Now in paperback, the first installment of a Regency era trilogy starring a feisty heroine with a taste for adventure.
Twelve-year-old Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she’s inherited her late mother’s magical talents, and despite Stepmama’s stern objections, she’s determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa’s intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat’s magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, Kat’s reckless heroism will be tested to the utmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true loves?
In this charming blend of Jane Austen–era culture, magical whimsy, and rollicking adventure, readers will find a true friend in the refreshingly unladylike Kat Stephenson.
About the Author
Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but fell in love with Regency England when she discovered the novels of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. The author of Kat, Incorrigible; Renegade Magic; and Stolen Magic; she decided to be a writer when she was seven and sold her first short story when she was fifteen. Stephanie lives with her husband, fellow writer Patrick Samphire, their son, and their dog in Wales. Visit her at StephanieBurgis.com.
Read an Excerpt
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.
“Katherine Ann Stephenson!” My oldest sister Elissa’s outraged voice pinned me like a dagger as she threw open her bedroom window. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?”
Curses. I froze, still holding my pack slung across my shoulder. I might be my family’s best chance of salvation, but there was no expecting either of my older sisters to understand that. If they’d trusted me in the first place, I wouldn’t have had to run away in the middle of the night, like a criminal.
The garden gate was only two feet ahead of me. If I hurried . . .
“I’m going to tell Papa!” Elissa hissed.
Behind her, I heard groggy, incoherent moans of outrage—my other sister, Angeline, waking up.
Elissa was the prissiest female ever to have been born. But Angeline was simply impossible. If they really did wake the whole household, and Papa came after me in the gig . . .
I’d planned to walk to the closest coaching inn, six miles away, and catch the dawn stagecoach to London. If Papa caught up with me first, the sad, disappointed looks I’d have to endure from him for weeks afterward would be unbearable. And the way Stepmama would gloat over my disgrace—the second of our mother’s children to be a disappointment to the family . . .
I gritted my teeth together as I turned and trudged back toward the vicarage.
Angeline’s voice floated lazily through the open window. “What were you shouting about?”
“I was not shouting!” Elissa snapped. “Ladies never shout.”
“You could have fooled me,” said Angeline. “I thought the house must have been burning down.”
I pushed the side door open just in time to hear my brother, Charles, bellow, “Would everyone be quiet? Some of us are trying to sleep!”
“What? What?” My father’s reedy voice sounded from his bedroom at the head of the stairs. “What’s going on out there?”
My stepmother’s voice overrode his. “For heaven’s sake, make them be quiet, George! It’s past midnight. You cannot let them constantly behave like hoydens. Be firm, for once!”
I groaned and closed the door behind me.
Like it or not, I was home.
I squeezed through the narrow kitchen and tiptoed up the rickety staircase that led to the second floor. When I was a little girl and Mama’s influence still lingered in the house, each of the stairs had whispered my name as I stepped onto them, and they never let me trip. Now, the only sound they made was the telltale creak of straining wood.
The door to Papa and Stepmama’s room swung open as I reached the head of the first flight of stairs, and I stopped, resigned.
“Kat?” Papa blinked out at me, peering through the darkness. He held a candle in his hand. “What’s amiss?”
“Nothing, Papa,” I said. “I just went downstairs for some milk.”
“Oh. Well.” He coughed and ran a hand over his faded nightcap. “Er, your stepmother is quite right. You should all be in bed and quiet at this hour.”
“Yes, Papa.” I hoisted the heavy sack higher on my shoulder. “I’m just going back to bed now.”
“Good, good. And the others?”
“I’ll tell them to be quiet,” I said. “Don’t worry.”
“Good girl.” He reached out to pat my shoulder. A frown crept across his face. “Ah . . . is something wrong, my dear?”
“I don’t mean to be critical, er, but your clothing seems . . . it appears . . . well, it does look a trifle unorthodox.”
I glanced down at the boy’s breeches, shirt, and coat that I wore. “I was too cold for a nightgown,” I said.
“But . . .” He frowned harder. “There’s something about your hair, I don’t quite know what—”
My stepmother’s voice cut him off. “Would you please stop talking and come back to bed, George? I cannot be expected to sleep with all this noise!”
“Ah. Right. Yes, of course.” Papa gave a quick nod and turned away. “Sleep well, Kat.”
“And you, sir.”
I tiptoed up the last five steps that led to the second-floor landing. The doors to Charles’s room and my sisters’ room were both closed. If I was very, very lucky . . .
I leaped toward the ladder that led up to the attic where I slept.
No such luck. The door to my sisters’ room jerked open.
“Come in here now!” Elissa said. I couldn’t make out her features in the darkness, but I could tell that she had her arms crossed.
“‘Ladies don’t cross their arms like common fish-wives,’” I whispered, quoting one of Elissa’s own favorite maxims as I stalked past her into their room.
Elissa slammed the door behind her.
“Give us light, Angeline,” she said. “I want to see her face.”
Angeline was already lighting a candle. When the tinder finally caught and the candle lit, the sound of my sisters’ gasps filled the room.
I crossed my arms over my chest and glared right back at them.
“You—you—” Elissa couldn’t even speak. She collapsed onto her side of the bed, gasping and pressing one slender hand to her heart.
Angeline shook her head, smirking. “Well, that’s torn it.”
“Don’t use slang,” Elissa said. Being able to give one of her most common reproofs seemed to revive her spirits a little; the color came flooding back into her face. With her fair hair and pale skin, I could always tell her mood from her face, and right now, she was as horrified as I’d ever seen her. She took a deep, deep breath. “Katherine,” she said, in a voice that was nearly steady. “Would you care to explain yourself to us?”
“No,” I said. “I wouldn’t.” I lifted my chin, fighting for height. I was shorter than either of my sisters, a curse in situations like this.
“What is there to explain?” Angeline said. “It’s obvious. Kat’s finally decided to run off to the circus, where she belongs.”
“I do not!”
“No?” Angeline’s full lips twisted as she looked at me. “With that haircut, I don’t know where else you hoped to go. Perhaps if you hid behind all the other animals—”
“Shut up!” I lunged for her straight across the room.
Their bed was in the way. I hit my knees on it, then flung aside my sack and crawled across the bed to get to her. Angeline’s taunting laughter made my vision blur with rage. I landed on her, punching blindly, and kept on fighting even after she’d shoved me down onto the bed and wrapped her arm around my neck, half strangling me.
“Stop it!” Elissa shrieked.
Something heavy hit the other side of the wall: Charles signifying his displeasure. Across the stairwell, a door opened. Footsteps approached. A firm knock sounded on the door.
