The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman
Goodman, author of the Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club series brings another historical book set in Regency times, this time a mystery featuring Lady Augusta Colebrook and her twin sister Lady Julia, who set out to solve three cases which feature much darker themes than the Lady Helen books. In 'Till Death Do Us Part' they are asked to rescue Caroline who is imprisoned in her home because she has not produced an heir. While attempting to free her Gus encounters Lord Evan Belford, who has returned illegally from the colonies in Australia after killing a man in a duel. Sparks fly between the two and they meet again in the second case, 'An 'Unseemly Cure,' where a young girl has been kidnapped to use as a Virgin Cure for the pox. In 'The Madness of Women,' Gus helps Lord Evan to rescue his sister, Lady Hester Belford, from Bothwell House asylum.
Narrated by Lady Augusta, an unmarried woman of independent means and aged 42 years, the pace is fast as Gus plunges into each exciting adventure, pulling her twin along with her. They face a hold-up, a murdering husband and evil brothel owners as well as the horror of an asylum as they go about rescuing women from dreadful fates.
The fast-paced action and plight of women are dominant themes and the growth of feelings between Gus and Lord Evan will please readers who enjoy romance. The everyday life of Gus and Julia with all its restrictions, entertainments and fashions, is vividly described. Some historical figures like Beau Brummel and Lady Caroline Lamb also make an appearance.
Goodman has researched the Regency period in depth and the reader will learn much about the way women were treated during these times. In her Author’s Note, she describes her sources which highlight the atrocities performed against women and which she so vividly describes in The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies. A list of discussion questions for book clubs reading the novel is also included.
Fans will be delighted that there is plenty of scope for another book in the series, as Gus is determined to prove that Lord Evan is innocent of the crime for which he was transported. While waiting for the sequel readers might like to move onto the classic Regency novels by Georgette Heyer.
Themes: Regency England, Mystery, Historical fiction, Feminism.