Refuge for Masterminds (Stranje House #3)
By: Kathleen Baldwin
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Lady Jane Moore has a secret. A secret that must be kept buried. For if anyone discovered the truth, her life at Stranje House would crumble. And with Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of England underway, everyone at Stranje House is already in danger. Mortal danger.
Jane knows it. She may not be like Tess, who has the advantage of prophetic dreams. Nor is she like Sera, who notices every detail no matter how miniscule and draws conclusions based on the smallest thread of evidence. She doesn’t possess Maya’s ability to soothe the tempers around her with a few well-spoken words. Neither is she a brilliant scientist like Georgie. According to Miss Stranje, Lady Jane Moore is a mastermind.
Jane doesn’t consider herself a mastermind. Quite the contrary, she believes herself to be an ordinary young lady. It’s just that she has a rather excessive bent toward the practical. She tends to grasp the facts of a situation quickly, and by so doing, she’s able to devise and implement a sensible course of action. But that’s all there is to it. Well, there is the fact that she also organizes the players in her plans with quiet efficiency. So much so, that occasionally Lady Jane’s friends tease her for being a bit managing.
Do they expect her to sit back and do nothing when trouble is brewing? Not likely. Not when the people she cares about are at risk. Call it being a mastermind if you must, it is a trait that comes in rather handy in a world full of spies, sabotage, and double-dealing. Especially now that Lady Jane and Sera have rooted out the truth: There is a traitor at Stranje House.
Someone is sneaking information to Lady Daneska and Ghost, Napoleon’s spies. Jane is determined to find out who it is before the bonds of friendship at Stranje House are ripped apart by suspicions. Her desperate hunt for the traitor ensnares Robert Fulton’s nephew, Alexander Sinclair, a brash American inventor, in an ambush that puts his life in danger. Sinclair may well be the most maddening man in all of Christendom, a wicked-tongued rascal with boorish manners, but for some reason, Lady Jane cannot bear the thought of the golden-haired genius being harmed.
Is Jane enough of a mastermind to save Alexander, her friends at Stranje House, and possibly England itself?
1) What are the top five things a reader should know before starting REFUGE FOR MASTERMINDS? (about the character, their love interest, their world, their current situation, the antagonist, etc. “fast facts” if you will)
- This is an alternate history series. The girls cause change and consequently the story becomes a what-if scenario. What if Napoleon escaped early and there was no Waterloo. Timing is everything in history.
- Like many of you, the young women at Stranje House are gifted girls. They don’t fit in to the rigid Regency high society, so the headmistress at their school is secretly training them to be spies in the Napoleonic wars.
- In real life young women often served their causes as spies. George Washington employed female spies to act as British camp followers. Two young African American women were key spies in the civil war. Last year a Danish researcher uncovered a spy ring of seventy females that had been active during the 17th century.
- There is a traitor in Stranje House. Someone is sneaking information to Napoleon’s ruthless spies, Lady Daneska and Ghost. (Lady Daneska was once a student at Stranje House but she turned on them and is now working with Napoleon’s secret order of the Iron Crown.)
- Lady Jane is doing her best not to fall for Robert Fulton’s nephew, Alexander Sinclair, a brash young American who teases her mercilessly. Her desperate hunt for the traitor ensnares Alexander in a deadly ambush.
PS: I think Alexander looks a lot like this actor, Alex Pettyfer.
2) How has the world of the Stranje House Novels evolved from the first book? How has your grasp of these girls and their personalities and gifts changed the more you write about them?
Great question. It’s just like when you are hanging out with friends, the more you do together the more you learn about them. As the books progress, I understand more and more about all the girls.
For instance, I had no idea Lady Jane was harboring so many secrets, nor did I know she had problems trusting others. It made perfect sense once I fully understood her story, but it came as a surprise.
3) What is your favorite thing about writing the Stranje House novels? (The characters, something interesting you discovered while doing research, etc.)
I love doing research, but it’s the women of Stranje House that I enjoy the most. They’re amazing. It sounds peculiar I know, and yes, I realize they’re fictitious. It doesn’t matter, they’ve become friends and sisters, and I miss them when I’m not writing.
