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The year is 1915 when sixteen-year-old Eliza Williams arrives at the Billings School for Girls in Easton, Connecticut. Her parents expect her to learn the qualites of a graceful, dutiful wife. But Eliza and her housemates have a dangerous secret: They're witches. After finding a dusty, leather bound spell book, the Billings Girls form a secret coven. Bonded in sisterhood, they cast spells—cursing their headmistress with laryngitis, brewing potions to bolster their courage before dances, and conjuring beautiful ...
The year is 1915 when sixteen-year-old Eliza Williams arrives at the Billings School for Girls in Easton, Connecticut. Her parents expect her to learn the qualites of a graceful, dutiful wife. But Eliza and her housemates have a dangerous secret: They're witches. After finding a dusty, leather bound spell book, the Billings Girls form a secret coven. Bonded in sisterhood, they cast spells—cursing their headmistress with laryngitis, brewing potions to bolster their courage before dances, and conjuring beautiful dresses out of old rags. The girls taste freedom and power for the first time, but what starts out as innocent fun turns sinister when one of the spells has an unexpected-and deadly-consequence. Magic could bring Eliza everything she's ever wanted...but it could also destroy everything she holds dear.
Even at the tender age of sixteen, Elizabeth Williams was the rare girl who knew her mind. She knew she preferred summer to all other seasons. She knew she couldn’t stand the pink-and-yellow floral wallpaper the decorator had chosen for her room. She knew that she would much rather spend time with her blustery, good-natured father than her ever-critical, humorless mother—though the company of either was difficult to come by. And she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that going away to the Billings School for Girls was going to be the best thing that ever happened to her.
As she sat in the cushioned seat of her bay window overlooking sun-streaked Beacon Hill, she folded her dog-eared copy of The Jungle in her lap, making sure to keep her finger inside to hold her place. She placed her feet, new buckled shoes and all, up on the pink cushions and pressed her temple against the warm glass with a wistful sigh. It was September 1915, and Boston was experiencing an Indian summer, with temperatures scorching the sidewalks and causing the new automobiles to sputter and die along the side of the roads. Eliza would have given anything to be back at the Cape Cod house, running along the shoreline in her bathing clothes, splashing in the waves, her swim cap forgotten and her dark hair tickling her shoulders. But instead, here she was, buttoned into a stiff green cotton dress her mother had picked out for her, the wide white collar itching her neck.
Any minute now, Maurice would bring the coach around and squire her off to the train station, where she and her maid, Renee, would board a train for Easton, Connecticut, and the Billings School. The moment she got to her room in Crenshaw House, she was going to change into her most comfortable linen dress, jam her floppy brown hat over her hair, and set out in search of the library. Because living at a school more than two hours away from home meant that her mother couldn’t control her. Couldn’t criticize her. Couldn’t nitpick every little thing she wore, every book she read, every choice she made. Being away at school meant freedom.
Of course, Eliza’s mother had other ideas. If her wishes came true, Billings would turn Eliza into a true lady. Eliza would catch herself a worthy husband, and she would return home by Christmas triumphantly engaged, just as her sister, May, had.
After two years at Billings, eighteen-year-old May was now an engaged woman—and to a Thackery, no less: George Thackery III, of the Thackery tanning fortune. She’d come home in June, diamond ring and all, and was now officially their mother’s favorite—though truly, she had been that all along.
Suddenly, the thick oak door of Eliza’s private bedroom opened and in walked her mother, Rebecca Cornwall Williams. Her blond hair billowed like a cloud around her head, and her stylish, ankle-length gray skirt tightened her steps. She wore a matching tassel-trimmed jacket over her dress, even in this ridiculous heat. The Williams pearls were, as always, clasped around her throat. As she entered, her eyes flicked over Eliza and her casual posture and flashed with exasperation. Eliza quickly sat up, smoothed her skirt, straightened her back, and attempted to tuck her book behind her.
“Hello, Mother,” she said with the polished politeness that usually won over the elder Williams. “How are you this morning?”
Her mother’s discerning blue eyes narrowed as she walked toward her daughter.
