4 out of 4 stars
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Penelope Stanton is in a quandary where her reputation and her social status is challenged. Should she bend her morals to accommodate a married man to secure herself financially? Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes takes place during the 'Panic' of 1893 when financial institutions were upended leveling the social classes and making the 'haves' appear more like the 'have-nots'. Penelope is given a chance to be a mistress where she will be provided with an abundance of money and material items. As a 'kept woman', she can have anything she desires. But, what is the cost of this? Both her dignity and good name would forever be tarnished. Is the tradeoff worth it?
I enjoyed the tension created by Penelope jumping into the fledgling women's movement while at the same time, she desires marriage and a life of monetary stability with a spouse. In addition, her mother adds pressure making it quite clear that she needs to find her daughter a worthy suitor. A wealthy one is preferred. The conversations between the two women are laced with humor as they go to battle over Penelope's future.
I liked the way this author played with words. Such as, "Never had I encountered so much talk of Movements while being permitted so little movement." In this instance, Penelope was feeling trapped by her mother's overbearing personality, and I thought that line was quite hilarious. There are more of these thoughts and dialogues throughout the book as readers witness how the young and the old clash in their way of thinking regarding dating, appropriate wardrobes, and marriage. With Penelope and her mother at odds, it adds an element of depth to the surrounding themes of womanhood and value.
There wasn't anything I didn't like about this novel. For those who enjoy historical fiction, I think this one would be quite appealing. The various and slight romantic scenes are not too graphic, so for those readers who shy away from that, they might find these scenarios tolerable.
I am giving this 4 out of 4 stars for its superb storyline that depicts the rise of women's rights but the need for both sexes to work in unity. There was only one slight error that I found, so this excellently written book seems to have been professionally edited.
In closing, I will ask again: Will Penelope throw away her self respect for money? You will have to read the book to find out, and the ending has a twist that is so well done it left me with a big smile of satisfaction.
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