The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.
This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.
This weekend, take yourself off to Victorian London with a group of monstrously determined, loyal young women. Sure, they’ve had a rough start in life, but together, they’ll foil villains, beat back their personal demons, and make a sound argument for pockets in dresses.
Words like rollicking, escapade, romp, and caper exist to describe books like this one. But don’t underestimate it. With not one, but FIVE plucky heroines, it’s frothy and fun, yes, but it’s grounded in a bedrock of genuine feeling and harrowing backstories.
This is the first book in the series, set in an alternate version of Victorian London where the offspring of classic literary characters are flesh-and-blood girls. First, we meet Mary Jekyll, daughter of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous bipolar villain. We won’t give away the fun surprises by divulging the other members of the Athena Club, but you will recognize their names.
The girls, all technically monsters in their own way, struggle with their humanity and wrestle with what it means to do the right thing — finding the balance between tough and tender — while making peace with who they are. This first book is a romp through the British capital, where they join forces with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to solve a series of gruesome murders — and to learn the truth of their own mysterious origins.
It’s an exciting caper that includes, in no particular order, the danger of poisoning, a traveling circus, the revelation of family secrets, crazed scientists, a secret society, narrow escapes, and plenty of good-natured bickering as these flawed-but-indomitable heroines stumble their way through London to become a family.
Theodora Goss spins an enchanting narrative with the feel of an old-time Saturday-afternoon-serial, and each book in the series ends with a cliffhanger. Action, derring-do, literary references, and big feelings abound.
The other two books in this trilogy are equally delightful: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (#2) and The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (#3).
Theodora goes deep into the literary inspiration for her book, her research, and her affection for these remarkable heroines.
No wonder men did not want women to wear bloomers. What could women accomplish if they did not have to continually mind their skirts, keep them from dragging in the mud or getting trampled on the steps of an omnibus? If they had pockets! With pockets, women could conquer the world! — Theodora Goss
This historical fantasy (416 pages) was published in June of 2017 by Gallery/Saga Press. The book takes you to Victorian, England. Melissa read The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.
Top image courtesy of Claudio Testa/Unsplash.
Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is © 2022 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.