Review with Excerpt: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

Synopsis and Details:

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.

Series: Dangerous Damsels #1  |  Genres: Historical Romance, Fantasy  |  Release Date: June 15, 2021  |  Publisher: Berkley  |  Length: 336 pages  |  ISBN: 978-0593200162  |  ASIN: B08JKM9V1Y  |  Format: ARC  |  Source:  NetGalley

Review with Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a unique story The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels was! At the start, I had to take my time with all that was unfolding because the narration was delivered in a matter-of-fact way. As if I were already familiar with the setting (which I wasn’t) and that I knew what the characters were up to (which I didn’t). I will say, though, that I loved the matter-of-fact telling of this story. It just cracked me up how the characters all interacted with each other and how assassination attempts were no true cause for alarm because that was just how things were between them. It would take more than a little death between friends to get these ladies riled up. Hilarious!

“..Aunty believes too much education corrupts the delicate mind of young ladies. I received only the basic instruction at home – reading, writing, horse riding, navigation, weapons handling, piano, harp, the principles of burglary, geography, arithmetic, anatomy, metalwork, confidence trickery, history, battle tactics, dining etiquette.”

Cecilia was an irresistible character, I liked her immensely. The way she delivered her verbal punches was just too funny and I liked her more for it. She is a respectable young lady pirate and she fully owns that. Although, it is clear that she is desperate to prove herself to her Aunty and the Society that she longs to be a full member of. Unfortunately, there is a part of her history that, unbeknownst to her, is holding her back. The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is about Cecilia facing her past, her present, and grabbing with both hands the future that she wants for herself. I enjoyed this book immensely and cannot wait to see what comes next in this series. Cheers to that!

*Thank you to Berkley & NetGalley for this eARC of The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels*

Goodreads Icon

This review is based on a complimentary book I received. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.


Excerpt from The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels:

There was no possibility of walking to the library that day. Morning rain had blanched the air, and Miss Dar­ling­ton feared that if Cecilia ventured out she would develop a cough and be dead within the week. Therefore Cecilia was at home, sitting with her aunt in a room ten degrees colder than the streets of London, and reading aloud The Song of Hiawatha by “that American rogue, Mr. Longfellow,” when the strange gentleman knocked at their door.

As the sound barged through the house, interrupting Cecilia’s recitation mid-­rhyme, she looked inquiringly at her aunt. But Miss Dar­ling­ton’s own gaze went to the mantel clock, which was ticking sedately ­toward a quarter to one. The old lady frowned.

“It is an abomination the way people these days knock at any wild, unseemly hour,” she said in much the same tone the prime minister had used in Parliament recently to decry the London rioters. “I do declare—­!”

Cecilia waited, but Miss Dar­ling­ton’s only declaration came in the form of sipping her tea pointedly, by which Cecilia understood that the abominable caller was to be ignored. She returned to Hiawatha and had just begun proceeding “­toward the land of the Pearl-­Feather” when the knocking came again with increased force, silencing her and causing Miss Dar­ling­ton to set her teacup into its saucer with a clink. Tea splashed, and Cecilia hastily laid down the poetry book before things ­­really got out of hand.

“I shall see who it is,” she said, smoothing her dress as she rose and touching the red-­gold hair at her temples, although there was no crease in the muslin nor a single strand out of place in her coiffure.

“Do be careful, dear,” Miss Dar­ling­ton admonished. “Anyone attempting to visit at this time of day is obviously some kind of hooligan.”

“Fear not, Aunty.” Cecilia took up a bone-­handled letter opener from the small table beside her chair. “They will not trouble me.”

Miss Dar­ling­ton harrumphed. “We are buying no subscriptions today,” she called out as Cecilia left the room.

In fact they had never bought subscriptions, so this was an unnecessary injunction, although typical of Miss Dar­ling­ton, who persisted in seeing her ward as the reckless tomboy who had entered her care ten years before: prone to climbing trees, fashioning cloaks from tablecloths, and making unauthorized doorstep purchases whenever the fancy took her. But a decade’s proper education had wrought wonders, and now Cecilia walked the hall quite calmly, her French heels tapping against the polished marble floor, her intentions aimed in no way ­toward the taking of a subscription. She opened the door.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Good afternoon,” said the man on the step. “May I interest you in a brochure on the plight of the endangered North Atlantic auk?”