“Your sister and I are going to shop for wedding clothes. We’ve come to say our good-byes,” she said formally.
Out in the hallway, May hovered, holding her tan leather gloves and new brimless hat at her waist. May’s blond hair was pulled back in a stylish chignon, which complemented her milky skin and round, rosy cheeks. Garnets dangled from her delicate earlobes. She always looked elegant, even when she was destined only for a simple day of shopping.
Standing over Eliza, her mother leaned down and snatched the book right out from under Eliza’s skirt.
“The Jungle?” she said, holding the book between her thumb and forefinger. “Elizabeth, you cannot be seen at Billings reading this sort of rot. Modern novels are not proper for a young lady. Especially not a Williams.”
Eliza’s gaze flicked to her sister, who quickly looked away. A few years ago, May would have defended Eliza’s literary choices, but not anymore. For the millionth time Eliza wondered how May could have changed so much. When she’d gone away to school, she’d been adventurous, tomboyish, sometimes even brash. It was as if falling in love had turned her sister into a different person. If winning a diamond ring from a boy meant forgetting who she was, then Eliza was determined to die an old maid.
“Headmistress Almay has turned out some of the finest ladies of society, and I intend for you to be one of them,” Eliza’s mother continued.
What about what I intend? Eliza thought.
“And you won’t be bringing this. I don’t want the headmistress thinking she’s got a daydreamer on her hands.” Her mother turned and tossed Eliza’s book into the crate near the door—the one piled with old toys and dresses meant for the hospital bazaar her mother was helping to plan.
Eliza looked down at the floor, her eyes aflame and full of tears. Then her mother did something quite unexpected. She clucked her tongue and ran her hands from Eliza’s shoulders down her arms until they were firmly holding her hands. Eliza couldn’t remember the last time her mother had touched her.
“Come, now. Let me look at you,” her mother said.
Eliza raised her chin and looked her mother in the eye. The older woman tilted her head and looked Eliza over. She nudged a stray hair behind her daughter’s ear, tucking it deftly into her updo. Then she straightened the starched white collar on Eliza’s traveling dress.
“This green really does bring out your eyes,” she mused. “You are a true beauty, Eliza. Never underestimate yourself.”
An unbearable thickness filled Eliza’s throat. Part of her wanted to thank her mother for saying something so very kind, while another part of her wanted to shout that her entire life was not going to be built around her beauty—that she hoped to be known for something more. But neither sentiment left her tongue, and silence reigned in the warm pink room.
“May. The book,” her mother said suddenly, snapping her fingers.
Startled, May slipped a book from the hall table, where it had been hidden from view, and, taking a step into the room, handed it to her mother.
“This is for you, Eliza,” her mother said, holding the book out. “A going-away gift.”
Silently, Eliza accepted the gorgeous sandalwood leather book with both hands, relishing the weight of it. She opened the cover, her eyes falling on the thick parchment pages. They were blank. She looked up at her mother questioningly.
“Today is the beginning of a whole new life, Eliza,” her mother said. “You’re going to want to remember every moment . . . and I hope you’ll remember home as well when you write in it.”
Eliza hugged the book to her chest. “Thank you, Mother,” she said.
“Now remember, May is one of Billings’s most revered graduates,” her mother said, her tone clipped once again. “You have a lot to live up to, Elizabeth. Don’t disappoint me.”
Then she leaned in and gave Eliza a brief, dry kiss on the forehead.
Eliza rolled her blue eyes as her mother shuffled back down the hall. Then she bent to pluck her book from the box but froze as something caught her eye: May was still hovering in the hallway.
“May?” Eliza said. Usually her sister trailed her mother like the tail of a comet.
May looked furtively down the hall after their mother, then took a step toward Eliza’s open door. There was something about her manner that set the tiny hairs on Eliza’s neck on end.
“May, what is it?” Eliza asked, her pulse beginning to race.
“I just wanted to tell you . . . about Billings . . . about Crenshaw House,” May whispered, leaning into the doorjamb. “Eliza . . . there’s something you need to know.”
“What?” Eliza asked, breathless. “What is it?”
“May Williams! I’m waiting!” their mother called from the foot of the stairs.
