The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies is a thrilling adventure romance

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman. Image courtesy Berkley
The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman. Image courtesy Berkley /

When you see a book called The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies, you immediately pick it up. Or, you do if you’re me. How can you not? What’s better than ladies not doing what’s expected of them? And oh boy, do they act well beyond the rules of society!

Allison Goodman tells the story of Augusta and Julia Colebrooke. The two twin sisters are considered spinsters due to their age and lack of husbands, but they are still very much part of high society.

And after saving a young woman from her tyrant of a husband, they become the women people go to when someone is in need.

Julia is still grieving her betrothed who died in a riding accident and Augusta has never had much thought of marriage. That is until she meets Lord Evan Belford. They meet him on the way to save the woman from her husband, and he throws a wrench in their plans.

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies is a thrilling page-turner

He’s supposed to be in the colonies serving out a sentence for murder. Well, he’s back and he attacked them in their carriage. He did not know who he was dealing with. Augusta knocks him out, but he ends up helping them save the young woman.

He also happens to be the first man who understands Augusta entirely and doesn’t scoff at her less-than-ladylike ways.

But since Evan is on the run from the law, he cannot stay. He must run and he warns Augusta to not look for him. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. But we’ll get to that later.

After the first adventure, Augusta and Julia go on to save a group of children from being sold at a brothel and then, in their most daring adventure, must save a woman from an asylum.

But who has asked them to save the woman at the asylum? Lord Evan, of course. His sister has been trapped there for years at the demand of their brother. Evan cannot let her stay there another moment, but he needs Augusta’s help. And who is she to tell him no?

Julia and Augusta also have a brother. His name is Duffy and he is the literal worst. The less said about him, the better.

By the cover alone, you may not think this is a mad dash of an adventure book, but it is! The last fourth of the book will have you turning pages faster and faster. There are guns and rescues and fighting and ladies bashing men over the head with vases. What more could you want? Sure, Augusta and Julia still worry about their reputation but when people are in need, they can’t do anything.

And Evan and Augusta’s relationship is perfect. Their wit, banter, and care for each other is a joy to read. I was waiting for every moment they had together so that I could see them interact.

I also loved Augusta and Julia’s relationship. Julia has breast cancer so she’s not always at her best but she will not let her sister go on adventures and help people without her. The care, camaraderie, and secret language they share added so much to the book. It wouldn’t be the same without them by each other’s side.

I also really appreciated how the asylum was portrayed. Asylums during this time were…horrific would be an understatement. The scenes in the book show that without any filter.

Julia, Augusta, and Evan’s plan at the asylum actually reminded me of Nelly Bly’s work in the US. Shining a light on the cruelty is no small thing and while it’s hard to read some scenes, it’s one of the most well-developed and poignant adventures the sisters go on.

If you love historical fiction, thrilling adventures, women who don’t follow society’s rules and witty romance, you need to read The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies. Add it to your TB ASAP! And it looks like it’s going to be a series so we’ll get to see more of Julia, Augusta, Evan, and all their friends.

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Allison Goodman is available now in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats.

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