Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review of Refuge for Masterminds

First, my review

Look later in the post for the full synopsis of the story.

As a teacher of middle-school students, I’m always looking for books I can enthusiastically recommend to my students. Particularly, I keep an eye out for books with positive female role models, characters who are quirky and confident and gifted. Kathleen Baldwin’s Refuge for Masterminds gives me not just one girl for my students to look up to, but several. In addition, Emma Stranje, the headmistress of the school for unusual girls, is a teacher who is brilliant and mysterious. Who doesn’t love that?

This is the third book in the series, and I read it without reading the first two. I was not lost at all and felt as comfortable in Ms. Baldwin’s world as if I had all the background the other two books provided. And her world is a vibrant place of gowns and balls and pet wolves. She must have done a good bit of research, since I did not get pulled out of the reading by any anachronisms.

I loved the relationship among the girls and their teacher, all of whom have unique strengths and characteristics. They function well within the confines of their society while still showing how they can be independent and influential. Following Jane through this story was a delight. The conflict is centrally focused on her, and she works throughout it with creativity, humor, and poise.

The romance subplot was sweet and entirely age appropriate. Alexander and Jane have a fun time playing off each other, and it’s entertaining for the readers to witness the growth of their intellectual and romantic relationship. I would have no qualms recommending this to my teenage readers.

I look forward to reading the other novels in this series, and commend Ms. Baldwin for giving me a book I will definitely get my students to read in the future.

Here are some favorite quotes from the author!

Alexander pulls several twigs out of my tangled hair. “There’s another possibility. The way I saw it, that fellow had a pistol tucked inside that great big coat of his. If there hadn’t been two of us, I figure he would’ve pulled it out and blown your pretty little brains out all over the forest floor.”

He has a point, but I refuse to credit it. “Don’t be ridiculous.” I cough up something that must’ve flown in my mouth during the tumble. “My brains aren’t little.”

* * *

His lips curve up into a wry half smile. I wait for the stinging barb he is sure to fling at me, but Alexander does not parry with a sharp-witted reply. Instead, he lets my teasing words drift on the night breeze, floating along with us like the last savory notes of a violin sonata.

* * *

There is a magnificent ferociousness about our headmistress. I’d wager a considerable sum she could stop a person’s heart from beating simply by applying that cold hard glare of hers. If she can’t make a heart stop altogether, she is certainly able to make it a skip a few beats.

I want to be just like her someday.

* * *

Maya rests her hand on my shoulder. “You must trust that wisdom will come when you need it. You were made for a time such as this.”

* * *

There is a language every sister knows, a language tender beyond words and rarely spoken. It runs like a string between two hearts, and we only pluck that string in times of trouble.

* * *

Alexander is wearing a new set of clothes, his shirt is clean and neatly pressed, the cravat articulately tied rather than hanging in a haphazard loop, and even his hair is freshly combed.

He . . . he looks . . . like a gentleman.

I find this unsettling in the extreme. He ought to look like our rough, unpolished Mr. Sinclair. Not this pattern-card Adonis. I have a nearly irresistible urge to go and mess him up, to rumple his shirt, to tousle his hair, and to muddle up his cravat.

From Award Winning Author
Kathleen Baldwin
The stakes in this game of spies are life and death.
Book Cover
Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House, Book 3
Genre: Young Adult, Teen Alternative Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: May 23, 2017
Lady Jane Moore has a secret. A secret that must be kept buried. If anyone discovered the truth, her life at Stranje House would crumble. And with Napoleon Bonaparte threatening to invade England, everyone at Stranje House is already in mortal danger.
There’s a traitor in the house. Someone is sneaking information to Napoleon’s spies, Lady Daneska and Ghost. Jane is determined to find out who it is before suspicions rip apart the bonds of friendship at Stranje House. Her desperate hunt for the traitor ensnares a brash young American inventor, Alexander Sinclair, Robert Fulton’s nephew, into an ambush that puts his life in danger. Sinclair is the most maddening young man in all of Christendom, a sharp-tongued rascal with boorish manners, but Lady Jane cannot bear the thought of the golden-haired genius being harmed.
Is Jane enough of a mastermind to save Alexander, her friends at Stranje House, and possibly England itself?
Fans of Gail Carriger, Patricia Wrede, and Caroline Stevermer will love this Regency-era alternate history filled with spunky heroines, handsome young lords, and dastardly villains.
"Baldwin has a winning series here: her characters are intriguing and fully rendered."
- Stacey Comfort, Booklist
"Refuge for Masterminds moves at a fast pace from the first page and doesn’t stop. Although it is written with a young adult audience in mind, it is a fun and enjoyable novel and will also appeal to adult readers."
- Francesca Pelaccia, Historical Novel Society

Purchase Links

Other Books by the Author

Don't miss the first two books in the Stranje House series:
Book Cover
Series: Stranje House, Book 1
Napoleon is exiled, Europe is in shambles and Britain is at war on four fronts. Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit high society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where headmistress, Emma Stranje, entangles these unusual girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.
"A completely original--and totally engrossing--world, full of smart girls, handsome boys and sinister mysteries...Sign me up."
- Meg Cabot, NYT Bestselling Author of The Princess Diaries on A School for Unusual Girls
Book Cover
Series: Stranje House, Book 2
Tess Aubreyson can't run far enough or fast enough to escape the prophetic dreams that haunt her. But with Napoleon threatening to invade England, Tess’s disturbing dreams may be the only means of saving Lord Ravencross, the man she loves, and her friends at Stranje House.
"This spy school for girls . . . is impossible to put down! . . . I recommend this book to anyone that loves brave girls, adventure and great friendships."
- 5 Girls Book Reviews


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Prizes up for grabs:
Be one of three lucky winners:
$10 Gift Card + hardback copy of Refuge for Masterminds
Contest runs from May 15 - June 3, 2017.

About Kathleen Baldwin

Author Pic
Kathleen Baldwin loves adventure in books and in real life. She taught rock climbing in the Rockies, survival camped in the desert, was stalked by a mountain lion, lost an argument with a rattlesnake, spent way too long in college, fell in love and married her very own hero.
A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS, the first book in the alternate history series for teens, was awarded Spirit of Texas in 2016, is a Junior Library Guild selection, and Kansas NEA Reading Circle gave it a starred review in their 2016 “Best of the Best” for High Schools. Ian Bryce, producer of Spiderman, Saving Private Ryan, and other notable films optioned the series for film.
REFUGE FOR MASTERMINDS, Book 3 in the Stranje House series, releases May 23rd.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure, "completely original and totally engrossing."
Official website:
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