May started backward. “Oh, I must go.”
Eliza grabbed her sister’s wrist.
“May, please. I’m your sister. If there’s something you need to tell me—”
May covered Eliza’s hand with her own and looked up into her eyes. “Just promise me you’ll be careful,” she said earnestly, her blue eyes shining. “Promise me, Eliza, that you’ll be safe.”
Eliza blinked. “Of course, May. Of course I’ll be safe. What could possibly harm me at a place like Billings?”
The sound of hurried footsteps on the stairs stopped them both. Renee rushed into view, holding her skirts up, her eyes wide with terror—the sort of terror only Rebecca Williams could inspire in her servants.
“May! Your mother is fit to burst,” she said through her teeth. “Mind your manners and get downstairs now.”
A tortured noise sounded from the back of May’s throat. Then she quickly gave Eliza a kiss on the cheek, squeezing her hands tightly. “I love you, Eliza. Always remember that. No matter what happens.”
Then she released Eliza and was gone.
© 2010 Alloy Entertainment and Kieran Viola
Posted September 29, 2011
I am not the kind of girl who reads historical fiction novels, nor am I particularly interested in fantasy. However, despite its language, explicit behavior, and other things parents might not find suitable for lower teenagers like me, the Private- and Privilege- series have caught my eye and sealed it shut. I didn't think I'd like the Book of Spells---isn't that always the case---- but I have to admit a little pinch of history here and there added a hint of charm to the novel. As stated a million times, it's about a few girls who start a coven after discovering a spellbook in the chapel basement of their elite boarding school. Yada, yada. Add a bratty and spoiled girl who turns out to be hurt deep inside and a typical love triangle; you've got the plotline of an average book. But Kate Brian takes it to whole new level---- readers will have no clue what attracts them, but sure they'll be buzzing around the bookshelf like flies! I wish there were other books out there like this one. you must read it!!!
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Posted January 18, 2011
Leave it to Kate Brian to take the world of Billings and rewind it back to the early 1900's, and still leave you with a racing heartbeat! This prequel looks back to when Billings School for Girls was known for turning out refined ladies who were the catch to have in the 1900's. Eliza Williams is going there in the footsteps of her older sister May, who is already engaged and supposedly the model student. Eliza wants adventure and intrigue, but all she will get at school is lessons on how to serve tea and sit properly. But all that changes when the girls run across the hidden room at the chapel on campus and The Book Of Spells hidden in a trunk. Suddenly Eliza, her best friend Catherine, Theresa and the other girls who form the coven, are in way over their heads. Unfortunately Catherine perishes during this book, but I see so many character parallels that you can almost think of what might happen if it was the up to date characters of the Private series. Theresa is the leader of the group, very much like Noelle, and Eliza and Reed are very similar too.
This is good reading for anyone who is into the Private series, but other than good background material, there is not anything new, but I bet there will be alot of flashbacks in the new book out next month. Still, its good for a fast read. Unlike the modern day Private, the language is more Victorian and genteel. Its a different style, but I liked it for a short change.
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Posted January 6, 2011
This book was SO GOOD! I would read it again! I have been reading the Private series since 6th grade that was 3 years ago and I still LOVE them! The characters reminded me of Noelle and Reed because Theresa was like Noelle. Controlled everything and always had to have her way. Catherine was like Reed because there outgoing and doesn't really listen to anything. Some events were sad like... Someone died and i really liked that character. Another thing is that I wish Harrison and Catherine got together. They seemed sooooo CUTE! But oh well. There's plenty of that in the next book. I hope! All together this was My 2nd favorite in the Private Series. If you haven't read them yet... YOU HAVE TOO! There so good!
