This is the first book in the Cahill Witches set. Set in an alt. universe where witches came to prominence, abused their power trying to control men’s minds, and were brought down by a close-minded group of men called The Brotherhood. In certain areas of the world, women can come and go and dress as they please, hold jobs and be educated, such as Dubai, or even Mexico to the south or Indo-China, but not in New England. Here The Brotherhood holds strong, and women are to be meek, subservient to their husbands, and by age 17, choose a husband or life in The Sisterhood, the female religious equivalent of The Brotherhood. Women or girls who are thought to be witches are arrested, tried, and if convicted, which most are, sent to prison ships to labor, to a school for re-training, or they disappear. Cate is a witch, and she is almost 17. Her mother was a witch as well, as are her two sisters. When her mother died several years before, she made Cate promised to protect and look out after her sisters. Their father doesn’t know about the fact that they are witches, as his health is frail, and even their mother wasn’t sure he could handle it and keep it from The Brotherhood without harming his health. None of the servants are supposed to know either, so they follow some basic rules, such as no magic in the house or outside, only in the Rose Garden where no one can see them,and then only limited. Cate is doing her best, but she has no guidance, until one day a letter comes for her, from a mysterious person, Z.R. telling her that she and her sisters are in danger and to look for her mother’s diary. At the same time, a meddlesome neighbor gets their father, who is often away on business, to foist a governess on them, to allow them to become ladies and be fit for marriage. But a governess, being with them all the time, might find out, and Cate is worried. She reads the diary, and it talks about a prophecy, which could change their fate, and the fate o the world. So she decides to talk to her mother’s best friend and see if she knows anything about what all this means, what the diary says about a prophecy. Complicating things are the governess; Paul, the boy next door who she has been best friends with since childhood and who has returned from the University to ask her to marry her; and the bookstore owner’s son, Finn, who was hired to be their gardener. A fun alternate look at a society which is similar in many respects to the time of the Salem witch trials, but is set in quasi-late Victorian/Edwardian times. Her characters are interesting, if a tad flat, but the plot makes up for that, and the minor characters are more interesting at times. Enjoyable, and I look forward to the other books.
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