We all froze. We knew that knock.
“You’ve done it now, haven’t you?” Angeline whispered into my ear.
“Cow,” I whispered back.
“What’s happening in there?” our stepmother demanded, through the door.
Angeline shoved me off the bed and onto the floor. When I tried to stand up, she put one hand on my newly short hair and pushed me straight back down. “Stay where you are!” she hissed. “She mustn’t see you like this.” She looked across the bed at Elissa. “You try to fob her off.”
Elissa was already moving for the door, her face suddenly angelic and serene. “I’m coming, Stepmama,” she called. “Just a moment.” She stopped just short of the door and whispered, “Put that light out! Quick!”
Angeline blew the candle out and threw herself back into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin.
I huddled on the cold floor in the darkness while Elissa opened the door.
“What do you think—”
“We are so sorry for the noise, Stepmama,” Elissa murmured. “Angeline had a fright and fell out of bed.”
“All that screaming . . .” Stepmama’s voice drew nearer. I could imagine what was happening, even though I couldn’t see it: She was poking her sharp nose into the room, peering around in hopes of mischief. It was her never-ending quest: to prove to Papa how incorrigible we all were. Just like our mother had been.
“Angeline had a terrible nightmare,” Elissa said, and I was amazed by how well my saintly sister could lie when she was properly motivated.
“Perhaps I should come in and look things over,” Stepmama said.
“Ohhh . . . ,” Angeline moaned from the bed. Angeline, unlike Elissa, never found any difficulty in lying. “Oh, my poor stomach . . .”
Stepmama sighed and started forward. “If you’re ill, I’d better—”
“I was ill,” Angeline said. “All over the floor.”
“Oh.” Stepmama came to an abrupt halt. “Where—?”
“Do watch where you step,” Elissa said sweetly. “I haven’t had a chance to clean it up quite yet, so—”
Stepmama’s feet shuffled back hastily. “Well,” she said. “Well. I’m sure that you’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep, Angeline. But see that you girls take care of the mess first. And no more noise!”
The door closed, and her footsteps moved away. I stayed frozen until her bedroom door had opened and closed again on the other side of the stairwell. As I finally moved, my hand slipped on the wooden floor and slid across two familiar, oddly shaped books hidden just beneath the bed.
I knew those books. They weren’t supposed to be here. They were supposed to be locked away with the rest of our mother’s keepsakes, where Papa and Stepmama hoped we would all forget that they had ever existed. Just like Mama herself.
I started to pick them up, then stopped. Now wasn’t the time to ask either of my sisters provocative questions.
“Whew.” I stood up and stretched to relieve my cramped muscles as Angeline relit the candle. “Well, I’d better go up to bed and sleep now, as Stepmama said, so—”
“Don’t even think about it,” said Angeline. Her arm shot out and grabbed the back of my jacket, pinning me to the side of the bed. “Open up her pack, Elissa. Let’s see what Kat was planning to take away with her.”
“I’m not a thief,” I muttered.
Angeline threw me a look of amused contempt. “I never thought you were, ninny. I just wondered what sort of practical provisioning you’d made to prepare for your journey.”
“Journey?” Elissa said. Her voice came out in a gasp. “What journey?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” said Angeline. “What else did you think she was doing, dressed up as a boy and heading out in the middle of the night? She was running away, weren’t you, Kat?”
I gritted my teeth and stood silent under her grasp.
“You couldn’t—why—” Elissa collapsed onto the bed. “Whatever would make you do such a thing? How could you even think—?”
“I didn’t have a choice!” The words burst out between my gritted teeth. “It was the only way I could stop you from being an idiot!”
“Me?” Elissa stared at me.
“If you’re trying to fool us with one of your wild stories—,” Angeline began.
I glowered at her. “And you. You were going to let her do it!”
“Do what?” said Elissa. “What is she talking about?”
“I heard Stepmama!” I said to Elissa. “She was positively gloating about it to Papa. All about how she’d managed to save the whole family by selling you off to some horrible old man. And you hadn’t even told me! You two never tell me anything! I knew if I tried to argue, you wouldn’t pay any attention, so—”
“Oh, Lord,” Angeline said. “I knew if she found out—”
“At least I was going to do something about it.” I swung on Angeline. “You were just going to let her sacrifice herself.”
“And what exactly was your plan?” Angeline asked. “Once you’d fitted yourself out like a monkey—”
“I was going to London,” I said. “I knew if I ran away, there would be such a scandal that Stepmama wouldn’t be able to sell Elissa off. And once I was there . . .” I half closed my eyes, to see my dream past my sister’s skeptical face. “There are thousands of jobs a boy can get in London. I could sign on to a merchant ship and make my fortune in the Indies, or I could be a typesetter at a newspaper and see every part of London. All I’d have to do is get work, real work, earning money, and then I could send part of it home to you two, so at least you could both have real dowries and then—”
“Oh, you little fool,” Elissa said, and the words came out in a half sob. “Come here, Kat.” Angeline let go of me, and I crawled over the bed to Elissa’s warm embrace. She wrapped her arms around me, and I felt her tears land on my short hair. “Promise me you won’t ever do anything so rash and unnecessary ever again.”
“But—” My voice came out muffled against her nightgown.
Angeline spoke from behind me. “How long do you think you would have survived in London on your own, idiot? And who do you think would have hired you, coming from the countryside with no references, no one who knows you to give you a good word, no skills or experience—”
“I have skills!” I said.
“Not the sort that get young men hired,” Angeline said implacably. “And when they found out you weren’t really a boy . . .”
Elissa shuddered and tightened her arms around me. “It isn’t to be thought of,” she said. “The danger you would have been exposed to—”
“The danger she would have walked straight into, without even thinking twice,” Angeline corrected her.
“I could have taken care of myself,” I said. “Charles taught me how to box and fence last year when he was sent down from Oxford for bad behavior.”
“Charles is a fool,” said Angeline, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t half as good at boxing or fencing as he claims to be.”
The three of us sat for a moment in depressed silence, acknowledging the truth of that.
Elissa sighed. “But the point is, darling, it isn’t necessary for you to save me.”
“Who else is going to do it?” I struggled up out of her embrace. “I am not going to let you sell yourself off just so Stepmama can buy us all dozens of new gowns and seasons in London and—”
“And keep our brother from being sent to debtors’ prison,” Angeline said evenly.
I snorted. “You should know better than to listen to Stepmama’s moans. She’s just hysterical about—”
“It’s true,” said Elissa. “I saw the evidence myself. Papa borrowed everything he could to pay off Charles’s dreadful gambling debts, but he couldn’t cover all of them. If we can’t come up with the money to pay the rest within two months, poor Charles will have to go to debtors’ prison.”
