The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publishing Info: Audiobook, June 2021, narrated by Elizabeth Knoweldon
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
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.
Fancying a change of pace, I decided to pick up The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, expecting a historical romance with a dash of adventure. That is what I got, but with a tad more of the fantastical than I had anticipated.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is bizarre yet brilliant, with Victorian ladies flying pirate houses using incantations, regularly attempting to assassinate each other, capably wielding guns and knives, and drinking tea. The juxtaposition between the well-mannered ladies and their piratical behaviour provided some excellent humour. The magical element is only a small part of the world as aside from the flying pirate houses, there wasn’t any other magic. After my initial bafflement at the concept, the idea was so well integrated into the Victorian world that it quickly seemed normal. Why wouldn’t women fly pirate houses around England?
In some ways, it was exhausting, with almost every line including some kind of humour or wit, and yet I found myself smiling almost the entire way through and even laughing aloud at times. The back and forth between the protagonist and her love interest is especially entertaining. I can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh so much. It was a great read and I had a splendidly fun time. The narrator of the audiobook did an excellent job and really captured the humorous tone of the book. Alongside the romance there is adventure aplenty, and the plot was just as gripping as the humour and love story. There are also a lot of literary references, especially to the Brontë siblings, which I enjoyed.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is unique, clever and a whole lot of fun. If you are looking for something a bit different from a historical romance, or are a fantasy reader looking for a book with a lighter fantasy touch, then I would highly recommend it.