Author: Kathleen Baldwin
Published: May 19th 2015 by Tor Teen
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle them in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.
After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts…
Forget about the spies and those action books; this historical young adult fiction provides a whole new meaning to gifted girls. It’s the early nineteenth century and girls are only expected to be able to sew, dance and flirt. Their minds are thought to be filled with ball gowns and dances. Those with brilliant minds who don’t care one thing about dresses are said to be misfits and are mocked and ridiculed. That is what happened to Georginia Fitzwilliam, whose mind is so filled with chemical equations and experiments and questions that her many experiments got her into trouble with her parents who seemed to see her as a waste of space.
Unfortunately, accidentally setting fire to her father’s stables was the last straw and off she was carted to Stranje House (read: Strange?). That place was said to be able to reform misbehaved girls due to the many unorthodox method used by the headmistress. Try as she might, Georgie isn’t able to get out of the predicament she found herself in and before she knows it, she is living in Stranje House with four other eccentric girls.
What I loved about A School for Unusual Girls was the historical setting. With a brewing war as the background of the story with trouble brewing for Stranje House as Georgie was reeled in to create an invisible ink for the safety of Europe and the life of Sebastian, the devilish guy she found herself helplessly attracted to, the author, Kathleen Baldwin, masterly weaved mystery around the lives of the residents of Stranje House. Misfits and talented girls, they learn various arts which would come to be useful to them while being protected from the criticisms of society.
I have always been fond of characters that don’t fit in and this book is filled with them. Georgie is a brilliant scientist, Tess has the gift of seeing bits of the future, Seraphina has excellent deduction and observation skills, Jane is good at planning and Maya has a voice that can enrapture anyone. Each of them has gifts which would be admired at this day and age but would be looked down upon and envied in the nineteenth century. Yet, I love their strength and courage to continue to live their live as themselves instead of hiding their talents.
They learn to come to trust and love each other in the house which is akin to their refuge place. Where previously they were all alone in the world, at least in Stranje House, their talents and gifts are honed and polished. Although this book concentrated on Georgiana, my favourite character was Tess with her wild spirit and her ability to attract animals to her. Georgie was right when she described Tess as a lone wolf. Independent and uncontrollable, she was strong and her greatest desire was only to have a peaceful future devoid of war.
Let’s not forget about the two young gentlemen in the book. It wouldn’t be a historical romance without Sebastian and Lord Ravencross, two very tested and tried men which would lay down their lives for their country without a second thought. Both who are deeply in love with Georgie and Tess. While Sebastian and Georgie had a cute and lovely relationship, Tess and Lord Ravencross are both wild and intense. I’m hoping both pairs would find happy endings.
A School for Unusual Girls is the first book in Stranje House series but it would work rather well as a standalone novel although naturally, the book ended with more questions and with an indefinite ending in sight. The second book is titled Exile for Dreamers and from the short chapter that I read, this book would mainly focus on Tess. All in all, I found this book highly exciting and cute at the same time.