Introducing ‘The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson’, this volume, set in 1803, brings us Kat, her two older sisters and their Stepmama – who is intent on saving the family from ruin by marrying the eldest girl well. Unbeknown to her, the two younger daughters have magic powers inherited from their mother, which they use to prevent their sister from making a disastrous match.
Kat is a harum-scarum tomboy of a girl – the story begins with her cutting her hair off like a boy, and she briefly does a turn as a highwayman – who rushes in where all would fear to tread, causing mayhem as she tries to help her sisters. Using her new-found magical powers, she gradually sorts out who she can trust and how to temper her impetuosity.
The book is written in a cod gothick style – over-written indeed – mixed somewhat uncomfortably with modern idioms, making it less convincing than it could be. Unfortunate phrases – ‘three fluttering young ladies in pastel shades’ was ambiguous enough for me to think ‘sunglasses’ rather than dresses – conspire against clarity for the young reader and some judicious editing would have made a basically entertaining story more enjoyable.