At the risk of being nothing more than a blathering fangirl of Maryrose Wood, let me start out by saying that reading The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood is the most fun I’ve had reading anything in a long, long time. I believe I have my good buddy Stephanie to thank for this, too–I purchased the first book, The Mysterious Howling, a while ago when she alerted me to the fact that it was available very inexpensively for the Kindle. It sat and sat and sat on my Kindle with no attention whatsoever until I needed something light and fun to read while waiting on the arrival of our newest little man, and I thought I’d give it a shot. Well, I was hooked, and no sooner had I finished the first book than I bought the second, The Hidden Gallery, for my Kindle and kept right on reading. You know what happened next–as soon as I finished book two, I bought book three, The Unseen Guest, and finished up the series in short order (well, finished up what’s been published so far, that is). (This–this–is the danger of the Kindle. Instant downloads of series fiction that I really, really want to finish before I forget what happened in the previous book and that is not available at a library within comfortable driving distance? Yes!)
In a nutshell, this series is about one Ms. Penelope Lumley, fifteen year old governess lately come from the Swanburne School for Poor Bright Females to Ashton Place to care for the three unusual wards of Frederick and Constance Ashton. The children, who were given the names of Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia Incorrigible by Mr. Ashton, are unusual because they were apparently raised by wolves until Mr. Ashton found them in the woods around Ashton Place while hunting. It doesn’t take too long, though, for any discerning reader to determine that there’s much more than meets the eye to this whole scenario, and Maryrose Wood does an impeccable job of feeding the reader just enough details and information slowly and carefully through each of these three stories to leave the reader wanting more. Something that I usually find rather annoying about series fiction–cliffhanger endings–didn’t bother me in the least in this series (see note above about reading such books on the Kindle). And to be fair, each book does tell a complete story, but still, I couldn’t help but want to know more because Wood is such a skillful wordsmith.
Why do I love this series so much? Let me count the ways!
- This series contains wry humor, which is my favorite type.
- It also plays delightfully with the English language, and Wood is quite capable of keeping the joke running for a long while. In each book she focuses on one facet of English. In book three, for example, she works the acronyms. There are crazy acronyms galore (although not so many than it’s annoying), and they’re quite funny.
- Penelope Lumley is the perfect blend of perfect governess and teenage girl. She is a “Swanburne girl, through and through,” which means that she’s always prepared and always keeps her wits about her. However, she also has questions about her own life and there’s even a budding romance in book three.
- It’s a mystery! By the end of book two, at least, the magnitude of the mystery begins to unfold, and the reader is left really wanting to know how it’s all going to work out. As I mentioned already, Maryrose Wood is great at casting out a line and reeling in her reader. 😉
- As a homeschooling mother, I recognize myself in the very proper governess, Ms. Penelope Lumley. She makes everything a learning experience, and as I also previously mentioned, the humor is very wry and subtly sarcastic. I love it!
- Ms. Agatha Swanburne, the founder of the Swanburne School for Poor Bright Females, was the Queen of the Pithy Maxim. Many of her sage sayings border on the profound. 😉 This one’s my favorite:
“Busy hands and idle minds have knitted many a sweater; busy minds and idle hands have knitted many a brow.” (from Book Three: The Unseen Guest)