Title: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
Series: Dangerous Damsels #1
Author: India Holton
Genre: Historical, Romance, Fantasy
Tropes/Themes: Pirates, Enemies to Lovers, Feminist/Matriarchal
Edition/Pages: Paperback, 336 Pages
Thank you so, so much to Berkely and Netgalley for providing me an e-arc copy of this! All thoughts and opinions are still my own.
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 means far more interesting than purchase. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, and no, she’s not technically an official member of the Society yet, despite years of petitioning—but all things considered, it’s a pretty 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 (one of them, anyway) is Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world. He 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 kidnaps the members of the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her devilishly handsome would-be assassin (who seems quite inept indeed), face her demons, and risk her life 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.
Hands down one of the most unique historical romances I’ve ever read! This book is quirky, strange, and laugh out loud funny. I honestly loved every moment reading this.
I love romance and all of it’s sub-generes. But I’ve read a lot of it, so it is hard to surprise me. But boy did this book surprise me! This mixes low fantasy elements – magic and pirates – with Victorian London and a sassy, slow-burn romance. [Just a side-note for you high fantasy fans, this is loose magic. So there is little to no explanation on what it is or how it works.]
I was pretty skeptical after chapter 1, I thought there was just no way I could get on board with flying houses. But India Holton proved me SO wrong. It was the perfect level of obscure to make it feel unique yet familiar. The characters read like the pirates we all know and love, just with a twist. And adding in the matriarchal element to the pirates, gave the characters a freedom otherwise unachievable for this time period. And it was brilliant.
The juxtaposition of the polite Victorian ladies and pirate culture added an easy humor to the entire book. You can’t help but smile picturing a matron in a Victorian gown drinking tea while discussing assassination by canon ball.
And on top of all that, the romance elements were wonderful. The characters had loads of chemistry and witty banter. And the slow burn of their romance added a layer of tension to all of their interactions. There’s forced proximity, captor/(willing) captive, rivals to lovers, and I’m sure couple of other top-tier tropes I’m currently forgetting.
Overall this book just did it all. It’s a witty and fresh addition to the genre, all romance readers should have on their radar! I can’t wait to read more in this series (I need a book about Alex!!) and more from India Holton in the future!