Sophia Rose is here with a review of The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman. Find out why this historical mystery wasn’t what she was expecting, but turned out to be so good!The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies
by Alison Goodman
Series: The Ill-Mannered Ladies #1
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
A high society amateur detective at the heart of Regency London uses her wits and invisibility as an ‘old maid’ to protect other women in a new and fiercely feminist historical mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Alison Goodman.
Lady Augusta Colebrook, “Gus,” is determinedly unmarried, bored by society life, and tired of being dismissed at the age of forty-two. She and her twin sister, Julia, who is grieving her dead betrothed, need a distraction. One soon presents itself: to rescue their friend’s goddaughter, Caroline, from her violent husband.
The sisters set out to Caroline’s country estate with a plan, but their carriage is accosted by a highwayman. In the scuffle, Gus accidentally shoots and injures the ruffian, only to discover he is Lord Evan Belford, an acquaintance from their past who was charged with murder and exiled to Australia twenty years ago. What follows is a high adventure full of danger, clever improvisation, heart-racing near misses, and a little help from a revived and rather charming Lord Evan.
Back in London, Gus can’t stop thinking about her unlikely (not to mention handsome) comrade-in-arms. She is convinced Lord Evan was falsely accused of murder, and she is going to prove it. She persuades Julia to join her in a quest to help Lord Evan, and others in need—society be damned! And so begins the beguiling secret life and adventures of the Colebrook twins.
Sophia Rose’s Review
Long past the days when a lady is considered as a potential wife, a determined woman fired with feminist fervor and her sister set out to aid other women in desperate situations when no one else can or will help. A historical mystery not in the traditional sense with non-traditional heroines set against the well-drawn backdrop of the Regency era world.
I’ve already enjoyed an earlier book by Alison Goodman so knew I was in for a colorful and exciting reading experience though this time there are no supernatural elements woven in.
Lady Augusta ‘Gus’ Colebrook has had it up to here with insipid High Society and its rules that put women at the mercy of unworthy men and she is not daunted by the darker underbelly of the glittering wealth. She knows full well what getting involved means for her feminine reputation, but she has a heart and fire in her that can’t turn her eyes from others’ plights. Gus decides to enlist her grieving twin sister and go to the rescue.
Along the way, they have an encounter with a highwayman that has a bizarre twist to the story in that he turns out to be a surprising new ally and a man with a criminal past. They operated in secret and I enjoyed pursuing the various types of mysteries they worked on from the first case of abuse to a horrid mental institution
I ended up having to make some mental adjustments when I read this one. First, I had it in my head that it would be lighter- more cozy and bantering- than it was. Once I realized that this would deal with social ills and mysteries that were darker like human trafficking, abuse, and cruel mental asylums, I was fine with what I got. And, secondly, this is actually a story broken into three parts based on three different cases the sisters, Gus and Julia, and Lord Evan are working on with the aid of their loyal serving staff and a Bow Street Runner. It is also not an end all, but the spring board for further books in a series- at least I hope that’s why the end was somewhat abrupt.
It was frustrating for Gus that men wouldn’t heed her and Oys, I wanted to smack her spiteful brother for her the way he acted toward her. Gus and Julia might be considered past it by society, but they were smart and used their spinsterhood to advantage. They also had Twin Power- or at least a fun and helpful way of silently communicating that aided them in their work. The mysteries were great, but I loved that there was a romance brewing for Gus, too. Lord Evan was a fab tarnished hero who wasn’t the criminal that all of society thought him, but he was on a mission about all that and helping the sisters, too.
All in all, this was a good start to the series and I want more Gus, Lord Evan and their team hot on the trail of social injustice and misery in their Regency times. Historical mystery fans who like it a bit grittier and darker with social injustice elements and bold characters should give this a go.
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