4) If you could ask a character from the Stranje House novels one question, what would it be?
I want to ask Emma Stranje why she refuses to marry Captain Grey. She says she won’t say yes until he quits working for the foreign affairs office, but I don’t buy it. What’s the real reason, Emma?
Oh, and I can’t wait to ask Madam Cho how pirates figure into her background. Trouble is, she’s very tight-lipped. I doubt she’ll tell me.
5) What scene are you most proud of in this book, or the series as a whole? (due to how you handled the atmosphere, dialogue, characters, etc) What was the most difficult scene for you to write?
In Exile for Dreamers Tess recounts to Miss Stranje how she was the one who found her dead mother. That scene hurt to write because I lost my mother at a similar age. I drew on those emotions, so it was extremely painful. Afterward though, I felt proud of that scene, and it still stands as one of my favorites in the series.
6) What is next for you? What are you currently working on?
I’m writing Maya’s story, and I’m super excited about that. I’ve also started work on an exciting new series that I’m not at liberty to discuss.
Admittedly, I went into Refuge for Masterminds a little ambivalent. Tess currently reigns supreme in my heart over the ladies of Stranje House and even though I knew that Refuge would be about a new girl, I couldn’t help but miss Tess and Ravencross. Also, Jane was never a character that I was all that interested in, but I loved Alexander, and how much he messed with Jane, in Exile for Dreamers and anyone he was destined to be set up with is great in my book. Jane grew on me as I understood her a bit more, the reason she is the way she is, the way she grew up, her completed backstory. She is another unique and invaluable addition to the Stranje House crew and I loved how she came to understand her place there.
Refuge continues the Stranje House trend of blending action, humor, sisterhood, and romance together in a regency setting and bringing it to life. All the couples are able to laugh at and with each other, and still have tender and vulnerable moments that feel authentic. The sisterhood that has grown between these girls as the series progresses is another beautiful thing about these books. These girls love and care for each other, encourage each other, and protect each other. I love female friendships, and I find them especially important in YA. The villains here are also well developed. Ghost and Daneska are dimensional, and, in Daneska’s case, the mean girl trope is never played out. Daneska is evil, yes, though she is painted evil because of her disloyalty and self serving ways, not due to petty differences, her sexuality, or from being an over the top villain.
My favorite thing about the Strange House novels is Kathleen’s seamless continuation of the main plot while jumping between characters. Napoleon continues to attempt to gain power as each girl gets to tell their story and claim their love interest. And the love stories are not contained. The couples dance around each other in the backgrounds of the previous works, and previous couples’ stories are far from over. And while you can already tell who will end up with who by the end of Refuge, this means that the big mystery of each book isn’t whether our heroine will get her hero, but the journey they take to get there.
The Stranje House novels are a fantastic mix of romance and wit, friendship and humor. For a regency series about kickass ladies and the men that come to love them, look no further than Refuge for Masterminds and its predecessor’s.
Award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin loves adventure in books and in real life. She taught rock climbing in the Rockies, survival camped in the desert, was stalked by a mountain lion, lost an argument with a rattlesnake, enjoyed way too many classes in college, fell in love at least a dozen times, and married her very own hero. They’ve raised four free-spirited adventurous children.
Awarded 2016 Spirit of Texas, A School for Unusual Girls , is her first historical romance for Young Adults. It is a Junior Library Guild selection. Publisher’s Lunch listed it in their 2015 Young Adult BookBuzz. Kansas State NEA Reading Circle gave it a starred review in their 2016 “Best of the Best” for High Schools. Scholastic licensed it for book fairs, and New York Times Book Review called it “enticing from the first sentence.”
Kathleen is also an avid reader and adores the wit and humor of Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, and Jane Austen. Her eclectic reading interests range from Frank Herbert to Meg Cabot, and on to the delightfully imaginative tales of Diana Wynne Jones.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author image, info, giveaway, and more were provided by Jean Book Nerd Tours. An advanced copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. Photo content from Kathleen Baldwin.