3.8956789 out of 5 magical stars…. I know that’s random
I love magic. I love Victorian England. And this book starts at the very beginning of that period, with the woman who gave the period its name, the young Queen Victoria, taking the throne. Oh, and there’s magics.
Twins, Persephone and Penelope Leland, have come to London for their coming out, that time when a young woman is presented to the King (or Queen) and enters society. Penelope can’t wait. This time is a whirl of dresses and balls, teas in fancy sitting rooms, supper out, etc. Persephone would much rather remain in their country home and continue her magical studies. Shy and awkward, Persephone sees herself as a much less attractive shadow of her sister…. which got a little repetitive. There was so much I really loved about this book – the only thing that takes away the .10956849030 from making it 4 stars (I had to give it 4 stars on Goodreads since they don’t have quarter stars) was the YA angst which ran over a little bit. You are an identical twin, Persephone!! How could you be less pretty than your sister?!? There is also their little brother, Charles, who is a real firecracker.
I really liked both girls. The last book I read in the Regency era was so catty and there was no friendship, and this was so much nicer. Besides, these girls are at the height of society – their Grandmama is a lady in waiting to the Queen (Anne, the wife of the current King. At the beginning of the story, Victoria is still the heir presumptive), their dad is a Viscount, mama is the daughter of a Baronet, they are rich, they are twins, they are a sensation. The girls are kind to people and don’t treat others like they are beneath them. And like myself, they are both obsessed with Princess Victoria. The Royal family also has a lot of drama. The princess and her mother are at odds, mainly because Victoria is kept isolated from everyone, and completely dependent on her mother and mother’s secretary, Sir John Conroy. (All this is historically accurate, by the way.) Both are using the Princess as a power chip, and want to remain in control of her even beyond her coronation.
The woman who teaches the girls is Miss Allardyce, or Ally, to the girls. She came to be their governess because she knew the Leland’s had magic running in their family, usually among the females. I really liked her. She’s a very upright governess, but she’s liked by her pupils. At this time, magic is underground. People are still superstitious, and magicians (called wizards or witches) are shunned. So the girls have to keep their magic on the down low. Persephone, or Persy, is much more studious than her sister and much stronger in magic as a result. The magic was not well defined – other than there are words in latin murmured to do spells. Later, we see candles and magic circles used but other than a halting spell, a cloaking spell, and being able to move objects, we aren’t shown a lot of what can be done with magic until we get to the drama at the end. I don’t mind that so much, so just FYI for those who prefer a more ordered magic system.
All this magic is what gets them in trouble! Before they even get to London, Ally is kidnapped by a mysterious man with one blue eye and one brown. (This is in the blurb, so it’s not a spoiler.) The kidnappers are smart, though and have her write a letter saying that a relative has taken ill and she has to go take care of them. They were not counting on Ally’s students, though, who can read the letter, magically, and it’s clear from the emotions they sense that it was written under duress. To try and find what may have happened to her, they seek out the book store owned by Ally’s family (who is also magical). Here we meet Ally’s mother, sweet old father, and sister Lorelai. Lorelai is a real kick in the pants. She can do a lot of cool things magically and doesn’t suffer fools. With the magical element involved, they can’t exactly go to the authorities to seek help. Using magic, they have an idea where Ally might be, and it means the government must be involved. The girls promise to try and find out what they can.
Amidst all this, we have the angst, and if you want angst, you gotta have boys. A young man from the girl’s childhood, Lord Lochinvar Seton, comes back from his time in Cambridge, tall, blond, handsome, and eager to renew his friendship with the girls. As a boy, he was a fright but time has improved him. Persy is twitterpated from the offing, and she immediately assumes that he prefers Penelope. This drives the first wedge between the sisters, but not for the reason Persy thinks. There is also Lord Carharrick, a man of political ambition, who takes a liking to Persy. But does he care for her, or her family’s political connections? I did get very frustrated with Persy being constantly down on herself. She made very error possible in regards to the men and I wanted to slap her. She also decided at one point to run away. That just irritated the crap out of me. There was no reason for it, she was just being stupid. And how could someone with a happy family, a sister she loved dearly, used to comfort and ease, decide on a whim to leave home, destroying her family’s happiness and ostracizing herself from them. I just couldn’t see that happening.
I read A LOT of historical fiction, and so often they forget that a huge part of a girl’s coming out was being presented at court. They just skip it. This one took the girls through the process of being presented, which put them in the castle, where they met Princess Sophia, the King’s sister. Through her, they are invited to Kensington Palace, where Victoria lives, which helps fuel the plot. I did think it was a little silly to just forget their governess was missing, possibly held captive, in the center of a terrible plot, and they are consumed with parties and boys. But I still liked it. Despite the angst, I really enjoyed this.