Synopsis: The Sutherland sisters were Queen Victoria’s companions as children, but as they became older they vowed to be the Queen’s secret servants to be called upon when the need arose. Lady Gwen de Burgh steals a stone from the Queen, and Ivy finds herself impersonating a science student by the name of “Ned Ivers” trying to attain the role of apprentice to Simon de Burgh, Marquess of Harrow. Trying to keep her femininity a secret, search out Gwen, obtain the rock, avoid being blown up by the Marquess’ experiments, and avoid being killed by a murderer makes for a rather trying week but what Ivy finds most difficult of all is trying not to fall in love with Simon.
Writing Style: The words flow rather well, nothing really seemed to be disjointed or unconnected. But while nothing stood out in error, neither did anything stand out as extraordinary. The author has a firm grasp on the English language that allows the words to merely be present and suggest ideas to the imagination without being distracting.
Plot: The story had quite a few things going on, and I do question whether the murder aspect was specifically necessary. The theft, Gwen’s disappearance, and the villain’s plot to be the best scientist were enough to make a compelling story.
Theme: There is a bit of a “lesson” in the book that hints at the strictures of women’s roles in society and how inflexible they are. For a female in the 1800s to wish for an education would be scandalous and reason for mockery. It shows Ivy’s bravery just by trying to be herself, not by doing anything special.
Character: The sister to the Marquess, Gwen, could have been fleshed out a bit more. She is the instigator, the raison d’être for both Simon and Ivy’s quest, yet she hardly makes an appearance and you quite forget about her existence because she seems somewhat unimportant.
Character Development: Ivy undergoes a variety of physical changes that lead to her emotional changes. The cutting of Ivy’s hair represents a loss of femininity, but in fact helps Ivy find her power as a woman. Pretending to be male assists in finding a direction, a path, a future. And while it is difficult to keep up the pretence, the experience Ivy has carries over and helps her become her true self.
Romance: The love story between Ivy and Simon cannot follow the usual path of boy-meets-girl, as Ivy is pretending to be a male. The uncomfortable reaction Simon has in meeting “Ned Ivers” could have been expanded upon to last a little longer and make things a bit more tense between the two, nevertheless the relationship between Ivy and Simon is still satisfactory to the sense.
Quote: How on earth shall I, a woman, track down a man in an academic setting? I wouldn’t gain admittance through the front gates much less the lecture halls.
The Verdict: This book seems to be second in a series and, while I have not read the others, I will still recommend this book as a decent historical novel with a scientific bent. I would suggest seeing if your local library has this series first, rather than rushing out to buy it.