The First Rebellion is the first book in the The Waverly Women series. The Waverley Women are Fanny, Fredrica and Felicity, who are orphans living with a women’s rights activist, Mrs Waverley. Each book in the series will centre on a different girl, this one focused on Fanny. In The First Rebellion, the girls are introduced to society and are exposed to men for the first time in their lives. I really enjoy historical romance and was excited to read a story from the genre from a feminist perspective. Unfortunately, The Waverley Women basically read as a ridiculous mess that reinforces annoying stereotypes.
I honestly found the book hard to follow, not because the plot was too complex, but because the book was so disjointed. It felt like it was written by a someone who doesn’t understand feminism and wants to turn everyone against it. Here’s the general run down of what happens in it (contains spoilers):
We’re introduced to Lady Artemis (the only interesting character), a rich widow looking for a new husband. Lady Artemis is beautiful and all the men in the Ton are obsessed with her, except a snobby Earl who’s name I’ve honestly forgotten even though I only finished the book half an hour ago. Snobby Earl is unimpressed by how vapid most of the women are and wants someone interesting. In order to prove how interesting she is, Lady Artemis promises to introduce him to her man hating neighbour, Mrs Waverley, and her three ugly daughters who barely leave the house. Snobby Earl agrees, because even though we’ve just had to endure his moaning about how shallow women are, he also hates women who have opinions and wants to expose them as frauds?? He thinks they must all be liars who just want attention from men, it couldn’t possibly just be that they want to be treated equally? They attend one of Lady Waverley’s evil man hating meetings and shock!, her three adopted daughters are beautiful! The entire meeting actually is spent with all the women fighting for Snobby Earl’s attention. Fanny and Snobby Earl argue and hate each other but also become obsessed with each other? Lady Artemis invites the women to start going out and about with her, but only so Snobby Earl will keep speaking to her. They go to the opera where all the men fall in love with the girls, then they go to a hot air balloon display where Fanny and Snobby Earl end up being stuck in a flyaway balloon together (???). There’s a chapter where their balloon ends up landing in a town and they pretend to be sent from god or something. I honestly have no idea what happened with that entire plot. The rest of the book is basically those two arguing and apparently falling in love with each other, even though they have absolutely no chemistry, and Lady Artemis scheming. And of course Mrs Waverley is exposed as a crazy liar who hates men because she doesn’t want to be rejected by them (or something, I think I blacked out by that point and was reading in daze).
I know that paragraph made absolutely no sense, which is perfect because it gives you a sense of what reading the book was like. Like I said, Lady Artemis was the only interesting character. In the book she starts out as shallow (which is how society raised her to be, so she shouldn’t be so judged for it!) but eventually becomes more interested in women’s rights. This book would have been way better if it followed Lady Artemis educating herself and inspiring the other women in high society to do the same. That book I would have loved.
This book, unfortunately, I hated. It encourages the stereotype that feminists are just pathetic man haters and the female characters are either crazy, stupid or spiteful. I’m so disappointed as I think the general idea could have made a great book. I also picked the third book in the series up from the library as well today, which is from Felicity’s POV. From the blurb it actually sounds quite good so I’ll probably go ahead and read it, but I’m not getting my hopes up. Wish me luck.
Have any of you read this series? Can you recommend any great historical romance books that aren’t embarrassingly sexist?