Blog Tour: Refuge for Masterminds by Kathleen Baldwin



Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 23, 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: young adult historical romance
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: Book 3 of the Stranje House series


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by Jean Book Nerd Blog Tours. This does not affect the content of my review. The full tour schedule can be found HERE. Please go give my fellow tour hosts some love!

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Summary:
It’s 1814. Napoleon has escaped his imprisonment on Elba. Britain is at war on four fronts. And at Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, five young ladies are secretly being trained for a world of spies, diplomacy, and war….

Napoleon’s invasion of England is underway and someone at Stranje House is sneaking information to his spies. Lady Jane Moore is determined to find out who it is. If anyone can discover the traitor, it is Jane―for, according to headmistress Emma Stranje, Lady Jane is a mastermind.

Jane doesn’t consider herself a mastermind. It’s just that 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. Is Jane enough of a mastermind to save the brash young American inventor Alexander Sinclair, her friends at Stranje House, and possibly England itself?

Fans of genre-blending, romance, and action will love this Regency-era alternate history novel filled with spunky heroines, handsome young lords, and dastardly villains―the third in the Stranje House series. Don’t miss the first two books: A School for Unusual Girls and Exile for Dreamers.

Review:
For those of you who don't know, Kathleen Baldwin's Stranje House series is basically a Napoleonic era Gallagher Girls: young English ladies with... shall we say peculiar talents have been shipped off to Miss Stranje's establishment. It's basically supposed to be a reform school, but Miss Stranje turns out to be an English spy and educates her charges in the arts and sciences of espionage. This series definitely needed some room to grow into itself, and I'm happy to report that Refuge for Masterminds is the best and my favorite of the three, and I eagerly anticipate the next book in the series!

While I loved witnessing Tess's pov in Exile for Dreamers, Tess is an extremely confident character. She's not so difficult to figure out. Jane, on the other hand, is more relatable for me as she's much more unsure of herself, of her talents, and that makes her wonder and worry about the affections of others. I think Jane's character arc throughout the book showed more growth than Georgie and Tess's did in the previous books, and I like that. It makes the books and each of the characters stand out so much more distinctly when their paths differ. I also think it's important that Jane demonstrates her varied skillset. She's one of the girls who is a little more difficult to pin down; she definitely does not fit neatly into a role the way some of the others do. I think it's fantastic that she showed some physical strengths and weaknesses as well as mental.

While I think the character development is deepening in this series, so too is the plot thickening. One thing that does frustrate me about the series is that it's a little slow. For being a series about spies, there's a lot of talking and planning but little action. Up until now, plenty of tell but not as much show as I'd like. However, Rufuge takes it up a notch with a new setting and some fresh faces. And if the ending of the book is any indication, book 4 will only further up the ante, which is why I'm looking forward to it so much. I like Kathleen's twists on history, and I love the glimpses of the high society of London intertwined with political intrigue.

Jane isn't the only character with added depth. With each book, the villains become more dynamic. It's as if they are a puzzle and each chapter adds a piece to the entire picture. I think Daneska and Ghost's partnership (?) relationship (?) whatever you want to call it is showing real signs of strain, and that makes the tension all the more delicious. So too, with the addition of the Patronesses, is Miss Stranje becoming more known, as are some of the others good guys. And I do quite like the new characters. The Patronesses and Lord Harston in particular interest me, and I very much hope to see them more.

Finally, one of the best aspects of Refuge is the relationship between Jane and Alexander. The snark and the sparks fly between these two! They're like Shakespeare's Beatrice and Benedict, they're so sharpe with one another. There's always a quip, a saucy rejoinder on the tips of their tongues, and I LIVE for this kind of back-and-forth verbal foreplay-filled dynamic. To some extent Georgie & Wyatt and Tess & Ravencross had it too in their books, but Jane & Alexander REALLY have it down. Add dancing and kissing to this, and my heart is beating quite happily at these two adorable little cinnamon rolls.

I think Stranje House is a series that needed time to develop, but with Refuge for Masterminds, it has truly hit its stride. I appreciate how positive it showcases "strong female characters", but espexially that it explores how women can be strong in different ways. Rufuge is a strong continuation to the story, increasing the tension tenfold, and I will be waiting eagerly for the next installment.

Purchase Links:
   

Praise for the Stranje House Series

"A completely original―and totally engrossing―world, full of smart girls, handsome boys, and sinister mysteries...Sign me up." ―Meg Cabot, New York Times bestselling author of The Princess Diaries

Launch Party Schedule:
May 22: JeanBookNerd VLOG & INTERVIEW
May 23: Book Briefs REVIEW & FAVORITE BOOKS
May 23: CBY Book CLub EXCERPT
May 24: Bookish Things & More REVIEW & MUSIC PLAYLIST
May 24: Movies, Shows, & Books EXCERPT
May 25: Bibliobibuli YA REVIEW & INTERVIEW
May 25: Whatever You Can Still Betray EXCERPT
May 26: Mama Reads Blog REVIEW & FILL IN THE BLANKS
May 26: The Forest of Words and Pages REVIEW
May 27: Jump Into Books REVIEW & EXCERPT
May 28: Sabrina's Paranormal Palace REVIEW & FAVORITE THINGS
May 29: Crossroad Reviews REVIEW
May 29: Mother.Gamer.Writer RANDOM THINGS
May 30: A Dream Within a Dream REVIEW & MUSIC PLAYLIST
May 31: Reading for the Stars and Moon REVIEW 
May 31: BookHounds YA TENS LIST

About the Author:

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. Find more about Kathleen on her Website, Newsletter, Twitter, Facebook.

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.

Author Links:
    

Giveaway: 
3 winners will receive a signed set of the Stranje House novels. 
Giveaway is open INT. | Must be 13+ to enter.

6 comments:

  1. Hi :-) I think I would love to listen to a speech from Cleopatra or Leonardo da Vinci 😀 Thank you for this gorgeous giveaway.
    Cheers.

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  2. If you could hear anyone in history give a speech, whom would you want to hear?

    I would LOOOVE to hear Tsar Nicholas. I love anything to do with Russian history.

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    1. oooh, love it! I'm fascinated by the Romanovs. I was absolutely obsessed with Anastasia as a kid, and I'm really excited there will be a bunch of Anastasia YA books next year!

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  3. I have to read this series! I love the idea of a spy school and how these clever girls get trained at a "reform" school. I'm also loving that book three of the series is the best one for you yet.

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    1. I love when a series continues to grow and improve with each book. I'd much rather that than LOVE book 1 and be disappointed with each sequel. The Stranje House books remind me of the Gallagher Girl series a lot, which is awesome because GG is one of my all-time favorite series.

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