Series Name: Dangerous Damsels, #2
“She did not want to breathe lest she break the spell. Here was some magic greater than witchery. She, Charlotte Pettifer, was participating in a romantic ballroom moment such as Jane Austen herself might have composted-albeit without a dreadful ant in pursuit. Nor a hero who was utterly devilish, with an earring and a hefty sword, not to mention a pair of boots that on their own would be censored from any decent novel. And also, she doubted her heroine would be quite as worldly as she herself had become this past week.”
A second book can be scarred by the sophomore slump, but never fear, India Holton’s The League of Gentlewomen Witches is a rousing success.
Miss Charlotte Pettifer belongs to a secret league of women skilled in the subtle arts. That is to say—although it must never be said—witchcraft. The League of Gentlewomen Witches strives to improve the world in small ways. Using magic, they tidy, correct, and manipulate according to their notions of what is proper, entirely unlike those reprobates in the Wisteria Society.
When the long lost amulet of Black Beryl is discovered, it is up to Charlotte, as the future leader of the League, to make sure the powerful talisman does not fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, it is most unfortunate when she crosses paths with Alex O’Riley, a pirate who is no Mr. Darcy. With all the world scrambling after the amulet, Alex and Charlotte join forces to steal it together. If only they could keep their pickpocketing hands to themselves! If Alex’s not careful, he might just steal something else—such as Charlotte’s heart.
The Wisteria Society for Lady Scoundrels was one of my favourite reads of 2021. I loved the bonkers, witty and swoony fantasy romance that India created. How could a second book top it? Well, I am happy to announce that India exceeded my expectations and kept me highly entertained while I read what may already be one of my favourite books of 2022. The League of Gentlewomen Witches picks up a little after The Wisteria Society ends. We meet Miss Charlotte (Lottie) Pettifer, who has been brought up to be the future leader of witches. She’s been raised with a gaggle of witches who have heavily influenced her on the roles of a witch in society (important), what kind of emotions (very little) she should feel and how she should act at all times (perfectly proper, even when stealing or casting spells). Lottie hides in books and is an avid reader of Jane Austen. She uses Jane’s heroines as lighthouses to direct her own life. But her world is turned upside down when she runs into the handsome Alex O’Riley, whom readers will remember for The Wisteria Society. Witches and pirates, although similar in their magic, do not get along. In fact they like to pretend that the other does not exist. I loved reading about Lottie and Alex’s adventures in this wacky world. In fact, I loved that India delved deeper into some world building and character building in the League of Gentlewomen Witches. We learn more about society, rules and roles all while India keeps the story rolling with her signature wit.
This book has a solid focus on romance. Lottie and Alex have a terrific meet-cute, and I’m hooked on them from the start. Lottie is smart, talented and snarky. She’s a bit of a terror and I adore her. Alex is the same handsome Irish rake whom we met in book one, but we learn more about his history throughout the story. Watching Alex and Lottie fall in love and then fall in like was so wonderful: like star-crossed lovers they know their love is forbidden, but they can’t stay away from each other. When they abduct each other to chase after a valuable magical amulet they find ways to expand their relationship while still trying to maintain their distance. India plays with some beloved romanceland tropes with delightful and bonkers results. The romance scenes are steamy and open door and very delightful. Their banter is stellar and made me laugh and sigh at points. Where I think the relationship really sings for me, though, was when Lottie and Alex dropped their personas and very vulnerably opened themselves up to each other. Every person should be so lucky as to have someone like Alex look at them and bring out their true shining character with his love. Oh, I’m swooning again.
I loved the cast of characters that India has continued to develop in book two of her series. We revisit some old friends including Ned, Cecilia and Lady Armitage as well as meet a whole new slew of witches, detectives and people who get in the way. India’s world is filled with smart feisty women and the men who adore them. But one character stole the show for me. Alex’s butler, Bixby, is a most magical character. He’s as proper as a butler to a pirate can be. He excels at cleaning up Alex’s mess while keeping the pirate house a float and his cocktail glass filled. He also develops a soft spot for Lottie and is one of her first true friends who sees her for who she is, all while keeping a stiff upper lip. I certainly hope to meet Bixby again.
I thoroughly enjoyed The League of Gentlewomen Witches: it’s smart, funny and self assured. It isn’t a normal romance or fantasy book, rather you have to throw yourself into India’s world and just let her take you along for the ride. While this is the second book in the series, I think you could read it as a stand alone, although you’d be seriously missing out if you didn’t read the first one too. I can hardly wait to see what India has in store for us next.
Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.