Book Review: The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton

Author: India Holton
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: March 15, 2022
Print Length: 352

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If you’d like to read an excerpt of this book, check out my Spotlight post for the blog tour I posted earlier in March.

Official Synopsis

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the teahouse. . . .

Miss Charlotte Pettifer belongs to a secret league of women skilled in the subtle arts. That is to say—although it must never be said—witchcraft. The League of Gentlewomen Witches strives to improve the world in small ways. Using magic, they tidy, correct, and manipulate according to their notions of what is proper, entirely unlike those reprobates in the Wisteria Society.

When the long lost amulet of Black Beryl is discovered, it is up to Charlotte, as the future leader of the League, to make sure the powerful talisman does not fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, it is most unfortunate when she crosses paths with Alex O’Riley, a pirate who is no Mr. Darcy. With all the world scrambling after the amulet, Alex and Charlotte join forces to steal it together. If only they could keep their pickpocketing hands to themselves! If Alex’s not careful, he might just steal something else—such as Charlotte’s heart.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

The League of Gentlewomen Witches is the second book in India Holton’s Dangerous Damsels series, but it reads like a standalone novel. This delightful romp is one part historical fiction, one part romantic fantasy, and one part comedy, stirred, and ultimately shaken. Written in a style reminiscent of and influenced by 19th century female English authors of the time, don’t be fooled by what at first seems like stiff dialogue and mannerisms. Rather, carry on and you’ll find our characters are quite adept at holding conversations brimming with innuendo and implication.

Holton delivers delightful characters full of life, wit, and adventure that fly right off the page, carrying the reader with them. Charlotte, the young heir of Beryl Black and future leader of the Wicken League, has quite the load of expectations to live up to. Her inner dialogue frequently consults her heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, during trying situations, such as being in close proximity to the fierce pirate Alex O’Riley. She knows she has a duty to uphold, but feels the pull of a quieter life, one more free from obligation. Alex, a pirate and insufferable rogue, and altogether distrustful of witches, finds himself gravitating towards Charlotte once their worlds collide, through absolutely, positively no fault of Charlotte’s.

When Beryl Black’s long lost amulet is discovered, the Wicken League oh so rightfully declares that they must recover (steal) it. But, as a matter of fact, so do the pirates of the Wisteria League. And so ensues comedy and error in the recovery of this powerful artifact. Though governed by the facade of decorum and manners, every witch is out for the amulet. Charlotte knows she must get to it first if she is to uphold the line of Beryl Black. But when a dread pirate snatches the amulet, Charlotte and Alex decide to team up to retrieve it. Or, more aptly, Charlotte kidnaps Alex and appropriates his flying cottage (yes, pirates have flying houses), upending all the decorum and modesty prized and upheld by the Wicken League.

There is a whole cast of colorful characters, in addition to Charlotte and Alex, that Holton introduces right before the first chapter. The descriptors paired with each character offer some humorous insight into their personalities before plunging into the story. Though the story follows Charlotte and Alex, for the most part, the secondary and peripheral characters are just as entertaining. Miss Plim, Charlotte’s aunt and leader of the Wicken League, embodies how she believes all witches should behave: prim, proper, dismissive of love, disdainful of pirates, and wholly devoted to upholding the sanctity of the league. Bixby, Alex’s butler, is unflappable in the face of the unexpected. I could go on, but know there’s not a single dull moment with such a vivid cast of characters.

The writing is an exemplary example of using the full extent of the English vocabulary to construct sharp, succinct dialogue to say but not say exactly what one means. I don’t read 19th century English literature because it’s not my cup of tea, but Holton modernizes the style, making it more approachable for people like me. Many a time I smirked to myself and occasionally giggled out loud. I loved reading Charlotte’s and Alex’s interactions, whose chemistry is undeniable.

Though mostly lighthearted, our dear main characters do work through their own personal struggles, made more prominent in their minds with each passing day in each others’ captivity (I mean, presence). Charlotte works to overcome the expectations instilled upon her by the league, both with respect to responsibility and decorum. Alex must face his wariness of witches and love, no thanks to some traumatic events in his childhood.

Because I hadn’t previously read anything in this subgenre, I went into this book with zero expectations…and ended up loving it. I now have a hankering for more books of this type and yes, I absolutely will read the first book of this series. The League of Gentlewomen Witches is a very entertaining, lighthearted read where the intermingling of witch and pirate society is concerned. Though if you happen to be (like) Miss Plim, I dare say this whole story is absolutely a scandal (delight) and should be dealt with straight away.

Rating: 5/5
Content warnings: sex
Reading format: Kindle e-book

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