A School for Unusual Girls is the first in Kathleen Baldwin’s new YA series called Stranje House.
A School for Unusual Girls is set in 1814, while Napoleon is exiled to the island of Elba. Georgiana Fitzwilliam is the youngest child and only daughter in her family. After one of her scientific experiments goes awry and burns down her father’s stables, her exasperated parents enroll her at Stranje House and wipe their hands of her care. Despite the tense relationships Georgie has with her parents she would rather return home or run away than to stay at this mysterious school for girls. The dark rumors which swirl around the school and the scenes she witnesses upon her introduction to the staff and students convince her that Stranje house is a dangerous place to remain.
However, appearances can be deceiving. Georgie is shortly introduced to the other four female students, Tess, Sera, Maya and Lady Jane all of whom have unusual talents and gifts. Georgie also makes the acquaintance of Lord Sebastian Wyatt after unintentionally spying on him and overhearing a discussion about the Order of the Iron Crown.
Despite her distrust of Miss Stranje, owner and headmistress, she is thrilled with Miss Stranje’s generosity in granting Georgie a lab of her own with all of the equipment and ingredients necessary for her to continue developing her “recipes”. You see, Georgie is a scientific genius and is working on a recipe for invisible ink for encoded messages. She is commanded to partner with Sebastian in accomplishing this task. But just like her experiments, it is a highly charged relationship with the potential to be explosive.
In the meantime, Georgie continues to uncover the mysteries behind Stranje House and its’ occupants only to discover that it is a very secretively special school. Eventually Georgie, Sebastian and the occupants of Stranje House find themselves caught up in an international intrigue and a race to stop the Order of the Iron Crown from returning Napoleon to power.
I have read Baldwin’s adult novels and found them charming. Her venture into Young Adult fiction is no less so. They read almost like a screwball comedy film. The heroines are always independent, peppy and don’t conform to the norms of their society. They are also tender hearted and good natured, yet they constantly find themselves in embarrassing predicaments while also butting heads with their heroes.
The heroes generally admire the heroines but in secret, preferring to show their interest like young school boys who tease and harass their object of affection. But they are always available to encourage and rescue their heroines when they need it. This same modus operandi is carried out in Georgie and Sebastian’s relationship. They begin as bickering opponents, but as they work together they gradually develop respect and admiration for each other while still maintaining their verbal battles.
I really enjoyed Georgie’s slowly developing relationships with Miss Stranje and the girls. Each of the girls has experienced rejection and trauma related to their loved ones. When added to the fact that they have unusual talents and the secrets they must keep, they are understandably wary and cautious of the newest addition to their group. The development of their individual friendships with Georgie coincide with the revelation of the secrets and mysteries behind Stranje House. I always appreciate when an author highlights strong female friendships. I’m not opposed to a good bromance either.
A School for Unusual Girls is a very fun read if slightly less than historically accurate. I am eagerly anticipating the continuation of the mystery introduced in this book and the focus on Tess’s story in the next title, Exile for Dreamers.