The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
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.
Thank you to Berkley for providing an ARC for review. Quotes have been taken from a published copy.
This is a kissing book. It is also probably one of my favorite books of the year.
I thought about this book constantly since I finished it, and I still don’t know how to string words together. I have too many emotions, and some of them don’t really make sense. It’s more like inaudible noises that only book readers know just by the sound of it. I’m frothing at the mouth, like a dog. Suddenly I’ve lost all sense of my humanity, and it’s all India Holton’s fault.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is a romance with the likeness (and the vibes) of The Princess Bride and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. It’s got that fast dialogue and British humor familiar in Goldman and Pratchett’s writing but amplifies everything in brilliant writing and feminism.
A lady stays tranquil and poised under all circumstances. Instead of panicking, she squares her jaw, protects her heart, and ensures that she has enough ammunition to gun down everyone in her path.
The Wisteria Society has got a problem on its hands. Their flying houses are being stolen, not only that, but Captain Morvath, or rather Dread Captain Morvath, is dead set on destroying this whimsical group of lady pirates. So rather than discuss knitting patterns and explosives, they are obligated to take down this gothic-obsessed villain.
They have exactly three laws. No killing civilians, pour the tea before the milk, and no stealing each other’s houses.
If you’ve ever wanted a true enemies-to-lovers romance, this is the book you want. It’s like this. Imagine the scene where Inigo Montoya and Westley are trying to kill each other. It’s that ‘I’m interested in you as a person, but unfortunately I’m obligated to kill you’ *whips out sword*
Enemies-to-lovers is all about the tension between two people on opposite sides of the goal/team/family/etc. It’s the yearning, the tension, the ‘I cannot believe I am thinking about kissing the life out of my sworn enemy! Perish the thought!’ Holton is deliciously talented at a lot of things but especially this.
I was ruined the moment I laid eyes on you. Utterly ruined for everything else, evermore.
Absolutely every scene kills. It’s starting to look like a favorite to me, probably because I’ve already listed it as a favorite on my Goodreads shelf.
A pirate princess opens the door to a grinning pirate and slams it in his face. Reader, meet Cecilia and Ned. They are fluff, sweetness, spice, and guns drawn at dawn.
Every single character walks off the scene as if they live their own life. Generic and forgetful characters are not in Holton’s vocabulary. I can absolutely imagine the most minuscule side characters in their fullest, most epic lives. One character, in particular, is my favorite. And word has it he’s in the companion novel.
He crossed one ankle over the other, his boot buckles imperiling the table’s polish and causing a nearby gentleman to gasp in outrage.
Give me loud swashbuckling pirates, and I’m a happy girl. Holton managed to give me plot, romance, prose, humor, and originality in a single rom-com. The balance that it takes to write something this good? I’m in awe.
Even Captain Morvath, a revenge-obsessed idiot, feels so raw that he almost reminded me of Michael from the Office. He believes himself to be serious at every moment, but to everyone else, including the reader, he’s an embarrassment. He’s only got himself to blame. I found him hilarious and real in the same way I found Michael’s rage that everyone but him kept laughing. His belief in his power continuously gets cut down by his own actions and by the Wisteria Society, making him into the fool of the story. I loved every bit of it, but most especially because he felt like a real person in the same way that an idiot in power is real.
I loved every word, from Cecilia’s pearl-handed revolver to the Irish pirate to the ‘let’s kill each other slowly’ vibes. It’s the type of book I want to see more of in publishing but especially romantic fantasy. India Holton has stolen my heart, and I’d like to see her do it again.