Alternate History

THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEWOMAN WITCHES by India Holton

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

There are no such things as witches. Charlotte Pettifer certainly isn’t one. And she certainly hasn’t been selected as the future leader of the secret League of Gentlewoman Witches because no such organization exists because witches don’t exist. And if they did exist, their future leader would certainly be discrete enough not to mount her broom in St. James’ Square in broad daylight and fly over the crowded streets just to escape a confrontation with a despicable and distressingly attractive Irish pirate.

But of course, Charlotte is a witch and the League’s rightful heir and therefore the only person with the legitimate right to steal the amulet that belonged to the foundress of the League (and, I suppose it must be mentioned, the creator of the spell that gave the pirates the ability to fly their battle houses over London). And when one such pirate steals the amulet for herself, Charlotte does not hesitate to commandeer a pirate’s house to give chase–both to retrieve her amulet and to get a second taste of the delightful freedom of flight. That she happens to commandeer the house of the Irish pirate is purely coincidental. That they appear to have formed an alliance is merely a distortion of the true reality that they are committed enemies who very maliciously kidnapped each other. That they occasionally find themselves locked in a broom closet together, their eyes locked, their bodies pressed close…well, everyone needs a bit of exercise…

Sometimes I skim books. Shameful, but true. But not this book–I couldn’t risk missing a single, hilarious word! From the absurdity of this series’ premise to the banter between the hero and heroine to the wealth of cleverly overturned literary allusions, I was laughing aloud the whole time. Add to that the deliciously steamy romance, thrilling adventure plot, and substantive cameos from the hero/heroine of the previous book, and you have a five star historical romance that you won’t be able to put down. I cannot recommend this series highly enough!

THE WISTERIA SOCIETY OF LADY SCOUNDRELS by India Holton

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I am a Bookshop.org affiliate. If you make a purchase by clicking through the links in this post, I will receive a commission, and Bookshop.org will donate a matching commission to independent booksellers. For more information, see my “About” page.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

When Cecilia learns that Lady Armitage has hired a pirate to assassinate her, she is pleased. Her late mother would be terribly proud that she finally merited an assassin. In fact, she is shaping up to be a fine pirate herself. She knows how to fly a house, how to pick a lock and a pocket, how to fight with knife, gun, or sword–in short, everything a lady needs to be a successful member of the Wisteria Society of Victorian pirates.

But as it turns out, her assassin isn’t as keen on killing her as Lady Armitage expected. In fact, Ned, as he insists she call him, warns Cecilia of a plot by her murderous father to kidnap her. Though Cecilia doesn’t trust Ned, when the rest of the Wisteria Society is shanghaied, she has no choice but to ally herself with him in order to effect a rescue. But while Cecilia may be well-versed in the art and science of piracy, she is in no way prepared for the feelings she begins to have toward Ned, and even less prepared for the feelings he seems to have toward her.

I’m pretty sure this book was written to delight me. I started laughing at the “Table of Significant Characters” and never stopped. But in addition to humor, it also checked all my boxes on what I want from a historical romance: a hero and heroine who I actually like, both independently and as a couple; a meaningful project not directly related to romance on which they can collaborate; and of course a healthy dose of swoon-worthy sexy-times. Still, as you can probably guess from the house-flying pirates, this won’t appeal to all historical romance readers. I would describe it as Sherry Thomas meets Gail Carriger. If that doesn’t help, read chapter one, and you will know if it’s for you. (And if this book is for you, we should definitely be friends. Because like I said, delighted…)

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (Dangerous Damsels): Holton, India:  9780593200162: Amazon.com: Books

DREAD NATION by Justina Ireland

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Jane would have grown up in slavery if not for the War Between the States. Instead, she grew up helping her white mother defend the plantation against the onslaught of the undead who began to rise after the Battle of Gettysburg. Although the agreement to end the War so that North and South could join forces against the undead shamblers included the abolition of slavery, Black people are far from equal—arguably not even free. When Jane was rounded up with the rest of the Black teens on the plantation and sent to a finishing school where she would train to defend wealthy white women from shamblers, she hoped it would be an opportunity to gain some sort of liberty and life experience. Instead, she finds herself hampered by the racism and sexism that pervade her society. But when she and a classmate uncover a deadly conspiracy, they find themselves in grave danger and caught between the desire for self-preservation and the knowledge that if they don’t do something, the entire world could be lost to the undead.

This novel is stunning: well-written, nuanced, thought-provoking, timely, and with a gripping and richly imagined historical sci-fi that is nearly impossible to put down. Jane is a compelling and complex protagonist, and it is a pleasure to root for her against both the zombies and the disturbing social institutions that try to hold her back. For all of its thrilling adventure, it never shies away from a powerful and disturbing look at racism and its impact. I loved every page and highly recommend it to teen and adult fans of sci-fi, dystopia, or even historical fiction.