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Posted April 28, 2012
Im about to cry right now because i love the private serious since i was eleven. This prequel was wonderful. It was soo beautiful how the legacys acted in 1915 the love , friendship , & tragedies. Theresa, Helen and Eliza were really bold towards the end. I LOVE This Boook Sooo Much And I Wish It Was A Sequel But Of Course Thats Not The Point But I Wish The Real Cathrine Hadnt Been Killed :( #Enjoy
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Posted March 18, 2012
Posted March 6, 2012
Posted September 22, 2011
Set in the early 20th century Book of Spells introduces Eliza Williams a modern thinking teen ahead of her time. She has more of a romantic view on education and what unladylike books she can read then the silly notion of finding a husband. As she enters the Billings School Eliza is excited for the freedom to learn whatever she wants without thought to decorum only to learn Billings is more of a finishing school for proper ladies than the cultivating institute of academic knowledge she craves. Still Eliza is determined not to have her spirit crushed like her sister, but nothings going according plan, plus there's a boy who she can't stop thinking about. Unfortunately he's taken. Soon Eliza and her new friends stumble upon a magical treasure. Everything seems fine and balanced for a while, but tragedy strikes and Eliza and her coven will cross a line that will have repercussions for generations.
I haven't read any of Brian's novels and thought this would be a great start, but Book of Spells is filled with typical characters and story lines. Eliza is the bright eyed forward thinking rebel, whose refreshing outspoken views on politics and literature charms the male lead. Theresa is the rich spoiled bad girl starving for attention competing for alpha status over Eliza, but who really just wants to be loved. And Catherine is the mediator and constant, she's the pure and good one who acts as a bridge not just for the characters but for the story. All these players are cookie cutter characters, we see repeated over and over again. Eliza has that Jo quality, but falls for a guy and goes back and forth on whether or not to be with him. She feels like she's becoming exactly what she was avoiding, the proper starter wife, instead of seeing that her beau likes who she is. She can have love and keep herself. Win Win. Not that it matters. All the characters become annoying and unlikable after a while, either for their personalities, predictability, or horrid choices.
The storyline and love triangle aren't much better. You know when she meets the boy there's going to be a hitch and exactly who that person is. Or that no matter what they do with magic that it's going to have a price. I thought it would be OK, but then the ending was also unsatisfying. Unfortunately all these scenes reminded me of better books and similar characters and after all the predictability there's no real resolve at the end. No feel good conclusion. No payoff. And no indication of a sequel to answer any lingering questions.
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Posted September 6, 2010
I'm so excited! I love historical fiction, especially with magic. This is going to be so great, i can't hardly wait until September :(
1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2013
Posted November 18, 2012
Awful, This series had nothing to do with anything paranormal which was great and actually refreshing. How can you take a normal series that was enjoyable and mysterious to this. Once this book hit the stores I got it and it changed my perspective on the whole series in general. I feel as though the author just decided to throw this in the mix, because she didn't know what else to write about. Or maybe felt that competition with all the paranormal books was overwhelming. Nonetheless, I was a sad girl when I read this.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 29, 2012
When i first started reading this book i was like the book is okay. Then when i was reading more and more of the book i couldnt put the book down. Every little chance i got i was reading this book. Then when i finished the book, i was yelling out SEQUEL SEQUEL I NEED THE SEQUEL NOW. Thats how much i love this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2012
Posted June 12, 2012
In this book everything about a witch is true :the book, the spells, the girls themselves, and the rituals. I seriously couldn't put this book down when I started it. My sister was actually the one to pick it out and I really didn't think I'd like it but it turns out that I loves it. I have a whole buncha never forgotten books in the back of my mind and this is one of few. Everything about it is amazing! Take my word for it , it's a book for teens and young adults.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 3, 2012
Posted January 31, 2012
Posted December 28, 2011
This book will keep u reading. You wouldn't want to put it down. It made me wish that i could travel into the book and be a witch with the other Billings girls, a great read 8 )Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 27, 2011
Posted November 17, 2011
Posted September 8, 2011
This book, was good.. I LOVED how the author wrote it.. but I didnt like how it ended so abruptly. I mean *SPOILER ALERT* She never told us what happened with Harrison, or Theresa, or the other girls... But I love Kate Brian and this is another great book by her:) Id recommend it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2011
A great book! Unlike other books I read, the begginning was very compelling and the rest of the book was simply addicting. Conclusions are a big part of the book for me, so I was very dissapointed when she ended the conflict of the book so abruptly. On another note, the conflicts leading up to the end was wonderful to read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.