All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Wisteria Society Of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

on May 13, 2022

The Wisteria Society Of Lady Scoundrels (Dangerous Damsels #1)
India Holton
Berkley Books
2021, 324p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}: A prim and proper lady thief must save her aunt from a crazed pirate and his dangerously charming henchman in this fantastical historical romance.

Cecilia Bassingwaite is the ideal Victorian lady. She’s also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England drinking tea, blackmailing friends, and acquiring treasure by interesting means. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, but all things considered, it’s a pleasant existence. Until the men show up.

Ned Lightbourne is a sometimes assassin who is smitten with Cecilia from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, that happens to be while he’s under direct orders to kill her. His employer, Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world, intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. Ned has plans of his own. But both men have made one grave mistake. Never underestimate a woman.

When Morvath imperils the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her–hopefully proving, once and for all, that she’s as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.

I am really not quite sure what to say about this one.

From what I had heard, I was really excited to read this and I thought I would love it. It seemed like it was going to be a fun historical with strong characters and a really good romance. However it definitely had elements to it that I was not expecting and hadn’t read about or heard anyone who had read it talk about and there were many things that fell flat for me during the reading of this. Which is unfortunate as I bought both this and the second book in the series together and now I’m not sure if I even want to read the second one.

Cecilia Bassingwaite has been raised by a woman who is part of the Wisteria Society, a kind of Victorian lady crime syndicate? They pride themselves on the thieving of jewels and pretty objects and all of the women in this society can fly houses. There is a magic in this world, discovered some generations ago and is passed down through the households although over the years it has slipped out and some others have been able to master it too. Basically they can fly the house wherever they want it to go – the whole thing just lifts up and takes off like a helicopter I guess, without the blades. Accidents mean that sometimes houses get set down in the wrong place, like the middle of a road or maybe on top of another house or whatever. Cecilia is a kind of junior member I guess, she’s not a fully fledged one yet despite having done things like robbed banks and other rites of passage. She’s quite desperate to get her senior status but keeps finding herself left out of society business – perhaps because of her heritage, which is definitely something that causes some people to look at her sideways.

Cecilia finds herself the recipient of a hit by one of the society members (this is apparently not unusual? they’re always trying to murder each other or put out hits on each other) but the mysterious hitman is many things to many people and it’s not entirely sure to Cecilia if he’s actually trying to kill her (if he is, he’s quite bad at it) or protect her (and a lady of her talents does not need protecting thank you) but he keeps annoyingly turning up.

There’s just so…..much going on in this. There’s so many weird quirks of the world and nothing really felt quite adequately explained in a timely manner. Everyone is so quirky and people kept ineptly trying to murder each other but not really and even the villain barely murders anyone (or maybe even no one, I can’t even remember now) and houses are just flying everywhere and being stolen and there’s entirely too much about the Brontë sisters. The romance didn’t really work for me either, I found both Cecilia and Ned highly irritating and didn’t really enjoy any of their banter other than a few scenes. I feel like the lady pirate society could’ve been really interesting but because it’s Victorian it’s done in this very “ladies at high tea discussing crimes and saying rude things about each other but with false politeness” sort of way and it just became tedious. And the actual portrayal of Queen Victoria I think was supposed to be amusing but felt….kind of offensive?

For me this book was trying to do too many things to really do any of them very well. The society didn’t feel fleshed out enough, the story of Cecilia’s origins is dribbled out in unsatisfying fashion, the villain is farcical but in a bad way, the romance didn’t feel to me like it developed at a good pace and there were some places where for me, the story definitely lagged and also felt a little repetitive. And literally how does Ned have the time to be all of these different people to everyone? So much of this felt like the humour was trying really hard. And Cecilia kept being awful to everyone and that got tedious.

Unfortunately this was disappointing and now I find myself wondering whether to bother with the second book or just pass these along to someone else.


Book #88 of 2022

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