A romantic adventure set amid the chaos of the Napoleonic era.
Georgiana Fitzwilliam is packed off to boarding school after one too many failed science experiments. Her parents deposit her unceremoniously in the care of Emma Stranje, who runs a school outside London that masquerades as a glorified torture chamber for wayward society daughters but is really a front for spy training. What seems at first to be a harrowing disaster for Georgiana is in fact a uniquely tantalizing opportunity. Each of the four female students has a special gift that makes her too peculiar for society life, but their talents are of great use to the crown. Miss Stranje and her collaborators hope to leverage Georgie’s experiments with invisible ink for greater secrecy as they attempt to thwart Napoleon’s wily network of spies. Although the novel relies too heavily on genre clichés—Georgie’s budding attraction to a young viscount associate of Miss Stranje is all flashing eyes and clashing wits à la Lizzie and Darcy—the era is richly substantiated with period details. An afterword clarifies the liberties taken with historical events and encourages readers to ponder the possible outcomes to any given fork in the road.
Baldwin’s tale lacks the fizzy pop of Sarah Zettel’s Palace of Spies series, but romance readers who prize both brains and valor in a heroine will be pleased to make Georgie’s acquaintance. (Mystery/historical fiction. 12-18)