Cecilia blinked from his pleasant smile to the brochure he was holding out in a black-­gloved hand. She noticed at once the scandalous lack of hat upon his blond hair and the embroidery trimming his black frock coat. He wore neither sideburns nor mustache, his boots were tall and buckled, and a silver hoop hung from one ear. She looked again at his smile, which quirked in response.

“No,” she said, and closed the door.

And bolted it.

Ned remained for a moment longer with the brochure extended as his brain waited for his body to catch up with events. He considered what he had seen of the woman who had stood so briefly in the shadows of the doorway, but he could not recall the exact color of the sash that waisted her soft white dress, nor whether it had been pearls or stars in her hair, nor even how deeply winter dreamed in her lovely eyes. He held only a general impression of “beauty so rare and face so fair”—­and implacability so terrifying in such a young woman.

And then his body made pace, and he grinned.

Miss Dar­ling­ton was pouring herself another cup of tea when Cecilia returned to the parlor. “Who was it?” she asked without looking up.

“A pirate, I believe,” Cecilia said as she sat and, taking the little book of poetry, began sliding a finger down a page to relocate the line at which she’d been interrupted.

Miss Dar­ling­ton set the teapot down. With a delicate pair of tongs fashioned like a sea monster, she began loading sugar cubes into her cup. “What made you think that?”

Cecilia was quiet a moment as she recollected the man. He had been handsome in a rather dangerous way, despite the ridiculous coat. A light in his eyes had suggested he’d known his brochure would not fool her, but he’d entertained himself with the pose anyway. She predicted his hair would fall over his brow if a breeze went through it, and that the slight bulge in his trousers had been in case she was not happy to see him—­a dagger, or perhaps a gun.

“Well?” her aunt prompted, and Cecilia blinked herself back into focus.

“He had a tattoo of an anchor on his wrist,” she said. “Part of it was visible from beneath his sleeve. But he did not offer me a secret handshake, nor invite himself in for tea, as anyone of decent piratic society would have done, so I took him for a rogue and shut him out.”

“A rogue pirate! At our door!” Miss Dar­ling­ton made a small, disapproving noise behind pursed lips. “How reprehensible. Think of the germs he might have had. I wonder what he was after.”

Cecilia shrugged. Had Hiawatha confronted the magician yet? She could not remember. Her finger, three-­quarters of the way down the page, moved up again. “The Scope diamond, perhaps,” she said. “Or Lady Askew’s necklace.”

Miss Dar­ling­ton clanked a teaspoon around her cup in a manner that made Cecilia wince. “Imagine if you had been out as you planned, Cecilia dear. What would I have done, had he broken in?”

“Shot him?” Cecilia suggested.

Miss Dar­ling­ton arched two vehemently plucked eyebrows ­toward the ringlets on her brow. “Good heavens, child, what do you take me for, a maniac? Think of the damage a ricocheting bullet would do in this room.”

“Stabbed him, then?”

“And get blood all over the rug? It’s a sixteenth-­century Persian antique, you know, part of the royal collection. It took a great deal of effort to acquire.”

“Steal,” Cecilia murmured.

“Obtain by private means.”

“Well,” Cecilia said, abandoning a losing battle in favor of the original topic of conversation. “It was indeed fortunate I was here. ‘The level moon stared at him—­’ ”

“The moon? Is it up already?” Miss Dar­ling­ton glared at the wall as if she might see through its swarm of framed pictures, its wallpaper and wood, to the celestial orb beyond, and therefore convey her disgust at its diurnal shenanigans.

“No, it stared at Hiawatha,” Cecilia explained. “In the poem.”

“Oh. Carry on, then.”

“ ‘In his face stared pale and haggard—­’ ”

“Repetitive fellow, isn’t he?”

“Poets do tend to—­”

Miss Dar­ling­ton waved a hand irritably. “I don’t mean the poet, girl. The pirate. Look, he’s now trying to climb in the window.”


About the Author:

India Holton is the author of The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, a fantastical romcom set in an alternate Victorian era. She lives in coastal New Zealand, where she grew up running barefoot around islands, following ghosts through forests, and messing around in boats. She spent several years teaching and now writes about plucky girls, unconventional women, and the men who love them. India’s writing is fuelled by tea, buttered scones, and thunderstorms.

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  Instagram


The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels


Categories: Excerpts, Interviews, Published in 2021, Review

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: