Exile for Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin

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Alright, so I read the first book in this series way back before I started this blog, and I LOVED it! So much so that I specifically requested that my local library buy the second and third books in the series since they only had the first. Well, lo and behold, a couple of days ago I got an e-mail from my library saying that they had purchased it, and since I specifically requested it, I could be the first one to check it out. Score! So I immediately downloaded it and finished book two in about 5 hours (and that’s with interruptions). Now there are some books that are just so easy for me to read that I fly right through them. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are fantastic reads, but for some reason there are some books that I can just get through quickly. Remembering how much I enjoyed the first book in this series most likely enabled my speed-reading on this one. Also, I tend to find that books in the Young Adult genre are pretty easy to get through.

With that introduction out of the way, I found myself a little less enthralled with the second installment in this series than I was with the first. A School for Unusual Girls introduces Stranje House and the girls that reside within. This is a house where women with unusual talents in Napolean-era England can find refuge from family members who don’t necessarily know what to do with them, or are too troubled to even try to deal with them, or just plain embarrassed by their intelligence/weirdness. Essentially families just dump these girls on Emma Stranje’s doorstep and expect her to beat/train/punish the weirdness out of them. Or at least, that’s what it looks like to the outside world. Inside Stranje House, Emma knows that the skills of these unique girls can be used to benefit both Crown and Country and so instead of insisting that these girls be “normal,” she encourages them to be unique and helps train them to fight the rise of Napoleon and his troops. Emma believes that these aristocratic young ladies have access to something more useful than the army generals: ballroom gossip. Especially considering the fact that most men in Regency England wouldn’t hesitate to speak of sensitive matters in front of women. Women would have no clue what they were even speaking about (did you grasp my sarcasm there?)…

And again, the first book – so great. Both books fall in the YA genre so in a few places it does get a little contrite and maybe overdone, but to me this was WAY more obvious in “Exile for Dreamers” than it was in “A School for Unusual Girls.” It was just hard for me to believe that Tess (our MC in Book 2) would believe for even a second that Emma would not want her to stay at Stranje House, or that Lord Ravencross didn’t care for her at all. Especially since she’s been trained by Emma to pick up on subtle nuances of conversation in a ballroom. I mean, I get that they’re young girls, but when you’ve received training like they have, you would think that it would be applied in all aspects of their lives. Or at least, I would think that. But I really love the continuation of this story and learning about Tess who has unique visions which are mostly maddening, but sometimes can predict the future and has an excellent repertoire with animals. Tess was especially interesting to me because she didn’t believe in her own visions though the credibility of her relationship with animals was brought up again and again in both book one and book two. Even she wasn’t sure whether or not they could predict the future, and though my memory from book one is a little foggy, I remember her being a lot more confident in her abilities the first time around. Especially since one of her visions is what spurs Georgie (the MC in book one)  and Emma to take action and leave Stranje House to make sure they could prevent the death of some of the SCs (secondary characters).

Either way, it was still an enjoyable read and a great continuation of the Stranje House chronicles. I’m pretty sure with this book, I figured out Baldwin’s titling patterns. I believe the title is supposed to be what the school means to each girl. For Georgie, it was a school where unusual girls went when their families didn’t know what to do with them anymore and wanted their children to behave normally. For Tess, she saw it as an exile from the rest of her family, though an exile she willingly accepted. I guess in that case that title is what each girl’s family sees the school as. Yes. That makes much more sense. I guess I’ll have to read number three Refuge for Masterminds, which was just released May 23rd, to see if my theory holds up.

Either way, this was an engaging continuation of the Stranje House and the strange girls it houses and I am still looking forward to book three, even after a more temperate book two. Happy reading all!

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