I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House #1
Published by Tor Teen on May 19, 2015
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.
After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts...
Hey everyone! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin! I’m very excited to be a part of this blog tour! I absolutely loved this book and I hope you enjoy my review!
When I first heard about A School for Unusual Girls, I convinced myself it had supernatural elements in it – likely because I read the synopsis wrong. Though some aspects of the book could be considered borderline-supernatural, it’s really more of a contemporary historical novel. And you know what? I loved it! I love historical books with supernatural elements in them, but I’ve read so many supernatural/paranormal books lately, it was really refreshing to read a straight up historical fiction. And it wasn’t just any historical book – it was an historical book set in an alternate nineteenth-century Europe. Couple that with an intriguing plot and awesome characters, and this book was one epic win!
I love Georgiana – a.k.a, Georgie. She was defiant, refusing to confirm to society. Her parents are cold and cruel towards her, having no use for a daughter who can’t be married off due to her stubborn, unusual personality. I wanted to smack her father for the majority of the book. Her mother wasn’t much better. Georgie has three older brothers and, of course, the one that adores her isn’t in the picture, which made my heart ache for her. But Georgie was strong in the face of everything her family threw at her. She refused to bow down and give in; she loved math and science, not needlepoint, and she refused to change her mind because others told her to. She constantly asked questions, demanded answers and took charge of her responsibilities. Basically, she was epic and I adored her.
Miss Stranje was an interesting character. She always seemed to know what was going on, even when she didn’t appear to be around to witness the events happening in Stranje House and elsewhere. She was a bit scary, but also the mother that the girls of Stranje House desperately needed. She provided support and discipline, balancing love and affection with rules and etiquette. I also absolutely adored her relationship with Captain Grey and totally shipped them.
The other girls at Stranje House – Tess, Jane, Seraphina and Maya – were all awesome and unique in their own ways. Sometimes Tess was bold and brazen; sometimes she was stubborn and rude, just barely toeing the line. But she was fierce and strong, independent and willful. She didn’t let people push her around and she protected herself when she needed to. I’m really excited that we’re getting her story in the second book in the series. I can’t wait to get to know more about her, especially since I’m curious about her dreams and how they work. Overall, Tess knows what she wants and knows what she needs to do to protect herself and she’s completely unapologetic about it.
Seraphina (Sera) was an intriguing character and probably my second favorite of the Stranje Girls, right after Tess. She was quiet and a little bit shy (or so she let us believe), with impeccable attention to detail. Her ability, similar to Tess’s, was intriguing and I’d love to learn more about it, since all we really know is that she “sees what is” and knows things she couldn’t possibly know, just by assessing people, things and places.
Maya was the diplomat of the group, the voice of reason – literally. She could talk anyone into doing anything. As with Tess and Sera, I’d love to know more about her background and ability. And lastly, there was Jane, who I think we learned the least about. She was calm and reasonable with a penchant for picking locks. But that’s about all I remember about her. So I definitely hope she gets her own book in the future – I really want to know if she has any special abilities, aside from lock-picking, and what her background story is.
Lord Sebastian Wyatt was a frustrating character. I shouldn’t like him for the way he treated Georgie in the beginning; he was rude and arrogant and so full of himself. He dismissed her and her knowledge simply because she was a woman. I don’t often use this word, but he came off as being very sexist. But as the book went on and he opened up to Georgie more, I really started to like him. I think he did the things he did because he didn’t want to form attachments of any kind. He’d been hurt too many times and didn’t want it to happen again, nor did he want to drag her into his life and the dangers that entailed. But by the end of the book, I fully shipped him and Georgie and I hope we see more of him in the next book!
Lord Ravencross was another frustrating character. He was so, so rude to Tess – borderline nasty, even. But he was a complex character with a painful past and I think he had just hardened his heart to everyone and everything. I also think his bickering with Tess was his way of pushing her away but, deep down, he truly cared for her. Like with Sebastian, I shouldn’t have liked Lord Ravencross for the things he did in the beginning of the book but, as the story went on, he opened up a lot and I ended up liking him and shipping him and Tess completely! I especially loved their back-and-forth banter, which was hilarious and had me grinning like an idiot!
I never liked Lady Daneska and I never trusted her. Right off the bat, I got this weird vibe from her that I just couldn’t shake throughout the book. She was uppity and haughty, acting as if she were better than everyone. Lady Pinswary had a similar, stuck-up attitude, though Miss Pinswary wasn’t that bad. Away from the influence of her mother and Daneska, I think she could be a very nice person. By the end of the book, Daneska had proven that she was worse than I had first assumed and I was right to be wary of her.
At one point, the pacing of the book slowed down considerably. There were a lot of secrets and a lot of “Figure it out for yourself/figure it out as you go along” moments that were very frustrating. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just explain everything to Georgie right away? And if not right away, at least at some point, once she proved her loyalty? It seems that all the secret keeping in this book complicated things more than necessary. Some secrets added intrigue, while others just caused more problems than they solved. But while some of the secrets/twists were predictable, others took me by surprise and pushed the story along.
I loved the writing and attention to detail in this book – it made up for a lot of the pacing issues. I got a little bit confused by some of the chemistry talk between Georgie and Sebastian, but otherwise, the writing flowed really nicely and all the descriptions and details made the story feel that much more real. I love reading books set in the nineteenth century and all the detail the author put into the story really made it come alive. I also loved that it was an alternate history of the nineteenth century, asking all these “What if?” questions and showing the domino effect that can occur from one small decision or mistake.
Overall, I loved this book, the plot and the characters. I’m very excited for book two and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m excited to see the continuation of the story from a different character’s POV, especially since I’m so intrigued by this other character (Tess) and can’t wait to see into her mind and learn more about her. I think Kathleen Baldwin is an amazing writer and creator of epic characters. She’s definitely going on my Auto-Buy list and I’m excited to see what she does next, both in and out of the Stranje House series.
I highly recommend A School for Unusual Girls to those who love historical fiction, alternate history stories and books with spies and intrigue!
And now for the giveaway! 10 winners will receive a finished copy of A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS. US Only. To enter, complete the Rafflecopter below!
About the Author:
“I love adventure in books and in real life. I’ve roamed the Rocky Mountains, wandered the desert, enjoyed way too many classes in college, was stalked by a mountain lion, lost an argument with a rattlesnake, fell in love at least a dozen times, finally met and married my very own hero, and together we’ve raised four free-spirited children.”
Award-winning author – Kensington published four of Kathleen’s Regency romantic comedies, including MISTAKEN KISS, a Holt Medallion finalist. DIARY OF A TEENAGE FAIRY GODMOTHER, was a Golden Quill finalist. Her upcoming Historical YA series with TorTeen, A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS, is a Junior Library Guild Selection and won a Marlene.
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