Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage

She’d much rather disassemble the robot butler than learn etiquette, but well-brought-up young ladies in 1851 British society must have impeccable manners. How else to distinguish persons of quality from vampires, werewolves, and other beings of lower social class?

Tumbling out of the dumbwaiter covered with pudding was perhaps not the best way to meet the finishing school headmistress. However, Miss Geraldine accepted Sophronia to the Academy because of the 14-year-old’s curiosity and resourcefulness, despite her dreadfully subpar curtsy.

Surviving an attack by flywaymen on their carriage journey, Sophronia is somewhat startled to find that the Academy floats above the moors, that the Miss Geraldine who visited her mother is not the Miss Geraldine who heads up the exclusive school, and that dashing Captain Niall is a werewolf (with impeccable manners, it must be noted).

Aboard the triple dirigibles of the Academy, she meets the real Miss Geraldine (who seems quite unaware of the deadly classes being taught on board), teachers of non-quite-human persuasion (but excellent taste in fashion), and the sooties below decks who stoke the mighty furnaces powering this most unusual finishing school.

Classes for dance and the deadly uses of hatpins, the sudden appearance a darling mechanimal dachshund (which needs wee bits of coal to keep going) bearing threats from villains about handing over a prototype, and odd preparations for an outing at their allied school for boys keep Sophronia and the other young ladies quite busy - but not so busy that they can’t do a little sleuthing of their own.

Why does Miss Geraldine not know that her school is training spies and assassins?

What is the device whose prototype is coveted by so many?

Will Sophronia learn to curtsy properly in the few months before her sister’s debutante ball?

Book the First of the Finishing School series brings together steampunk and high manners with great success, inviting readers along on the astounding journey of clever Sophronia, her new friends, and her new enemies.

Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA – blogging young adult books beyond the bestsellers at


Fourteen year old Sophronia greets us from the depths of the family dumbwaiter which she is disassembling in search of some spare parts. Meanwhile in the parlor her mother is unburdening herself of all of Sophronia's failings to the headmistress of a finishing school with the great hope that Sophronia will be taken off her mother's hands. It doesn't take much time before Mademoiselle Geraldine finds Sophronia perfectly acceptable and rushes her off to the waiting carriage where two young people await.

An adventure of amazing hilarity is about to launch itself as flygentlemen land their air balloon on the carriage and proceed to demand "the prototype" from the fair ladies at gunpoint. This is a madcap tongue in cheek mashup of steampunk, Victorian secret agents, vampire, the odd werewolf and a finishing school that teaches the most unexpected and possibly unladylike subjects. If you took A Mad Mad Mad World and dressed the characters in petticoats and corsets and saddled them with mechanical animal friends, you would have a feel for the mild inanity and well-crafted adventure with a main character you believe in. Ages 11 and up  307 pages


In 1854, all proper young ladies were expected to have proper etiquette but tomboy Sophronia can barely manage a curtsy much to her mother's dismay.  Desperate to see her daughter become a proper lady, her mother sends her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
Unbeknownst to her mother, the school is a finishing school but a very different one where girls learn how to throw a knife while curtsying and how to poison the tea.  A host of delightful steam punk characters including a mechanical butler will help Sophronia on her way to becoming a perfect lady of espionage and mayhem.
Book One of the Finishing School series.  Ages 12 and up, Grade 7

Recommended by:  Carole Soden, Librarian, California USA

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