An unapologetic feminist novel featuring badass lady pirates?!?! Well played, India Holton. You get me. You really do.
I’ve jumped ahead. Let me rewind a bit. Close your eyes and imagine back a few weeks ago.
Past Cheryl was excited when this book finally made it to the top of my TBR. I finally picked it up with reverent hands and opened my eReader to the very first page. I was feeling like I was in a haze because I went into it with no preconceived notions about it. (Read: I’d completely forgotten what it was about.)
All I knew is that it had a beautiful cover and that I’d seen it a lot around social media. When I flipped the pages and got to reading, I became enraged with myself. What had taken me so long to start this masterpiece?!? Because it is a tour-de-force! What Past Cheryl needed to do was drop everything to read this. So here I am… wiping the egg off my face to talk to you about my new favorite book!
Halfway through the first chapter, I knew I was missing something. I was confused. These ladies seemed to be classic English ladies, except they kept talking about being pirates – stealing things and what not, but they weren’t standing on the deck of a pirate ship, as you might expect. They were sitting in their parlor. In their house. What gives?
Then, when a man appeared at the door trying to charm our main character only to have him (halfheartedly) try to assassinate her a moment later all with a smirk on his face, I was incredibly confused. So, yeah. Had to go back and check what in heck this book was about.
So, this book IS about pirates. Lady pirates! But instead of ships, they are captains of houses!
That’s right – houses!
Each Lady Pirate knows a magic spell that allows her to transform her house into a flying machine capable of floating off wherever the wind (or their sophisticated navigation controls) may take them. Each house is equipped with weaponry in the same way you might envision on a pirate ship. Their goal: to pillage and plunder other houses and steal the riches they can find! So when there was a comment about someone’s house being stolen, I was so relieved that it finally made sense. When Cecilia (our main character) and her aunt decide to “take off” for Bath after the aforementioned assassination attempt, well, they literally did take off for Bath. Ah, illumination!
So, as I mentioned earlier, the book starts with Cecilia Bassingthwaite and her aunt, Miss Darlington taking tea when they are interrupted by a knock at the door. A seemingly innocent gentleman comes to the door under the guise of handing out pamphlets and proceeds to flirt with Cecilia. However, he turns out to not be so innocent when, after the door is slammed in his face, he launches a bomb in through the drawing room window. As Cecilia and her aunt are members of the Wisteria Society, a gang of lady pirates, this is a minor inconvenience and annoyance easily disposed of with no damage or harm to themselves or their house. What annoys the ladies more is that it becomes clear that the gentleman in question – an assassin by the name of Eduardo de Luca – has been acquired to dispose of Miss Bassingthwaite. Cecilia and her aunt decide it is expedient to leave town and launch their house into the air and fly away.
Eduardo de Luna however, is not what he seems. Firstly, while he has been hired by Lady Armitage, an archnemesis of Miss Darlington under the alias “Eduardo de Luca” to murder Cecilia, he has also been hired by the evil Captain Morvath, under a different alias, to keep Cecilia from harm. When he finally meets Cecilia (officially) he introduces himself as Captain Ned Lightbourne (even though it is unclear if THIS is in fact his real name).
Cecilia determines that there is something more sinister afoot when Ned keeps following her around but doesn’t actually kill her. They banter, they walk together, and their relationship turns even more flirtatious. They attempt to injure the other to inflict actual damage, but solely to one-up each other. They are so freaking adorable that I would classify it as one of the best frenemies to lovers book, I’ve ever read!
The plot thickens however, when one day Cecilia’s aunt and the rest of the Wisteria Society (along with their houses) are kidnapped by the evil Captain Morvath. Using a mole inside the Wisteria Society, the members of the Society and all of their houses are stolen. Cecilia, being the one of the only members of the Wisteria Society still left, plots on how to rescue them. She’s sure that Ned had something to do with it despite his vociferous exclamations to the contrary.
Cecilia formulates a plan and heads off, while Ned tries to keep up, basically yelling, “Wait for me!” What’s a lady pirate to do with a tag along assassin? She lets him in on the plan. They have the most delightful adventures while trying to save the Wisteria Society. They must acquire (read: steal) a carriage, procure a room in a posh hotel (read: sneak in and hope no one notices) where they share one room (Oh, the scandal! Even though she sleeps in the bed and he sleeps on the floor.) They also have to acquire (read: steal… duh) a house (specifically, the only house not under Morvath’s possession) to launch a counterstrike against Morvath all the while being concerned about betrayal and double crossing.
In the end, they come together as allies to defeat Captain Morvath and release the ladies of the Wisteria Society. But, it wouldn’t be a true adventure story without some surprising plot twists, secret reveals, and classic betrayals with some additional double crossing and admissions of love, before we get to the happily ever after.
<Side note: There is a side plot that involves Windsor Palace becoming (as Mr. Librarian put it) the Death Star. If that doesn’t convince you to read this book, I’m not sure what would entice you!>
This book was freaking incredible! It’s clever and zany in the very best way. I don’t always want to live in the worlds that I read about but I’m still longing to live in this world and I read this book weeks ago.
On top of that, those badass lady pirates were the absolute best!! So refined but so witty, smart, and savvy. As concerned about piracy as about table manners. No need for a man to complete their lives. No siree. So freaking feminist! Love it!
There was not a single thing I didn’t love about this book!
I even loved how the author arranged the chapter titles and included a “Cast of Characters” at the start of the book. You won’t be able to truly appreciate the character lost before you’ve read the novel, but once you do, well, let’s just say I was chuckling really hard once I understood the list. (Side note: I mean, the “Ghost of Emily Bronte” is a character in this book? Come on! But sure enough the ghost of Emily Bronte does show up as a character!)
I can’t believe how much this book reminds me of Gail Carriger’s work. Did you go read Gail Carriger after I wrote about her last year? No? What are you waiting for? Prudence and Cecilia would be BFFs, of that I am positive.
I cannot wait until my print preorder arrives. I’ll finally have an excuse to reread it!! <Side note: Not that I need one, but I have so many books to read that I LOVE an excuse to go back and reread a favorite!>
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, expected release date: June 15, 2021