The historical detail of this book was incredibly pleasing (the afterword notes that she submitted 2/3 of it as her dissertation for her PhD!) and I am definitely in for reading more from this series. My favorite thing from this author that I’ve read by quite a large margin.
I was pretty sure going in that this was a romance, because of the cover and the ladies in dresses, but like the cover (which hides its weapons amidst the folds of a dress) this book is actually a historical mystery and adventure book, with some elements of romance. The focus was on Lady Augusta Colebrook and her twin sister, Julia, who are both “old maids” (they hate that term)—Augusta (“Gus”) by choice, and Julia because her fiancé died in an accident several years before. As single women with their own money, they have some measure of freedom, but still regularly have to deal with the expectations put on their gender and women of their class, not to mention their awful younger brother, who teems with envy over his older sister Gus’s everything.
We meet the sisters as they embark on the first of many adventures. They have decided to help their friend Charlotte recover letters from her lover, as he is blackmailing her, and then this dovetails into Charlotte asking for a bigger favor: can the two sisters rescue a woman from her husband who is about to murder her? The way that Goodman seemingly effortlessly incorporates historical detail into this story was so great. While planning their capers and rescues, and dealing with the patriarchal forces that oppose them. Husbands literally own their wives, and it is not illegal, for example, for a man to keep his barren wife locked up in her room and drug her, starve her; nothing in fact is illegal until he murders her, which the sisters aim to prevent.
The book is structured in three “cases,” each of which finds the sisters righting wrongs and solving crimes against women and children, some of whom are not of their class, but are at the mercy of it because of their class or their race. It also features Gus falling in love with a convicted murderer (she thinks he’s innocent and vows to prove him so, but that’s for another book, one assumes).
I’m very pleased I finally got around to this one and hope Goodman publishes the next book soon.