“Women’s work” is a weapon in this female-centric spy novel set in the Regency era.
Annis Whitworth’s father has died, leaving the white English teen and her aunt—her only living relative—penniless. What is a destitute lady of quality and intelligence to do? Serving as governess to small children will not do, nor will being a lady’s companion. And marriage is out of the question. While altering a dreadful pre-made mourning gown, Annis discovers she’s a glamour artist. She can transform any article of clothing into a disguise, a talent fit for a spy. Annis’ father was a spy, so why shouldn’t she be one as well? She heads to the War Office to offer her services, but she’s dismissed as a silly girl. With mounting debts, Annis, Aunt Cassia, and their maid Millie move to Flittingsworth, where Annis sets up shop as Madame Martine, glamour modiste. When a real threat looms, Annis hopes she can convince the War Office to hire Madame Martine to wield her powers for England. Annis and Cassia and their unmarried female associates (all evidently white) defy 19th-century gender conventions with their independence, intellect, and daring. Tongue-in-cheek commentary on the state of womanhood dominates the narrative, and the story’s most meaningful relationships are those among the women of the story. Cameos from history, classic literature, and modern Regency novels for young readers add fizz for those in the know.
A great deal of fun, one stitch at a time. (author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 12-18)