A lady scoundrel goes on a road trip with a smooth-tongued assassin in an alternate-universe Victorian Britain.
Cecilia Bassingthwaite is anxiously awaiting her induction into the highest ranks of the Wisteria Society. This is a woman-only group of scoundrels and thieves who plunder the country in their magical flying houses while nursing intragroup grievances ranging from the petty to the lethal. But when her mentor is abducted along with the rest of the society, Cecilia sets off to rescue them from a nefarious villain, who just happens to be a frustrated poet (among other things). Tagging along are Ned Lightbourne; a man who may be a pirate; an Italian commissioned to kill her; and a royal agent trying to protect her. In this joyride of a debut, Holton draws us into a madcap world of courtly corsairs, murderous matrons, and pity-inspiring henchmen. Familiar romance tropes appear but as if in a fun-house mirror, with broad winks at their origins, while characters make sarcastic references to passionate novels in the Victorian canon. An additional comic effect comes from the ironic distance between readers’ expectations of the proprieties in historical romance (including steampunk) and the topsy-turvy rules of Cecilia and Ned’s universe. But the rules explain the characters and their actions so seamlessly that we never laugh at them but rather at the shenanigans of this kooky universe.
As if The Parasol Protectorate series met "The Princess Bride" and a corseted "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider."