I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from impending ruin.
I made it almost to the end of my front garden.
(excerpt from the opening of A Most Improper Magick)
Outwardly, there is nothing much to separate Kat Stephenson’s family from the rest of Regency England: her father is a vicar, her stepmother an avid social climber who raises her three stepdaughters to be dainty ladies suitable for contracting profitable marriages. However, there is Kat’s mother, whom no one talks about–and not because she shamelessly ran off or flirted with one man too many. No, Kat’s mother was a witch: the kind that can make the teapot pour by itself at a social gathering, or cast love spells to make and break marriages.
Kat’s family is in desperate straits: her feckless brother has ruined them through gambling debts, and their only way of escape is for one of her elder sisters to marry a richer, older man–about whom there are some definitely unsavoury rumors. It’s up to Kat to save the day, with the help of her mother’s spell books and magical mirror.
I got this book on Saturday morning, and finished it by Saturday afternoon. It was a great romp: fast-paced, with some hilarious setpieces and some great character interactions. I loved the portrayal of the three sisters and how they stuck by each other; and Stephanie very nicely and concisely portrays the burden of social mores that were the characteristic of the time period. The storyline zips and turns as Kat keeps landing from one set of troubles into another (I especially loved poor Mr Carlyle, besotted by a stray love spell and who kept following Kat’s sister like a puppy), and the magic makes a nifty addition to an already packed storyline.
Oh, and it’s got highwaymen. Seriously, what more can you ask for?
(well, ok, I know what I can ask for. Book 2. But it looks I get to wait a year for that…)