudden interest in Maggie, people start to wonder, Maggie included. Maggie knows he may suspect her of killing his nephew, but she finds herself slowly drawn to the man. As Maggie…


Book cover of Spitfire Women Of World War II

Nicholas Harvey Why did I love this book?

I have an obsession with WWII, submarines of the era, and especially the Battle of Britain. As women in dangerous and often traditionally masculine roles also appeal, it makes sense that true stories of these gallant pilots are right in my wheelhouse. Or cockpit…

During the war, female pilots were recruited to ferry planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary to RAF bases, freeing up male combat pilots.

Unarmed, without instruments or radios, the women often flew over the hostile skies of southern England in new or repaired aircraft, flight testing them on the way. Navigation was done by compass headings and visual references on the ground.

This book does a wonderful job of shining a light on the relatively small group of brave souls who did their part during dark times.

By Giles Whittell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Spitfire Women Of World War II as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of the unsung heroines who flew the newest, fastest, aeroplanes in World War II - mostly in southern England where the RAF was desperately short of pilots.

Why would the well-bred daughter of a New England factory-owner brave the U-boat blockades of the North Atlantic in the bitter winter of 1941? What made a South African diamond heiress give up her life of house parties and London balls to spend the war in a freezing barracks on the Solent? And why did young Margaret Frost start lying to her father during the Battle of Britain?

They - and…


Book cover of The Russian's Pride

Nicholas Harvey Why did I love this book?

Cap Daniels's marvellous character Anya Burinkova takes us all around the Caribbean by both sea and air throughout the series. And like Nora Sommer, she’s full of deep thoughts and observations, but never wastes words.

The former Russian SVR Captain has defected to the US, but to earn the freedom she seeks, the federal government coerces her into using her deadly skill sets against the Russian mob.

Partnered with Special Agent Gwynn Davis, the two build a relationship that is perfectly cultivated throughout the series, and if you’re looking for guns, knives, and explosions, this series does not come up short.

By Cap Daniels,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Russian's Pride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When former Russian SVR Captain Anastasia “Anya” Burinkova defected to the United States, the life she imagined was far from the one she discovered. As the freedom she’s longed for turns to little more than imprisonment, her deadly skill set, forged and honed behind the Iron Curtain, is the only key that can possibly unshackle her.

A late-night vigilante mission under the veil of darkness turns from vendetta to entrapment in an instant. What should’ve been a mission to right decades-old injustices becomes a deadly encounter with federal agents determined to turn the assassin into an indentured servant.

With terrifying…


Book cover of Learning to Fly: An Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog

Nicholas Harvey Why did I love this book?

Have you heard of Alex Honnold? The guy who climbs shear-faced mountains without a rope… Steph Davis does that too. She also skydives and flies in a wingsuit. This book took me on an amazing voyage into the life and mind of a woman with nerves of steel, yet a loving and beautiful soul. A life brimming with achievements, yet littered with tragedy. I spent half the book with my jaw dropped open, and parts with tears streaming down my face.

Steph Davis is undoubtedly a kick-ass female.

By Stephen Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Learning to Fly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When professional rock climber Steph Davis started skydiving, she discovered new love, hope, and joy in letting go.

“It’s not so surprising that on the day of my fifth wedding anniversary I would be crouched in the open door of an airplane, thirteen thousand feet above the Colorado plains, about to jump out. That coincidence of timing really wasn’t.”

Steph Davis is a superstar in the climbing community and has ascended some of the world’s most awe-inspiring peaks. But when her husband makes a controversial climb in a national park, the media fallout—and the toll it takes on her marriage—suddenly…


Book cover of Merciless Charity

Nicholas Harvey Why did I love this book?

Former Olympian and U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Charity is another heroine who is as comfortable under sail as she is behind the collective of an AH-64 Apache. An operative used for dangerous tactical ‘kill’ missions, Charity battles her demons borne out of captivity and torture in Afghanistan, to keep her aggression under control.

An emotionally tormented loner, Charity kicks some serious ass.

By Wayne Stinnett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Merciless Charity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What can be done to stop madness from sweeping the world when political indecision is the norm? When the nation's leaders lack the backbone to stand up to them, what can stop an enemy that knows no rules? Charity.Charity Styles is a former Olympian and U.S. Army helicopter pilot. Captured and tortured by terrorists in Afghanistan after the opening blows of the War on Terror, Charity has a score to settle. Now working for the Department of Homeland Security, she is offered the opportunity to make a real difference.Critical memories of her ordeal are buried deep in Charity’s subconscious. When…


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By M. S. Spencer,

Book cover of In the Crosshairs: The Body on Leffis Key

M. S. Spencer Author Of The Wishing Tree: Love, Lies, and Spies on Chincoteague Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author World traveler Erstwhile beauty Recovering academic News junkie

M.S.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Palmer Lind, recovering from the sudden death of her husband, embarks on a bird-watching trek to the Gulf Coast of Florida. One hot day on Leffis Key, she comes upon—not the life bird she was hoping for—but a floating corpse. The handsome beach bum who appears on the scene at the same time seems to have even more secrets than the dead man.

His story begins to unravel as the pair search for answers to a growing pile of dead bodies. Spies, radical environmentalists, and wealthy businessmen circle around each other in a complex dance. Which one is lying? What…

In the Crosshairs: The Body on Leffis Key

By M. S. Spencer,

What is this book about?

Palmer Lind, recovering from the sudden death of her husband, embarks on a bird-watching trek to the Gulf Coast of Florida. One hot day on Leffis Key she comes upon-not the life bird she was hoping for-but a floating corpse. The handsome beach bum who appears on the scene seems to have even more secrets than the dead man. His story begins to unravel as the pair search for answers to a growing pile of dead bodies. Spies, radical environmentalists, and wealthy businessmen circle around each other in a complex dance. Which one is lying? What do a seemingly random…


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