“‘Poor Charles,’ my foot,” said Angeline. “Going to debtors’ prison is exactly what Charles deserves.”
I looked from Angeline to Elissa. “But surely—”
“If Charles goes to debtors’ prison, we will all be ruined,” Elissa said. “None of us would ever receive an eligible offer of marriage after that. You know our family is already considered . . . well . . .” She bit her lip.
“I know,” I said. Stepmama was only too ready to remind us, anytime one of us forgot. There were plenty of people in Society who would always look at us askance just because of our mother, no matter how properly we behaved or what our dowries were. It was one reason why I had decided long ago not to bother behaving properly. “But that can’t be enough to make you marry an old man! Whoever he is.”
“Sir Neville Collingwood,” Angeline said. “One of the wealthiest men in England. You can see why Stepmama chose him, can’t you?”
“He’s not so very old, Kat,” Elissa said. She clasped her hands together and looked down at them. “I don’t think he can be above forty, and—”
“And Stepmama says he is supposed to be quite handsome.”
“Supposed to be? She hasn’t even met him herself?”
“We’ve been very fortunate even to gain this one opportunity.” Elissa’s voice sounded strained. “Stepmama has good relations, you know.”
“Ha,” I said.
“Well, she has connections, at any rate,” Elissa said. “It was through them that she found out that Sir Neville is coming into Yorkshire—and that she arranged for us to meet him.”
“Sir Neville will be part of a monthlong house party at Grantham Abbey, thirty miles from here,” Angeline said briskly. “Stepmama has arranged for all of us to be guests there as well, because everyone knows that Sir Neville is looking for another wife.”
“Another?” I repeated. “What happened to his first one?”
“That doesn’t matter,” Elissa said. She was knotting her fingers so tightly together now that her knuckles had turned white. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me. For all of us. Sir Neville is . . . he is . . .”
“He is so wealthy, he could pay off all Charles’s debts for the rest of his life, without even noticing,” Angeline said. “And since Papa and Stepmama can’t keep Charles locked up in the house forever, it makes a great deal of sense for at least one of us to have a husband like that.”
“I don’t mind, Kat. Truly,” Elissa said. “I always wanted to marry a man who could help my family. Sir Neville is a great man in Society.”
I frowned at her. “Then why do you look so miserable?”
“Never mind that.” Angeline put one hand on Elissa’s knotted fingers, and for a moment I felt completely shut out as they looked at each other with sympathetic understanding.
“What is it?” I said. “What aren’t you telling me this time?”
“Nothing, darling,” Elissa said. “Just go up to bed now. We’re all too tired to talk properly. Come back in the morning before breakfast, and I’ll fix your hair. And please, don’t worry about me anymore. I am perfectly happy. Truly.”
“But . . .” I stood up slowly, still frowning at my two sisters and trying to guess the secret I could feel hanging between them. “If you marry Sir Neville, do you think he’ll give Angeline a dowry?”
“I hope so,” said Elissa.
“It doesn’t matter whether he does or not,” Angeline said, and flashed me a dangerous smile. “I have my own plans for that.”
Ha. At least that gave me one clue.
Perhaps Angeline and Elissa wanted to play at keeping more secrets from me, but I would wager anything that there was one secret Angeline hadn’t dared to share with our sweet, proper oldest sister.
I’d recognized the books hidden underneath Angeline’s side of the bed. They were Mama’s old magic books.
Now all I had to do was figure out what Angeline was planning to do with them.
If my plan had worked, I would have woken upthe next morning in a stagecoach heading toward London, with a whole new life waiting to unfold before me. I would have breakfasted on apples and cheese with the passengers around me, heard all their stories, and been halfway adopted as an honorary nephew into all their families by the time we reached London.
Instead, I had to face my own family.
I walked into the breakfast room at eight o’clock, and Stepmama’s jaw fell wide open, exposing a mouthful of mashed toast.
“Katherine Ann Stephenson!” she uttered in a dreadful tone. “Whatever have you done to your hair?”
I dipped a curtsy to Papa and made my way to the sideboard, where bread and jam and kippers were laid out. “I like it,” I said. I did, too, especially now that Elissa had straightened out the crooked edges. After one morning without the bother of hairpins, I was ready to keep my hair short for life.
“I thought something was different,” Papa said, with quiet satisfaction. “Good morning, dear.”
“George!” Stepmama flung down her napkin. “For heaven’s sake. Your daughter has just chopped off all her hair. Is ‘I thought something was different’ really all you can say?”
“Not all her hair, surely.” Papa peered up at me from behind his book. “Ah, no. No, there’s still a bit left. It’s rather . . .” He frowned thoughtfully. “It’s rather boyish, actually.”
“Quite,” Stepmama said. “That is exactly my point. Aren’t you going to ask her how she could do such a thing without even asking your permission?”
Papa said tentatively, “Did you ask my permission, Kat?”
“Kat’s new haircut is quite stylish, don’t you think?” Elissa said softly. “She looks just like the model in the Mirror of Fashion now.”
“But with a rather higher-cut décolletage,” Angeline said dryly. Mischief sparked in her eyes as she slid a glance at our stepmother. “What did you think of that latest style, ma’am?”
“Oh!” Stepmama shook her head. “None of my stepdaughters will ever appear in public with such low-cut gowns as I saw in that journal. It is absolutely shocking what young ladies in London nowadays are up to. In my day . . .”
“Shocking indeed,” Angeline murmured, and winked at me.
You might have thought, if you didn’t know my sisters, that I could have just asked Angeline straight out about Mama’s magic books.
But I knew better. If Angeline even suspected that I knew about the books, she would find them a new and better hiding place before I could even get the question out of my mouth. Then she’d devise one of her diabolically cunning punishments for my nosiness, and that was the last thing I wanted. No, I’d have to work the mystery out for myself.
Luckily, Stepmama took Elissa and Angeline out directly after breakfast to shop for fabric for new gowns—to impress Sir Neville, I supposed. There was only enough room in the gig for two people to travel with her to the fabric shop in the village, and no one asked if I wanted to be one of them. They knew better.
As soon as the gig rattled out of sight, I hurtled upstairs, hiking up my skirts and taking the creaking old steps two at a time. Charles let out a groggy roar from his room at the noise, but I ignored him. I headed straight for Angeline and Elissa’s bedroom.
They ought to be gone for at least two hours. But if anything went wrong . . . I imagined Angeline’s expression if she caught me reading the books. I shuddered.
I would have to hurry.
