The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton
Dangerous Damsels Book 2
March 15, 2022, by Berkley
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the teahouse. . . .
Miss Charlotte Pettifer belongs to a secret league of women skilled in the subtle arts. That is to say—although it must never be said—witchcraft. The League of Gentlewomen Witches strives to improve the world in small ways. Using magic, they tidy, correct, and manipulate according to their notions of what is proper, entirely unlike those reprobates in the Wisteria Society.
When the long lost amulet of Black Beryl is discovered, it is up to Charlotte, as the future leader of the League, to make sure the powerful talisman does not fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, it is most unfortunate when she crosses paths with Alex O’Riley, a pirate who is no Mr. Darcy. With all the world scrambling after the amulet, Alex and Charlotte join forces to steal it together. If only they could keep their pickpocketing hands to themselves! If Alex’s not careful, he might just steal something else—such as Charlotte’s heart.
A policeman’s whistle pierced the clamor of the crowd, and Charlotte winced. Pain from the
noise ricocheted along her nerves. If only she could leave London with all its cacophony and
retire to Hampshire, birthplace of Jane Austen, where green peace whispered wild yet gentle
poetry to one’s heart. It was never to be-duty forced her presence in London, noble duty (and the
fact there was not much of value to steal in the countryside)-yet still she dreamed. And
occasionally took brief jaunts by train because, truly, there was nothing like leaving home for
Thus imagining oak trees and country lanes while behind her the brawl intensified, Charlotte
made her way without further impediment toward Almack’s. Its door stood open, a delivery boy’s
bicycle leaning on the wall beside it, and the warm interior shadows promised respite from
London’s inconveniences-as well as a back door through which she could slip unnoticed by
policemen, pumpkin carters, and aggravated briefcase owners. She was almost there when she
saw the child.
A mere scrap of humanity, he huddled within torn and filthy clothes, his small hand extended
pathetically. Charlotte looked at him and then at Almack’s door. She came to a decisive stop.
“Hello,” she said in the stiff tones of someone unused to conversing with children. “Are you
The urchin nodded. Charlotte offered him her wrapped sandwiches but he hesitated, his eyes
growing wide and fearful as he glanced over her shoulder. Suddenly, he snatched the food and
Charlotte watched him go. Two cucumber sandwiches would not sustain a boy for long, but no
doubt he could sell the linen napkin to good effect. She almost smiled at the thought. Then she
drew herself up to her fullest height, lifted her chin, and turned to look at the gentleman now
looming over her.
“Good afternoon,” she said, tightening her grip on his briefcase.
In reply, he caught her arm lest she follow the example of the urchin. His expression tumbled
through surprise and uncertainty before landing on the hard ground of displeasure; his dark blue
eyes smoldered. For the first time, Charlotte noticed he wore high leather boots, strapped and
buckled, scarred from interesting use-boots to make a woman’s heart tremble, either in
trepidation or delight, depending on her education. A silver hook hung from his left ear; a ruby
ring encircled one thumb, and what she had taken for a beard was mere unshaven stubble.
Altogether it led to a conclusion Charlotte was appalled not to have reached earlier.
“Pirate,” she said in disgust.
“Thief,” he retorted. “Give me back my briefcase.”
How rude! Not even the suggestion of a please! But what else could one expect from a barbarian
who probably flew around in some brick cottage thinking himself a great man just because he
could get it up? Pirates really were the lowest of the low, even if-or possibly because-they could
go higher than everyone else in their magic-raised battlehouses. Such an unsubtle use of
enchantment was a crime against civilization, even before one counted in the piracy. Charlotte
allowed her irritation to show, although frowning on the street was dreadfully unladylike.
“Possession is nine-tenths of the law, sir. Kindly unhand me and I will not summon a police
officer to charge you with molestation.”
He surprised her by laughing. “I see you are a wit as well as a thief. And an unlikely
philanthropist too. If you hadn’t stopped for the boy, you might have gotten away.”
“I still shall.”
“I don’t think so. You may be clever, but I could have you on the ground in an instant.”
“You could,” Charlotte agreed placidly. “However, you may like to note that my shoe is pressed
against your foot. If I am so inclined, I can release a poisoned dart from its heel which will
penetrate boot and skin to paralyze you within moments.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Ingenious. So you too are a pirate, I take it?”
Charlotte gasped, trying to tug her arm from his grip. “I most certainly am not, sir, and I demand
an apology for the insult!”
Charlotte waited, but apparently that was the extent of his reply. She drew a tight breath,
determined to remain calm. What would Jane Austen’s fiercest heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, do in
“I consider myself a reasonable woman,” she said. “I take pride in not being prejudiced.
Although your behavior is disgraceful, and I shall surely have bruises on my arm, I do appreciate
this has been a difficult afternoon for you. Therefore, I give you permission to withdraw.”
“How kind,” he said wryly, although he did ease his grip on her arm. “I am going nowhere,
however, without my briefcase.”
About the Author:
India Holton lives in New Zealand, where she’s enjoyed the typical Kiwi lifestyle of wandering around forests, living barefoot on islands, and messing about in boats. Now she lives in a cottage near the sea, writing books about uppity women and charming rogues, and drinking too much tea.