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The Society has been at work almost since America’s founding, but even now in the 1920s, no one knows about it. At least no men. Presidents have no idea how their Wives have shaped their policies. Male voters don’t realize how their Wives and Mothers have quietly but deliberately influenced their choices. No one expects to see a Spinster with a Beretta, or a secret code embedded in a recipe. When girls are brought to the Society, they are assigned a role: from the protective Spinsters to the espionage-minded Gossips, everyone has a part to play.
Elsie is a Wife-to-be. Up until now, she’s been paying “social calls” to women in distress to help rescue them from domestic violence. But she knows that her role will be greater. She will marry a great man–just as her mother (a Mother) was tasked with raising a great man in Elsie’s brother–and then she will get to work, anonymously guiding her husband to the choices that will advance women’s rights. She’s been training for it for years. But when her assignment finally arrives–a priority one man who the Society has selected as a future president–Elsie suddenly isn’t sure of her role anymore. It’s not that Andrew doesn’t seem great, from his dossier at least, but in order to win the priority one assignment, she’ll have to beat out her closest friends and fellow Wives-to-be. And as the competition for Andrew’s affections gets underway, a long-simmering doubt can no longer be ignored. The Society relies on secrecy, on the invisibility of women and the discounting of their contributions. But more than ever, Elsie just wants to be seen.
I think this Jazz Age alternative history was written especially for me. Full of secret codes, espionage, heist-like missions, humor, feminism, and discussion of queer and trans rights, this book is both fun and though-provoking in the best ways. Elsie is a heroine you will love to cheer for (and wish you could vote for!). I highly recommend this wonderful novel to fans of quirky YA history and/or spy/heist books. There is definite crossover appeal for adult audiences.