Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.
An exquisitely written book that combines meticulous historical research with elements of the supernatural and an independent, forward thinking young narrator in a time where women were expected to be nothing more that pretty decorations.
For all the shit that goes on in the 21st century, there’s still no other time in history I’d rather live – women’s rights progressively worsen the further back we go. (Unless we’re talking about the few, mystical matriarchal society’s that existed way back in the day.)
I found the historical information included in the book to be really interesting – it’s not info-dumped or bland and boring, but worked in the narrative to portray a rather authentic experience of women’s suffrage at the time. I think it’s an incredible time in history, and it’s inspired me to find out/read more about this fundamental step for women’s rights which we’ve too easily forgotten.
What these unbridled women lack is a thorough knowledge of the female brain. Two of my closest friends….two fine gentlemen educated at East Coast universities, both support the staggering wealth of scientific research that proves women were created for domestic duties alone, not higher thinking. A body built for childbearing and mothering is clearly a body meant to stay in the home. If females muddle their minds with politics and other matters confusing to a women’s head, they will abandon their wifely and motherly duties and inevitably trigger the downfall of American society.
I was tickled pink at the mention of the bicycle bloomers – it was particularly cool to see how bicycles alone gave women the freedom to transport themselves independently. The quotations provided at the beginning were thought provoking, and it was horrifying to see how suffragettes were spoken about/treated by society at the time. These were rational women who simply wanted the same rights to vote as their male peers, but were dismissed either as hysterical or unfeminine and ‘not quite right’ i.e. wanting to be men.
Olivia Mead is a great MC. She is funny, and smart, and caring. She’s also ambitious, independent and rational. She knows her own mind, and she will not be swayed by those who wish to control her and turn her into a meek and obedient specimen. She’s also awfully brave – to go against her father, to plot and plan a way out, to make her voice heard.
The romance made me want to scoop up both Olivia and Henri and pat them on the head and hide them where no one can ever hurt them again. Poor Henri has already suffered so much in his life, and we forget how incredibly young he really is. Unlike 99% of the men in the story, he is also respectful, a supporter of the suffrage fight and generally a lovely, decent boy who loves Olivia for who she is, not what he wants to mould her to be.
He snickered near my ear, and we both laughed like grammar school children all the way back to my street, drunk on moonbeams and speed and the incomparable exhilaration of hanging onto another person as if one’s life depended on it.
The strong sisterhood depicted in the novel is fantastic – from Olivia’s friends Frannie and Kate, to the ailing Genevieve, and indeed, all the unnamed, unknown suffragettes who all band together and have each other’s backs -they support each other, and cover for each other if need be.
In short, another fantastic novel from Cat Winters. She has a gift for creating entertaining historical fiction with a paranormal elements and above all, a strong message that will have you thinking about the book long after you’ve put it down.