I darted into the room and over the bed to Angeline’s side. When I passed my hand underneath, all I felt was the bare wooden floor. Where had they gone?
I lay down to peer under the bed. Aha. She’d only pushed the books deeper in. I wriggled underneath, choking on dust, and emerged a moment later, holding them both. Victory!
A sneeze caught me by surprise. Then another one. I almost dropped the books. When I finally stopped sneezing, I glanced down and groaned. I was completely covered in dust, all the way across the front of my white gown. If Stepmama saw me like this, she’d throw a fit. And if Angeline saw me . . .
If Angeline saw me, she would know exactly what I had been up to. Curse her! Had she planned it this way? No, surely not—even Angeline couldn’t be that devious. But still, whether she’d planned this warning system or not, I knew I’d just lost half an hour from my reading time. First I’d have to put the books back exactly where I’d found them. Then I’d have to change my gown and wash the telltale dust from this one, all before the others came home from their shopping trip.
I gritted my teeth and ran out of the room before I could lose any more time.
I didn’t go to my own windowless attic room. That wouldn’t be nearly safe enough. Instead I hurried back downstairs and out the back door, heading for my favorite lookout spot—the old oak tree behind the vicarage, overlooking the graveyard. From my perch in the tree, I’d be able to spot Stepmama’s gig from half a mile off as it came circling back up the winding road from the village.
I clambered up the wide, knobbly trunk and settled comfortably into the crook of one of the big central branches. My legs dangled in the air, and I kicked off my shoes, letting them fall to the grass. Through the ground-floor window of the vicarage, I could see Papa reading one of his hundreds of old books. A fresh breeze ruffled the leaves of the oak tree and set the yew trees in the graveyard to swaying gently. The road beyond was empty beneath the bright blue summer sky.
I adjusted my shoulders against the rough bark of the tree trunk and opened the first book.
A Diary of Magick, I read, in looping purple handwriting. Olivia Amberson’s Own Book.
Amberson had been Mama’s maiden name. That was one of the only things I knew about my mother. She’d died ten days after I was born, and a nursemaid raised me for the first few years, until my sisters were old enough to take over. I would have been more grateful to them if it hadn’t left them so smugly convinced, no matter how old I grew, that I was still a mere child.
Papa never talked about Mama. It wasn’t until he’d married Stepmama, though, that I’d realized Mama had been a disgrace. It was the first time I’d ever felt close to her memory. I was always in trouble, too.
Stepmama always said that it was a great trial to be the wife of a clergyman, especially one with such a poor income as Papa. She only hated it for the lack of money, though, which meant the lack of fashionable clothing, London townhouses, and scandalous gossip at close hand. It must have been even harder for Mama to be a clergyman’s wife, since she was a witch.
Elissa wouldn’t talk about Mama anymore—she had been seven years old when Mama died, but the memories still made her too melancholy, she said. Angeline told me once, though, about the disaster that happened when Papa’s patron, Squire Briggs, was invited to tea at the vicarage, two months before I was born. Angeline was only five at the time, but she said she had never forgotten it.
“Mama got distracted as she poured the tea,” Angeline told me. A smirk pulled at her full lips as she remembered. “Papa and Elissa were both so appalled, but I thought it was hilarious.”
“What did she do? Did she spill the tea?”
“Oh, no. Nothing like that.” Angeline leaned close to whisper the words in my ear, even though Papa and Stepmama were safely occupied with the accounting books in the next room. “Mama was trying so hard to concentrate on making polite conversation with Squire Briggs, because it was so important for Papa’s future, that she forgot to use her hands to pour the tea!”
“The teapot just rose up in the air all on its own and poured for everyone while she talked. You should have seen Squire Briggs’s face! He turned purple and started to choke. And Mama still didn’t realize . . .” Angeline bit her lip, holding back a laugh. She was meant to be tutoring me in French, as a punishment for both of us, so we couldn’t let Stepmama hear us giggling together.
“Poor Mama,” Angeline said. “She was trying so hard to help Squire Briggs stop choking, and Papa started stuttering hopelessly, he was so horrified, and that teapot just kept on pouring absolutely perfectly, without a single spill, until Papa lunged forward and grabbed it himself, and then the tea spilled all over his lap and the floor and . . . I laughed so hard, I thought I would die.”
“And then what happened?”
Angeline’s face hardened. “After that, Squire Briggs wouldn’t come back to tea again as long as Mama was alive. He had already offered to give Papa a second living, but after that teatime, he changed his mind. And Mama . . .” Angeline looked away, setting her jaw. “Mama wept for a week.”
I shivered in the oak tree now, remembering Angeline’s story as I looked at my mother’s lovely, looping hand-writing.
There used to be a miniature portrait of Mama in the sitting room, when I was a little girl, but Stepmama had locked it away with the rest of Mama’s things, magical or otherwise, in a cabinet none of us were allowed to open. There’s no use in reminding the neighbors of old problems, she’d said. She had already cut down all of Mama’s roses from the back garden by then; they were a scandal too. Apparently, roses weren’t supposed to be able to bloom red all year long. But I had loved them anyway. My sisters used to take me out to sit underneath the oak tree on fine days when I was little, and the rich, sweet fragrance of the roses had filled the air with magic.
I hadn’t remembered Mama’s roses for a long time.
I took a deep breath and turned the page.
I have decided to begin as I mean to go on, no matter how Ominous the Dangers, my mother had written. Tho’ it must be kept Secret from my closest companions and even my own Colleagues, I cannot let Ignorance, Prejudice, or Pride hold me back any longer from exercising all the Talents I have been given. I shall teach myself first how to enchant Inanimate Objects.
Well, I understood why she’d meant to keep her witchcraft a secret—if it hadn’t been for the fact that she’d married a clergyman, she would have been completely cast out of Society for it, and as it was, she had still caused a scandal. Marrying her had ruined Papa’s career. But that was because she hadn’t kept the magic a secret after all. From all the stories I’d heard, she hadn’t even tried very hard. Surely someone who really wanted to keep her witchcraft secret wouldn’t have blatantly enchanted the roses in her garden, would she? And what on earth had she meant by “Colleagues”? Mama’s family might not have been wealthy, but she had definitely been a lady—and ladies, as Elissa was always ready to remind me, did not work for a living, no matter how dire their circumstances.
I let out a long breath and turned the page. I didn’t have time to waste worrying about any of that, no matter how tempting it might be. I was after my sister’s secrets right now, not my mother’s—and enchanting inanimate objects, like Mama’s self-pouring teapot, wouldn’t get Angeline her dowry.
