Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Title: A School for Unusual Girls
Author: Kathleen Baldwin
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 334
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)UK and France

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is a war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's darkest little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies--plans that entangle them in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father's stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible--until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust into a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads--or their hearts....

Review: I'll admit that I absolutely do not like this cover. I never would have chosen this book off the shelf to read; it's too Harlequin-romance looking. However, a colleague suggested it and I am so glad because it grabbed my attention from page one! What a really fun and different read.

The time period in which this book is set is a good one--early 1800s Europe with its fancy dresses, horse-drawn carriages, and the start of people interacting with citizens of other countries. Napoleon is always in the background, threatening to take over and destroy Europe for his own needs and desires. As a former history teacher I was shocked when King Louis XVIII was assassinated (since that didn't happen in real life), but in the Afterword, the author explains that she enjoys playing with the what if of history and that made me feel better.

The characters are mostly strong young women/teenagers who have talents that make them useful to King and Country: vivid dreams that fortell what can happen if someone doesn't set it right, a scientific brain to create needed potions (invisible ink, for example), lock-picking abilities beyond compare, and more. The adults treat them with the respect these girls deserve and it's such a nice change. But, the historical times are not ignored and the peripheral characters still treat them as high society feeble girls. The contrast is fun.

I am looking forward to the second book in this series and am sad that I have to wait until next year!

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