The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

Berkley. Jun. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780593200162. pap. $16. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Cecilia Bassingwaite is a proper Victorian lady, as well as a junior member of the Wisteria Society—England’s most notorious band of female pirates. One of the Wisteria Society’s senior members has set an assassin against Cecelia, which makes her think she may be up for a promotion. Ned Lightbourne has multiple employers interested in Cecilia—bosses who would variously like her to be killed, kidnapped, or protected. Between the thefts, duels, escapes, kissing, double crosses and triple crosses, Cecilia and the reader may question Ned’s true intentions; most of the characters play their cards close to the chest until it’s time for a dramatic reveal. In this delightfully silly romp, reminiscent of Monty Python’s The Crimson Permanent Assurance, pirates fly their houses (instead of ships) to do battle along Mayfair and in Bath; villains heist an entire tearoom full of Wisteria Society members; and Wuthering Heights inspires a coup attempt. Holton excels at witty banter, between not just Ned and Cecilia but most of the character, including Cecilia’s overprotective aunt and Queen Victoria herself.
VERDICT More a tongue-in-cheek swashbuckling adventure than a traditional romance, Holton’s book offers much to enjoy, plus a colorful cast of pirate women and men with multiple identities.
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