The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies is fast-paced, immersive, emotive, and adventurous feminist historical fiction. This is absolute perfection.
The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies (The Ill-Mannered Ladies #1) by Alison Goodman
Publication Date : May 30, 2023
Publisher : Berkley
Read Date : June 12, 2023
Genre : Historical Fiction / Mystery-adventure
Pages : 464
Disclaimer – Many thanks to publisher for e-ARC via NetGalley.
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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 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.
immersive feminist historical fiction
The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies is immersive feminist historical fiction set in Regency London that revolves around two unmarried twin sisters in their forties who gets involved in a series of rescue adventures that saves women and children from a dangerous and life-threatening situations.
I absolutely love this feminist historical fiction and I already want to read the next books in the series. I also loved the dedication that reflects how feminist and strong the characters of this book are going to be –
“The book is dedicated to all the women out there who no longer have the patience or desire to put up with any nonsense.”
Writing is engaging, emotive, fast-paced and thrilling with enough tension and drama. The story is told from Augusta’s perspective. I loved the format of the book dividing the story into three parts for three different cases and adventures in order starting in June 1812 along with the base storyline of Augusta and her twin sister Julia’s life.
Augusta is my most favorite character. She sure will be on my favorite kick-ass heroines list. She is fiery, strong, brave, and independent woman with adventurous spirit who refused to conform to society’s norms and ideas of how unmarried women of her age should do and should behave. She is logical, and compassionate, with abundance of self-respect and has no patience or tolerance for nonsense. I was amazed by her quick thinking and courageous nature. She improvised a lot in all cases and I’m surprised how all her plans worked out in each case.
It was great to know more about her relationship with her dead father who brought her up like a son, providing equal education and teaching her every skill set that other men have. It’s rare to see such a father in this era. Her love for her father is reflected throughout the story. I also liked how she viewed religion which is very modern for the era but at the same time, we see how she couldn’t voice them and what will be the consequences if she did. Her love for Julia and fear of losing her to cancer like their mother and grandmother is touching.
Julia is the polar opposite of Augusta. She always sees a better and brighter side, is quick to forgive, and rarely gets enraged, and follows Augusta wherever she goes and whatever she does. Their sisterly and twin bond was amazing and nothing could break it. They face everything together. It was sad to see Julia suffering from early-stage of breast cancer. I admired her for supporting Augusta and following her in all the cases even with her poor physical health.
I didn’t like it when she made Augusta promise not to go on any other adventure at the end of the second case and it was right from her perspective but she soon realized she was holding Augusta back. She acted as a pacifier between Aususta and their conservative younger brother, Duffy, but I love it when she stood up for August and refused to side with Duffy in the last case.
Lord Evan was my second favorite. He is smart and charming highwayman. He appears dishonorable but we soon can see he still is honorable gentleman that he was before he was convicted for murder and was stripped of his to-be-title of marquess. I was curious to know more about him, it was clear he wasn’t the person who would murder anyone but that mystery remains unsolved in this book (I can’t wait to read that in next book). However, we get into the mystery of why he absconded in the third case.
I admired him even more for helping Augusta and never seeing her courage and adventurous nature as an unsuitable trait for a lady. I loved how he respected Augusta, her plans, and her opinions. He also was open-minded about his sister’s relationship with a woman.
I hated brothers in this book. they all are self-righteous, sexist, pompous, and misogynistic. They were paragon of the patriarchy. I hated Duffy who was weak and cowardly. He was jealous of Augusta for getting their father’s love who showed Augusta was better at everything than him and took it out on her. The way he treated and viewed his sisters was outrageous.
I was horrified what Delee, now Marquess and Evan’s brother did to their sister just because she was gay and had a relationship with her girlfriend. He didn’t even bother to look back and see how the asylum is treating her. And most horrible was Penelope’s brother. It was a mystery why she disappeared after her first season along with Augusta and Julia. It was horrible to read how she suffered and what she has gone through.
Reading situations of all women in this era makes me think, how they could even live or how they lived was really living, how men could sleep and wander in society after such horrible acts. It makes me grateful for being born in today’s world and admire all strong female historical figures even more who could achieve and do more with their limited options or I should say with no options.
There are many themes and layers that included – women’s position in this era, how little law and religion supported women, patriarchal society, social casts, superstitions, child trafficking, horrible conditions in asylums, women’s maltreatment in the madhouse, misogyny, and many other things. Early 1800s movements, asylum reforms, politics, laws, and medical treatments are also included. It was interesting to read in the author’s note what real historical figures and situations appears in the novel.
But even with such darker themes and topics there are many uplifting and lovely moments. I enjoyed banter between the characters. It feels good to see both Augusta and Julia, who were in their spinsterhood in the beginning, found love at the end who admired them for who they are.
Augusta and Evan had very little time together and yet the chemistry between them shine out amidst all danger and adventure. I even liked Kent at the end. I can’t wait to see more progress in Augusta-Evan and Julia-Kent relationship in next books of the series.
Overall, The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies is fast-paced, immersive, emotive, and adventurous feminist historical fiction. This is absolute perfection. I hope the author writes the next books in the series fast and I get to read them.
I highly recommend this if you like,
feminist historical fiction
Touching sisterly bond
Good banter and chemistry
Strong female Characters
Amazing historical and social setting
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