I skipped through the pages of Mama’s first failures and final successes, as she experimented with creating her own spells. She’d learned more and more difficult tricks as she’d progressed, but nothing practical like turning copper to gold. Half of Mama’s spells were meant to make herself look prettier or to make her twice-turned, hand-me-down gowns look new. I even found a love spell—and next to it, circled and surrounded by tiny hearts, a name: George. My father’s name.
I flicked quickly past that page, feeling my cheeks heat up.
It had been at least an hour since I had begun to read, and the sun had risen high in the sky above me. I couldn’t see the gig in the distance yet, but I knew I didn’t have much time left. I flipped faster and faster through the pages.
I was concentrating so hard, I didn’t even notice the footsteps coming toward me from the graveyard.
The first I knew of it was when my stockinged feet, swinging in the air, brushed right against a man’s beaver hat and knocked it to the grass. I almost fell off my branch in surprise. Both of Mama’s diaries dropped from my hands, six feet down onto the grass, next to a moving pair of dirt-covered Hessian boots. My gaze went up past the boots, up mud-spattered pantaloons and a dark blue coat that looked like it had once been expensive, before it had all been covered in dirt. The man who wore the clothes—and the dirt—was a complete stranger.
“Who are you?” I asked. The words blurted themselves out of my mouth. If Angeline had been there, she would have said something smooth and courteous and subtly amused in greeting. If Elissa had been there, she would have been too proper to speak to a strange gentleman at all without a proper introduction. Then again, neither of my sisters would have been caught off guard in the first place by sitting in a tree without her shoes on.
The man underneath me had kept walking forward even after I kicked his hat off. He hadn’t even paused to look up at me, or to pick up his hat. But when I spoke, he stopped walking and shook himself as if he were shaking off a cloud of gnats.
“I am Frederick Carlyle,” he said in a strange, flat voice. He was still looking straight ahead at the vicarage, so I couldn’t see his face, only the back of his dark blond hair. He was dressed like a gentleman, but from the look of his hair—not to mention the state of his clothing—it had been some time since he’d seen a valet, or a comb. “Here to study with Miss Angeline Stephenson’s father,” he said.
“With An—you mean with Papa? Mr. Stephenson?”
He still didn’t turn. “Here to study with Miss Angeline Stephenson’s father,” he repeated. “I have brought my first quarter’s payment with me.”
“Ah . . . good?” I slid down off the tree. It was awkward, since I couldn’t let my skirts ride up in front of him. I landed hard on a sharp stone, stumbled, and barely missed stepping on Mama’s books. I snatched them up and tried to flatten the crumpled pages with one hand. Later I would probably panic about the damage, but right now I was too curious to feel scared.
“How do you know Angeline?” I asked the back of the gentleman’s head.
He swung around, and I saw his face for the first time. It was alight with hope. “Is Miss Angeline truly here? Are you Miss Angeline?”
“No!” I said. “Of course not. I’m just Kat.” I stared at him. He was young—about the same age as Charles, I thought, so probably no more than twenty. Handsome, too, I supposed, if he hadn’t looked so vacant. I frowned, looking at his blank blue eyes. Maybe “vacant” wasn’t the right word, after all. Maybe “entranced” would be more accurate.
Something about that started an ominous tugging in the back of my mind. Entranced . . . But before I could think it through, I heard a rattling sound behind me and something worse—familiar voices floating through the still air. I spun around.
“Oh, the devil!”
I had been the one too entranced to think straight. I hadn’t been keeping my lookout.
Stepmama’s gig was on the road just beneath us, less than two minutes’ drive away. Even as I watched, it turned onto the final curve.
The full implications hit me with a thud. I stared down at the books in my hands. Half the pages had been bent in the fall, and the whole middle section of the first diary was crumpled. Even if I put both books back exactly where I’d found them, Angeline would never be fooled. She would know the moment she opened them exactly what had happened.
I wondered if it was too late to run away after all. The boys’ clothes were still in the attic, where I’d left them. Maybe, if everyone else was absorbed in greeting our strange visitor, they wouldn’t even notice I was missing. And this Frederick Carlyle, whoever he might be, certainly seemed to be excited about meeting Angeline, so that should distract her at least a little while, until . . .
“Is Miss Angeline in that gig?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes,” I said unhappily. “So I really need to go and—no, wait! She’ll be here in just a moment. You don’t need to go chasing after it, Mr. Carlyle—Mr. Carlyle! Stop!”
I threw myself in front of him to hold him back. He walked straight into my raised arm, heading for the hedge around our garden that overlooked the road, a full fifteen feet below.
“It’s too high!” I said. “You’ll break your legs if you jump that. What’s your hurry, anyway? It’s not as if you’ve ever even met her, so—”
Oh. Suddenly it all clicked into place. Mama’s magic books tingled in my hands as I regarded them with newfound respect.
“Miss Angeline Stephenson,” Frederick Carlyle murmured. He sounded like a bleating calf being led to the slaughter, but a blissful smile curved his lips.
Now I knew why he had seemed entranced.
“Come inside,” I said soothingly. “Why don’t I bring you a cup of tea? Then you can brush yourself off before you meet Angeline. You want to make a good impression on her, don’t you?”
He frowned, as if it were a difficult concept to grasp. “Miss Angeline is coming here? Inside this house?”
“She is,” I said. “I’ll show you in. I want to be there with you when she arrives.”
I couldn’t hide the books from Angeline, or keep her from finding out that I’d looked at them. But I had something better than secrecy now.
I had the perfect opportunity for blackmail.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Stephanie Burgis
Reading Group Guide
Discussion Questions for Kat, Incorrigible
1. How do the sisters’ personalities differ from one another? What dominant characteristics does each sister possess? How do the sisters help one another based on their strengths and weaknesses?
2. Why does the Stephenson family have such a close bond, even with Charles, who almost ruins the family with his gambling? What role does their father play in the family?
3. Kat and Angeline are both concerned that Elissa will find out they are dabbling in magic. Why is Elissa adamantly against magic? What role does their mother play in Elissa’s attitude?
4. Why is Stepmama so insistent that the girls behave appropriately? What is she ashamed of, and what does this say about her priorities? Why is she willing to marry them off to someone for money instead of love? How does Stepmama’s outlook change by the end of the book?
5. What is the difference between being a Guardian and being a Witch? Why is being a Guardian considered more powerful? Why do Guardians consider witchcraft beneath them?
6. On Kat’s first visit to the Golden Hall, why is she defensive and unwilling to accept her inheritance as a Guardian? Why does she eventually change her mind and accept Mr. Gregson’s offer as a tutor?
7. Kat does everything she can to abandon the golden mirror; why does it always comes back to her? Why does Kat want to return the mirror?
