Tuesday, May 19, 2015

*Book Review* A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin (YA Historical)

Series: Stranje House # 1
Publisher: Tor Teen
Released: May 19, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Format: E-Book, 352 pages
Genre: YA, Historical, Alt. History

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.

A School for Unusual Girls is the first book in the Stranje House series by new to me author Kathleen Baldwin. Baldwin's story is set to the backdrop of 1814 Regency England. It is a rather tumultuous time for England, France, and the rest of Europe. Napoleon has been exiled to Elba, but not for long. France is on the brink Louis XVIII's return. Britain's war (War of 1812) with United States over captured US Sailors and other things, is winding down just in time for Napoleon to once again try to regain power. (100 Days War)

In Baldwin's fictitious world, 16 year old Georgina Fitzwilliam is about to have her life changed after she accidentally sets fire to her father’s stables while performing a scientific experiment. Sent away by her parents who wash their hands of her acting out against their desires, Georgina finds herself at Stranje House where she is to be reeducated into a fine young lady with something to offer potential suitors. Something she has no intentions of doing. But, what Georgina doesn't know, is that Emma Stranje's House is not one where girls are made to fit into high society’s constrictive molds so that they can find suitable husbands.

In fact, it's not a school in the true sense of the word. Rather, it is a place where girls of unique abilities are trained in various crafts that will one day come in handy. After failing to escape, Georgina encounters Lord Sebastian Wyatt and Captain Ethan Grey. Georgina soon finds herself working closely with Sebastian in an effort to finally invent new invisible ink that will save hundreds of lives. Georgina finds unexpected challenges when she is targeted by the villain of the story Lady Daneska who was once one of Emma's Stranje girls, and now wants what Georgina has created.

Georgina has never been taken seriously by her family. In turn, she doesn't care about the frivolities of society. She doesn't consider herself to be beautiful, or fashionable. She has red, raging hair that stands out. She prefers her books, and scientific theories rather than impressing an old sodden male suitor who may want to get his kicks off by marrying someone younger. Georgina is brilliant with chemicals and equations, and truly believes she can invent invisible ink that can change the world. 

Georgina is one of five extraordinary girls at the Stranje House. The rest are Tess Aubreyson (can see what will be), Maya Burrington (voice can sooth the savage beast), Lady Jane, and Seraphina Wyndham (sees what is.) There is a bit of a romance angle to this story between Georgina and Sebastian. Let's just say it takes time to get used to because there is a whole lot of give and take between them. I do think that the romance could have been left out, and this story still would have hit its mark with me. 

Baldwin stated that she was attempting to create an alternative world based on the What IF factors. What if America lost the War of Independence? Would America be like Canada now? What if Napoleon never abdicated his crown? This isn't the first what if historical, or alternative history novel I've read. There is also a hint of a trigger point. What happens when that trigger point is removed, and history changes entirely? Book 2 should be rather intriguing.

Per the preview of the next installment called Exile for Dreamers, the narrative will be switching to Tess Aubreyson. Tess has her own unique challenges, and it will be fun to get inside her thoughts to see how she thinks about the other girls, her possible suitor, and Ms Emma.

**I received this book for free from (Tor Teen) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

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