(Review originally published on TFW’s sister blog, The Book Academy. September 2015)
In Regency England there is no room in polite society for girls who are interested in science. Girls must fit the mold of all accomplished young ladies in order to marry an eligible man. After setting her father’s stables on fire during a botched experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam’s parents give up on their “unusual” daughter and send her away to Stranje House to reformed and prepared for polite society. Stranje House, however, is not what it seems. In truth, it is A School for Unusual Girls, a place where girls who don’t fit are encouraged to use their talents for king and country.
Although she’s a bit slow on the uptake (the reader knows much sooner than she does), Georgiana eventually realizes that Miss Stranje and the other girls are working with diplomats (spies) who are protecting England’s interests in France. Adventure and intrigue follow with the requisite dash of romance. Kathleen Baldwin’s first installment in the series lays the foundation for more adventures for the intelligent, strong-minded young ladies of Stranje House.
Seriously though: Regency England is one of my favorite settings for novels. I can only assume that the name Georgiana Fitzwilliam is a nod to Georgiana and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (the best book in the history of forever). While this book doesn’t vividly conjure Austen’s England, it’s a fun and interesting look back at major historical events that Austen only touches upon. Baldwin explains in the afterword that with this series she is exploring the What ifs of history, the possibilities inherent in pivotal moments. I love, love, love that she opens up the idea for young people (or anyone, really) to consider the impact their actions and decisions could have beyond the sphere of their personal lives. “Have you ever experienced the ripple effect of one small decision in your life? Will your next decision inadvertently change the world?” This partially true, partially alternate history explores these questions and more.