Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Series or Standalone: Dangerous Damsels #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads – StoryGraph
CW: Gun violence; murder; death of parent; sexism
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is unlike any book I’ve ever read. It’s absurd and over the top, yet I loved every second of reading it! This book combines a fantastic romance with an incredibly unique premise, badass female characters, and razor-sharp wit. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun reading a book in ages!
Cecilia Bassingwaite is the perfect Victorian lady – and also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England in her Aunt’s house, drinking tea, blackmailing friends and acquiring treasures. Sure she has a villainous father and an overbearing aunt, but it’s a pleasant existence. Until Ned Lightbourne, a sometimes assassin/pirate, shows up. Ned is fascinated with Cecilia when he meets her, despite his orders to kill her for one person and capture her for another. One of those people is Captain Morvath, Cecilia’s father and an overall villainous person who intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. When Morvath captures the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with Ned to save the women who raised her and hopefully prove that she’s as much a scoundrel as the rest of them.
The premise of this book is preposterous. I mean, lady pirates who have flying houses instead of boats? An evil villain intent on wiping out a secret society? A handsome pirate/assassin/spy? All that together should feel like too much, but it all works perfectly. The plot is over the top, yet the book leans in and embraces the absurd, so it works perfectly. I was deeply engrossed in the story and couldn’t wait to see what wild and zany twist India Holton would throw in next.
Holton’s writing style is so unique, and I was instantly hooked! The book is very tongue-in-cheek with so many fun asides that add to the humor. I don’t often laugh out loud while reading, but this book made me do that multiple times. The dialogue felt real (despite some of the absurd conversation topics) and flowed rapidly. I also loved the chapter headings – it made this book feel like a play or something you’d see on screen. This book also gave me major The Kingsman vibes with the action and humor!
The characters give this book so much life and heart. I loved all of them. Everyone from our main characters, Cecila and Ned, to the secondary characters, such as Jacobson, felt like fully-fleshed people with their own personalities. Queen Victoria is one of my favorite characters in this book – it was such a fun play on a figure you think you know. Morvath is also such a fun villain. He’s truly an evil character, but his obsession with the Brontës and his bad poetry frequently made me laugh. He’s so over the top and dramatic in his desire to destroy the Wisteria Society, and I loved it. And Miss Darlington was such a fun guardian for Cecilia. She’s overbearing, overly cautious and a bit of a hypochondriac, but she’s also a badass and incredibly caring.
And then we have Ned and Cecilia, our main characters. These two were so good together! I loved how Ned had 20 identities – I feel like more kept coming out of the woodwork! Cecilia was a great, strong female character, and I love how she didn’t let others define her actions in the end. And the romance between them! I got major Mrs. & Mr. Smith vibes from them with the top-notch banter happening during action-packed scenes. This book is also packed with so many good tropes! Holton leans into the tropes in a fun way, making the romance sing.
Also, color me surprised that this book was opened door! The cutesy cover and the rollicking plot convinced me it was going to be closed-door. But this book has not one but two sex scenes – and they were the perfect mixture of sexy and sweet.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels was so fun – an incredibly impressive debut novel! India Holton has such a fresh and unique voice – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this before, and I cannot wait to see what she writes next! I will be picking up The League of Gentlewomen Witches as soon I can (though I may be holding out on picking it up until a little closer to book three, The Secret Service of Tea and Treason, which comes out in April 2023, as I feel I’m going to want to binge the rest of the books).