8. Kat’s first evening at Grantham Abbey proves to be entertaining and informative. What does she do that causes embarrassment to her family and to her? What does she learn that will later prove helpful?
9. Why does Mr. Gregson’s appearance at Grantham Abbey unsettle Kat? Why is she so untrusting of him? How does he finally prove to her that he is worthy of her trust? How does Lady Fotherington treat Kat, and why?
10. What does Kat learn about her mother from Mr. Gregson? Why doesn’t she share the information with Angeline and Elissa?
11. What is the truth behind Sir Neville’s attitude toward his brother, Mr. Collingwood? What does Mr. Collingwood know about his brother’s affairs that Sir Neville would prefer to keep secret? How is the truth finally exposed?
12. Why does Mr. Collingwood pretend to be a highwayman? What is Kat’s motivation for helping Mr. Collingwood escape from the party? How does her help turn into a hindrance?
13. What does Kat learn about her powers that bring her peace? How does she use these powers to win her sisters their true loves and save her family from ruin?
14. Is Kat really incorrigible? Why or why not?
15. Kat is from 19th Century England. How is she distinct from a modern heroine? How does author Stephanie Burgis use the Regency Era setting as a backdrop to her unique story? How does she combine elements of history and fantasy?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this book. Kat is the perfect heroine; she's got magical powers but is still very human. She makes mistakes and while she does end up "saving the day," she does it her own way and by using the resources available to her. Stephanie Burgis includes just the right amount of history, realism, and fantasy in this tale. As a librarian, I definitely recommend this book to my 5th and 6th grade students. It is a story directed more towards girls than boys but there are some boys who would enjoy it as well. There's just enough challenging vocabulary in the book to push students to learn more while keeping them entertained. I eagerly await more "Unladylike Adventures of Kat."
Full disclosure--I want to be Kat! What fun. She struggles with who and want she is or can be and does wonderful things along the way. She goes against the social mores of her time--cuts her hair, climbs trees, has thoughts of her own! Scandalous! This is a delightful story mixing period aspects with magic with irresistible young ladies. All in all, great fun!
Run, don't walk, to your nearest B&N (or just order now) and get Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis. Jane Austen meets Harry Potter (sort of) all through the eyes of a 12 year old girl. It kept me up way too late last night! Light, funny and worth reading by adults and children alike (I was going to give it to my niece but I think I'm just loaning it. . . .). Books 2 & 3 are next on my "to buy" list :-)
Gold Star Award Winner! Kat's tired of being the odd sister out. Her two older sisters, five and seven years older, talk about things that she wouldn't understand. Her brother, Charles, has gambled away all the family money, and her Stepmama is determined Elissa will make a good match and save the family. Kat vows she won't allow her sister to ruin her happiness by marrying a man rumored to have murdered his first wife. Instead, she comes up with a plan to change everything. Unfortunately, her sister, Angeline, catches her before she can put the plan into action. Instead, Kat, her sisters, and their Stepmama attend a house party at Grantham Abbey to meet Sir Neville. Kat and Angeline attempt to persuade Elissa not to accept his hand in marriage - if he should ask. To make matters more interesting, when Kat discovers she is her mother's magical heir, she wonders if she can use magic to help her sisters deal with their romantic attachments. KAT, INCORRIGIBLE was so cute - almost like a novel reminiscent of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (told from Margaret, the youngest sister's perspective) mixed with a magical adventure, a dangerous highwayman episode, and a romance plot. Combined, they make it an absolutely entertaining, engrossing, and simply delightful read. I LOVED Kat: she's unladylike, stubborn, smart, brave, resourceful, annoying (as only a youngest sister can be), and thoroughly charming. I can't wait for the next book in the series!
Sometimes middle-grade books are the some of the best books out there, and Kat, Incorrigible, Stephanie Burgis' fabulous debut, proves this point even further. Full of memorable characters, action, and wit, there is nothing not to love about this book, in my opinion! Kat has always been the one most likely to get in trouble in her family, though she cannot help it that she does not like to follow the rules of society. She just has too much fun being her own improper, unique self. To make matters even better, she has recently discovered that she has inherited her mother's magical talents. Hoping that they will be able to bring about truth in her mother's demise, she knows she will have to learn how to use them, especially when her sisters' own disastrous love lives came into the mix as well. However, with the Order of the Guardians as well as her oldest sister's fiancée following her every path, this will not be the easiest of tasks! Will Kat be able to save the day? Will she ever get Step-Mama to understand her better? Only time and more pages will tell in this tale perfect for all ages! Kat is without a doubt one of my favorite protagonists ever for many, many reasons. For one, she is smart and feisty- a girl who will do anything to make her family happy, even if it means taking some dangerous jumps along the way! Secondly, she is a perfect role model for young girls and boys. She shows that it is okay to be yourself, that doing what you think is right is the best thing in the world. Lastly, she is resilient yet feeble in some ways, making a perfect mix, if I do say so myself. Oh, how I wish I had Kat to read about in my younger years. Better yet, the secondary characters in this are amazing as well. Fully developed and full of life, there's isn't a moment where they don't jump off the page and come to life. My favorites would have to be Kat's two sisters, who had similar hearts to Kat's even if they didn't show it, as well as their two love interests, nimble but lovable. The plot was also a high point. If there's one thing that makes a book addicting, it's action, and Kat, Incorrigible had plenty of it to say the least. There wasn't a moment where I wasn't dying to know what would happen next to Kat and her friends, family and foes, thanks to Stephanie's Burgis' writing, and if that didn't happen, I was probably laughing out loud or possibly rooting Kat on. In addition, I loved the focus on magic, because not only did Stephanie give it a great twist, but she also used it to advantage the plot and characters in the best ways possible. In all, Kat, Incorrigible is the perfect for all ages and perhaps one of my favorite debuts ever. I'll be eager to see what will happen to Kat next- that's for sure. Grade: A+
Kat, Incorrigible is a book to share with young readers. It's the sort that can keep a young reader reading after "lights out" - enjoyable, funny, and so hard to put down. The heroine is twelve-year-old Katherine who lives in Regency England with her two older sisters, father and stepmother. Since women of their class didn't work at this time, marriage is the only way open to the Stephenson sisters. Katherine's eldest sister is a romantic and lover of Gothic romances - and she's willing to marry to advance the family fortune. But fortunately, Kat is much more adventurous and sensible. She searches for more creative ways to help improve their situation. This leads to magic and adventures for Kat and a wonderful read for the rest of us. I don't want to spoil the suspense - but readers can expect snubs, snobbery, social rivals, highway men, disinherited young men, seemingly star-crossed lovers, dangerous misunderstandings, magic, tutors, and a persistent and endearing heroine. I love Regency novels, Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and I very much enjoyed Kat, Incorrigible. I'm definitely sharing this book with friends. Reading level: 9 to 12 years ISBN-10: 9781416994473 - Hardcover Publisher: Atheneum (April 5, 2011) 304 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
The colorful, whimsical book jacket depicting a mischievous-looking girl holding a book and magically pouring a cup of tea is perfect for this novel. A lot of people have said 'Kat, Incorrigible' is a bit of Jane Austen mixed with Harry Potter, and I can definitely agree with that. At twelve years old, Katherine Ann Stephenson is the youngest in her family. She lives in a vicarage with her siblings Elissa, Charles, and Angeline, her father and stepmother. Since her mother died when she was born, Kat's only connection to her is through her belongings, which her stepmother has locked up. When Kat decides to go snooping - because what tween girl isn't a little curious? - she stumbles upon something magical belonging to her mother. What ensues after this discovery is a nonstop adventure for Kat. And while she's discovering her magical abilities, Kat also has to step in to prevent her oldest sister from marrying an older, rich man for whom she feels no affection. Often times I'll read a book that I enjoy, but that has a few things I would change about it. Not so with 'Kat, Incorrigible'. I love how the characters are introduced without sounding like an introduction. Just by describing their actions and giving them unique voices (some with rather witty remarks), Stephanie Burgis allows the reader to get to know her characters quickly. And what fun characters they are. The book is also paced just right. There's never a dull moment. Each chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, so you're constantly wanting to continue reading to find out what happens next. 'Kat, Incorrigible' is a terrific read for girls in the tween range, but also for grown-ups like me who love the romance and manners of a Jane Austen novel, with the added bonus of Harry Potter mischief and magic.
