3 out of 4 stars
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Poor Penelope Stanton is in quite an unenviable situation. Her family is desperate to make a suitable match for her after financial issues arise. Unfortunately, Penelope doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter. To make circumstances worse, she has been turned down by the man she initially wanted to marry, and she has attracted the attentions of a married cad who aggressively pursues her for a mistress. Penelope decides the only thing to do is move away, leading to her becoming involved in the suffragette movement. Making new friends along the way, Penelope tries to find her place in the world while navigating the attentions of several men interested in her.
Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes is a pleasant historical novel set at the turn of the 19th century. There has clearly been an extensive amount of research into the time period by the author. Historical events are superbly and naturally used in the story, and there is a depth of understanding to them that made their inclusion not seem forced. I had not anticipated the quality of historical detail that the novel possessed. History lovers should enjoy this novel, as the time period is well handled. I noticed no real grammar errors through the novel, which made the reading experience even better. The author has real talent as a historical novelist. Penelope was a likable character, and her plight of either becoming a spinster or accepting the attentions of some rather unsavory men was believable.
I ended up giving the book 3 out of 4 stars. The writing of the book was excellent, but there were a few things that gave me pause while reading. The first issue was the fact that the male characters were very shallowly written. I understand that Penelope and her situation were the focus of the book, but it was hard for me to understand why there was even an attraction to the very unpleasant Mr. Daggers, who propositions Penelope to be his mistress within the first few pages. Penelope’s other romantic prospects aren’t much better. I feel that people picking this book up thinking it is a historical romance will be disappointed. Once again, the historical content is top notch, but the romance aspect is a bit more shaky. The focus of the plot is far more on Penelope and her friends, and the book is at its weakest when she is interacting with men.
There are a few phrases that seemed anachronistic, such as Penelope using the term “hang out” to refer to people standing around a table. On the whole though, the writing and attention to detail about the time period are wonderful. Lovers of historical fiction should be well pleased with this novel, both in content and quality. The author has clearly done a good job editing the work.
Mistress Suffragette proves to be a very praiseworthy outing by the author. While there are a few minor issues, the book on the whole is excellently done. I would greatly recommend the book for anyone who likes historical fiction.
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