Book Reviews,  Historical Fiction,  Womens Literature

Book Review: The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies (The Ill-Mannered Ladies, #1)The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I noticed other reviewers expected a lighthearted romp, based on the book’s cover. This is a fine lesson in NOT judging a book by its cover. Our Ill-Mannered Ladies, while quite prim and proper in appearance, are anything but. In the Regency Era, women were treated as less important than men. If the trio of adventures in this book are based in some truth, women were treated horribly, often to the point of torture and even death.

The stories are dark, revealing the worst aspects of Regency men’s behavior. But, this is balanced a little by the inclusion of a good man with a sympathetic heart, who believes in the value of women. You won’t recognize this at first, as he’s a character that’s not fully revealed at our first meeting. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book. the slow revelation of a truly good and worthy man.

But back to our Ill-Mannered Ladies. 42-year-old twin sisters Lady Augusta and Lady Julia Colebrook are close enough to share ‘twin language’, with the ability to exchange entire sentences via a meaningful look. They are also financially independent and quite capable of looking after themselves.

Together, they fight crime!

Okay, that was flippant, but really, they do. Specifically, crimes against helpless women committed by men who believe their gender makes it all right to do so. This book follows their exploits during three adventures. Each deals with different situations featuring ladies in distress, though I found the sister’s cunning plans to be very similar in each story. This didn’t detract from my interest in the stories, it was just something I noticed.

I mentioned earlier that these stories are a bit dark. They need to be in order for the women’s plights to be meaningful. I must caution though, the final story is *very* dark, and to my mind goes completely overboard with the use of a certain substance that all humans produce but are usually not compelled to wallow in. My goodness. The digging of a short trench and a daily bucket of water would have solved the problem right away. But the author clearly felt the need of some shock value to underscore the horrors of the situation.

That aside, I was quite absorbed by the lives and adventures of the two sisters, and all the women who benefitted from them. Also, I’m a big fan of the Victorian era but my knowledge of the Regency era has lots of gaps. In particular, I liked learning about sealing wafers. I knew about sealing wax, but wafers were new to me, and now I love them. So practical! Go google them and see for yourself.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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