Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Stranje House series by Kathleen Baldwin

When you are in a 'reading rut', it is so nice to find a new series that hooks you from the start!

A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House Series #1)

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....

Hand these to patrons who have long outgrown The Gallagher Girls, or who are waiting less-than-patiently for another book in the Agency series. The trope of intelligent young women being able to use their talents under the noses of those who would have them remain meek and subservient is always an attractive one. The Stranje House series adds an alternate history, as well as a combination of 'normal' and 'magical' talents.

While Georgie's talent is a highly scientific mind, Tess's talents include prophetic dreams and an ability to communicate with animals. The most spirited of the girls in the school, she was the one who intrigued me the most, so I was pleased to see the second book in the series featured her.

Exile for Dreamers: A Stranje House Novel

This was the very last book to squeak in at the end-of-fiscal-year ordering, and I snatched it up immediately. I was not disappointed in the story line, and while I am not a huge romance fan, I'll confess I did enjoy the steamy tension between Tess and Lord Ravencross: "I could not decide between slapping him or kissing his rude lips. Hard." 

On the other hand, we have Alexander, the uncouth American scientist, for comic relief. I literally laughed out loud a few times at his joyful disregard for societal rules, and I have the feeling we will be seeing him and a certain scandalized young lady featured in the next title.

Some stereotyping of ethnic characters - Madame Cho, the mysterious weapons instructor, and mystical Maya from India - but they are becoming more fleshed out as the series continues, so I have hopes they will become much more three-dimensional. This series is my new guilty pleasure, and I will anxiously await the third title!

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