Kat, Incorrigible is a surprisingly wonderful middle grade read. I expected to enjoy it because I love MG books, but I didn't think I'd love it as much as I did. Stephanie Burgis has created a character that is endearing, intelligent, funny, and strong. For a twelve year old girl, Kat sure has a lot of spunk to her. It isn't just Kat that's a delight to read though. Every single character serves a purpose and has his/her own personality. Taking place in the early 1800's, Kat, Incorrigible revolves around proper ladies, social status, and magic. The magic is key and oh so fun to read about. Kat's will to keep her sister, Elissa, from marrying Sir Neville, a possible wife murderer, drives her to do some drastic things, but it's all out of love. The family aspect plays a huge role and was handled perfectly. Elissa, Angeline, and Kat all love one another, but they fight as well. They're sisters and bickering is part of that. Being around them made me long for a sister of my own. The story isn't exactly short, but moves very quickly. Kat's adventures range from averting the attention of Mr. Gregson to wanting to be held up by a highwayman. Along the way, the secondary characters will either make you swoon - thank you Mr. Carlyle - or want you to punch them in the nose - I'm looking at you Sir Neville. Even the wickedly evil, yet somehow not entirely terrible, Stepmama was three-dimensional. Kat, Incorrigible is delightful and enchanting, with a full cast of characters to entertain any reader. I felt so content when I finished it. The story came full circle and left me with a big grin on my face. I love a happy ending and the way Kat and her sisters live out their discovery about magic, their deceased mother, and even realizing their Stepmama isn't so bad, couldn't have made me any happier. This is the start of a series and I honestly cannot wait to see where it goes next.
The first few words I would use to describe this little gem of a book is the girlie version of Harry Potter. Mixed with magic, witchcraft and a girl that doesn't fit in, I felt as though I was reading a sister story to that epic series. I absolutely fell in love with Kat - she was cute and lovable, but not too sweet. With her two older sisters and older brother, I think this book can be described as a magical twist of Harry Potter meets Cinderella. It was such a great combination of story and plotline mixed with great characters. I would recommend this read to the younger audiences - maybe middle school or high school. Although the book was not geared for my age group, I found it to be a delightful read.
Described as Jane Austen meets Harry Potter, Kat, Incorrigible is one of the most enchanting middle grade fiction titles I've ever come across. Set in Regency Era England, it's a whimsical story about a brave little girl, and the family she's willing to do anything for to save. Kat is a remarkably clever and mature twelve-year-old heroine, and I absolutely fell in love with her stubborn feistiness. There's nothing more I love reading about than sisters (probably because I have none of my own), and Kat's undying devotion to making sure her sisters are happy is one of her most endearing traits. Despite feeling left out by the older two, and despite being totally confused by that whole silly "love" thing, Kat works relentlessly to make sure her sisters end up with their true loves in the end. And as for the sisters themselves? I loved them too! They each have their own distinct personality. Elissa, the eldest, is obsessed with her romantic gothic novels, and would like nothing more than to be a martyr for her family. Angeline, the middle sister, is a vivacious, sarcastic girl, who is following in their deceased mother's footsteps and dabbling in witchcraft. The girls also have a brother, Charles, who only makes grunts of irritation from the next room, and bangs on the wall when the girls are rambunctious and noisy. I'm hoping we see more of Charles later in the series. Of course, their bumbling father is an absolute dear, lost in his own world, and Stepmama is strict and obsessed with Society, but comes through in the end for her stepdaughters. The story itself was refreshing and fast-paced, and it almost seemed to go by too quickly. There was not a slow moment to be found: from Kat discovering her powers as a Guardian, disappearing through magic golden mirrors, Angeline's disastrous love spell results, and the dark and sinister Sir Neville, it was a roller-coaster ride until the very end, and I was left absolutely salivating for more. I don't often read middle grade books, so I'd forgotten how refreshing they can be. Given that Kat is only twelve, all the romance focuses on her older sisters, leaving Kat free to do as she pleases. In young adult, where the focus is almost always some kind of romance, it was definitely nice to take a break, and just feel like a kid again, right along with Kat. I'm so excited to see that this is a planned series as well. I can't wait to find out more about the Order, and about Kat's powers as a Guardian. She's just so delightfully unladylike, I know she's going to get into a bunch of trouble and fantastic adventures. If you love the era of Jane Austen, mixed with a little magic and witchcraft, then this book is a must-read. Kat is a wonderful main character, and the story is quick and not over-complicated. A fast, perfectly enjoyable read.
