Review: The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton (2022)

Dangerous Damsels, Book #2

Review of Dangerous Damsels, Book #1

Heat Factor: Charlotte and Alex have a lot of sex, but the reader does not get to watch.

Character Chemistry: Mutual kidnapping is always a winner.

Plot: Everyone is trying to get a magical amulet, and more shenanigans ensue than you can shake a stick at.

Overall: A bit heavy-handed and there’s some weird stuff going on with the tone

Like The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, the enjoyment one would get from reading this book really depends on how one feels about a twee, winking, writing style. I personally had very mixed feelings. Sometimes, Holton’s turn of phrase is just perfect. There were a few passages where I would read and then pause and sit for a moment. Take this description of our hero, Alex, when standing on the roof of a flying house and goading (with only his presence) Charlotte to come out into the wind:

He did not say “Ahoy!” but he smiled it, a smile of crookedness and contentment.

Sometimes, Holton’s prose was a little winky-winky for my taste, but I could see how it was fun and in keeping with the tone of the book and the genre in which Holton is writing:

That they had landed less than a quarter mile from a public house was coincidental only if you forget this was England, where many thousands of pubs thrive around the country. That it had just one bedroom still available will not be surprising to connoisseurs of romance. The sole astonishment was it contained two beds. Alex and Charlotte had quickly fixed that.

And sometimes Holton’s little asides threw me so far out of the story that I would just sit there blinking at the terrible choice that had been made in so clearly writing to an audience in 2022 when the rest of the book is playing so obviously with a different kind of literature. This particular allusion to the paleo diet was, I think, the worst offender in this category:

“Sir,” Bixby argued, “I know you are a vegetarian, but that does not mean you should throw yourself off the roof.” (Aficionados of the paleo diet may disagree.)

Speaking more generally about Holton’s writing style, I would say that it’s a bit heavy-handed. There’s a lot of “witches are like this, and pirates are like that” compare and contrast type stuff, which is used to explain Charlotte’s actions and personality and conflict with Alex. In other words, the conflict doesn’t feel organic to the character, but rather seems put upon them by arbitrary rules that Holton has imposed. (I guess that’s a metaphor for society and the arbitrary constraints that are put on any and all social interactions, but the book doesn’t make that connection and every connection that the book does make beats you over the head. But I digress.) 

Since I’m going on a tear about Holton’s prose, let’s also talk about tone. I’ve mentioned the winky-wink bits, but I should note that this carries over into casual violence, which is largely treated in a “haha isn’t this funny” kind of way. I mean, these books *are* about pirates and witches doing crime. So there are explosions galore and—as is only proper—if you want to have musicians play at your wedding, you better kidnap them and then chain them to the wall while they play dulcet violin music. Sexual assault is funny, as long as ridiculous older women are doing it to young men. But. Alex has a Traumatic Back StoryTM which involves horrific child abuse; the flashback to Alex’s childhood felt tonally out of place given how flippant the characters were about the safety of others for the rest of the book.

In terms of whether this books succeeds as a romance, I give it mixed marks. This is definitely a journey of self-discovery story for Charlotte, as she loosens the strictures that have governed her life as a witch—and not just any witch, but the next leader of the League of Gentlewoman Witches. Alex is definitely an important part of Charlotte’s growth as a character. And Alex learns to get over his hatred of all witches (see: Traumatic Back StoryTM). But on balance, there wasn’t really a lot of the characters developing toward each other in a meaningful way. 

With all of that said: I still had fun reading this book. It’s a ridiculous romp! There are explosions! But don’t expect a sweeping romance, and don’t expect subtlety.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

Journeys of Self Discovery

Kidnappings Galore

Witches (and other users of magic)

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