Georgianna Fitzwilliam is no ordinary girl. The year is 1814 and Georgie has just burned her father's stables to the ground, by accident. This is the last straw for her parents- they have their sons and she is a social embarassment due to her non ladylike ways- so they ship her off to a school renowned for straightening out wayward ladies. The school is Stranje House- a brooding old pile with ferocious dogs guarding the property and an imtimidating headmistress, Emma Stranje.
Her parents leave her there and she soon meets the other girls- Tess, Jane, Seraphina, and Maya. As she gets to know them she realizes they are not just wayward ladies or social embarrassments- they have unique skills or interests- as does she. And when she overhears a nobleman discussing her
project, she realizes Stranje House is more than it seems.
Soon Georgie is embroiled in a plot pitting royalists versus Napoleon supporters, and her skill at developing an invisible ink becomes crucial in a diplomatic mission. The nobleman, Lord Sebastiam Wyatt, is an agent of the crown (read spy) and works closely with Emma to protect England's interests. Georgie finds herself falling for Sebastian, and the feeling is returned- but can their budding romance survive a treacherous former student and the winds of war blowing across the Channel in France?
I enjoyed this book a lot, and anxiously await the sequel. The writing is good and flows well, I was sucked in from the get-go, and the pace never flagged. I felt for georgie right off the bat, and liked the other girls- especially Sera. And it's such an atmospheric read- with smuggling caves and secret passageways galore- this is funny too at times- I loved the snarkiness of her internal voice.
Sebastian headed straight for her, carrying me like a dripping rag across the ballroom. "I believe
this belongs to you," he said flatly.
This? He's relegated me to a this?
"Hmm." The Queen of Cruelty peeled back one of my eyelids and arched her brow. "Oh, you're awake. How very good of you to join us, Miss Fitzwilliam."
There's a sequence where Georgie attempts to escape and is in a rowboat in rough seas, after rowing out of a cliffside cave, and I felt like I was there, with the lashing waves and howling winds. I give a lot of credit to the author for drawing me in. The romance seemed a little rushed, she gets all swoony rather fast, but at the same time the back and forth with Lord Wyatt was fun. It is a little unrealistic how quickly the action takes off- I mean she's literally been there a few days and she's swept into action in London and France. A very breakneck pace- maybe too fast.
In spite of this, I flew through this book and am ready for more. The girls gel together as a team, each one has a specific skill or ability they bring to the table- it's hinted these may be mystical abilities but never actually spelled out. I would like to see more of them, especially Sera and Jane. Hopefully sequels will flesh them out more. This was a fun read- an alternate historical, I guess you'd say. The author makes a point of exploring how decisons can have cascading effects- and here she posits what might have happened in the Napoleonic era if one decision had changed history. An interesting premise, and very steampunk lite- just a whiff of it. This was a good read, and has lots to offer.