England 1803: Miss Katherine Stephenson doesn't give a fig about being a lady. She'd much rather run wild and have adventures that would make most ladies swoon. But not much happens in her little vicarage where she lives with her stepmother, who loves to Lecture, father, two sisters, Angeline (the devilish one), Elissa (the saintly one) and brother, Charles (the disreputable one). Little does she know that her quaint, quiet life is going to be turned upside down by a secret Order, a villain, magic, and..a golden mirror? I really loved the heroine, Kat. She was sassy, and spunky. She had a good heart and a big sense of humor. Some of the things she did and said had me laughing out loud! Her relationships with her sisters were very realistic and had me reminiscing on my own childhood with my older sister. There was plenty of adventure and suspense- just enough to keep you hooked. Having said that, the plot was very intriguing, but had several holes. We don't learn very much background on any of the characters; we know just enough to understand what's happening in the book right then. I had many questions about the secret Order, what is its history? What exactly do they do? And what about Kat's mother being a witch? When Kat found out her mother was a witch, was she surprised, did she believe it? Also, when Kat found out that Angeline could do magic she didn't even bat an eyelash, so was it not unexpected that magic might be passed down from their mother? What about Kat's mother's family? Do they have magical abilities? Does Kat have grandparents? All of these questions, I thought, should have been addressed in the book. I'd find myself reading the book and then all of a sudden one of those questions popped into my head and would just bug me as they are pretty basic questions. But as this is a series, maybe the author will address them later. One character I would like to see more of is Charles, it seemed the author just threw him in the book for no reason, but again maybe he will pop up later in the series. Overall, it was a very lighthearted, humorous and fun book. It is one of those books where you don't have to think much, just enjoy. Anyone who loves a little magic, adventure, wit and humor would definitely like this book.
review I enjoyed the book. Its a fun adventure book about a 12 year old kat and her two sisters. kat is trying to save her family and found out she has magic. Her older sister Elisa is willing to marriage to older man to marry to save her family. Angelina is learning to be a witch with her mothers books trying to save her family and makes some mistakes. thier are two people trying to get kat to join them. the villian of the book wants all 3 sisters to take their power. highway robbers, fancy balls and...moreI enjoyed the book. Its a fun adventure book about a 12 year old kat and her two sisters. kat is trying to save her family and found out she has magic. Her older sister Elisa is willing to marriage to older man to marry to save her family. Angelina is learning to be a witch with her mothers books trying to save her family and makes some mistakes. thier are two people trying to get kat to join them. the villian of the book wants all 3 sisters to take their power. highway robbers, fancy balls and dinner parties. elisa fell for poor brother. its a book with adventure
My thoughts...Kat, Incorrigible will be a hit for readers of all ages. Filled with magic, mystery, and mischief, young Kat will steal the hearts of readers and have them cheering her on by the end of the story. Kat, while only twelve years old is very feisty. She is very believable and true to her age. Her decisions are sometimes impulsive and their is a vulnerability to her character that fells genuine. We also meet Kat's older sisters. Elissa is the oldest. She loves Gothic novels and she has a strong sense of duty when it comes to her family. The middle child, Angeline, is just as headstrong, but she has some interests that could cause her to get into big trouble. All of the characters, good and wicked, were memorable and enjoyable. One of the most unique aspects about this book was the time period. Old England was a time of proper manners, fancy dresses, arranged marriages, and dowries. The characters live within a set of rules and not following etiquette was simply frowned upon. These social rules would be hard for anyone, especially a twelve year old tomboy. Women especially had a hard time due to what was "expected" of them and their behaviors. Another great aspect of the plot was the magic. The world felt well developed and thought out. The magic seemed to jump off the page and bring you along for the fun. While Kat, Incorrigible is a middle grade book, I recommend it to readers of all ages. Fan of Harry Potter or Jane Austin should be especially delighted with the story. I can not wait to read book two, A Tangle of Magicks coming in April of 2012 to the US.
KAT INCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis is an interesting young adult fiction.It is well written with an age appropiate theme.It is the first in the "Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson" series. It has adventure,magic spells, old world charm,witchcraft, posing as a highwayman,learning to control your powers,unladylike adventures, secrets,and a resentful stepmother.Posing as a highwayman,Kat, captures husbands for her older sisters.If you take a touch of romance,add a bit of adventure,mix a bit of magical power, and you have the making of a wonderful young adult story.This is a story Disney would love to make into a movie for Kat is no lady and is definitely incorrigible.Young girls will love this cute story,although,Kat is incorrigible,gets into a bit of trouble a time or two, she is still a delightful young lady. This book was received for the purpose of review from the publisher and details can be found at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing and My Book Addiction and More.
It's hard to come up with another book like this one. The combination of Old World England, magic spells, and a touch of romance is intriguing and original. There are also bad guys, secrets and misunderstandings to keep readers interested. They'll get to know a little about life in 19th Century England, including parties that last for weeks at a time, the importance of manners, highwaymen waiting to attack the wealthy in their coaches, and the limited choices girls might have as to whom they might marry. Readers who like this book may be fans of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte one day soon. At 12 years old, Kat is self-assured and ready to take on the world. She desperately wants her two older sisters, Elissa and Angeline, to include her in their lives, but they shut her out and treat her like a child. Elissa, constantly worried about appearances and manners, is a bit of a martyr. Angeline always thinks she's right and that she has things under control - which she doesn't. Their mother, a target of scandal for her obvious dabbling in witchcraft, died before Kat was even born. Kat and her sisters each try, in their own way, to save their family from ruin and their older brother, Charles, from debtor's prison. Elissa vows to marry a wealthy, but questionable, older gentleman. Angeline secretly resorts to their mother's magic books to find a wealthy suitor of her own. Kat learns that magic is in her genes. She discovers an enchanting world of witchcraft and a secret "Order of Guardians", who are supposedly the most powerful of the magic-workers. Using her new-found talents and her sharp wit, it is Kat who saves the day. While her sisters fumble with the distractions of love and romance, brave Kat stands up to the senior witches (even punching one in the nose) and outsmarts many of the adults. I love this time period and think that the inclusion of magic adds an element of mystery and excitement. Although I have high hopes for this series, I did find the characters to be slightly frustrating. We don't get to know any of them all that well, but from what we do see, they're self-absorbed. They claim to want to help each other, but seem to care mostly about following their own agendas. Kat, while somewhat impulsive and childish (she is 12 after all), is most likable and a good example of a strong, confident girl. While the sisters are, at times, protective of one another, they rarely support each other. In fact, Kat ends up having to fight Elissa and Angeline, almost as much as the "bad" guys. Also, the characters speak about things that are specific to the 1800's, but they don't sound like they are from the 1800's, so sometimes I also had to remind myself of the time period. The cover art is whimsical and intriguing, but I think it gives a younger, Disney-like feeling than readers will get once they start turning the pages. Look for words like nefarious, reticule, constitutional, pelisse and pacification that may require further explanation.