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Hazel Louise Mull-Dare is nearly 13 years old on a June day in 1913 when she and her father attend a horse race near their London home, an event that will change her life forever --- in more ways than one. The crowd is distracted when a woman in a black coat dashes into the path of the horses and is kicked in the head, severely wounding her. As if this wasn’t intriguing enough, immediately after the accident a man in the crowd attacks a female spectator. He shouts about “you and your lot,” claiming that nothing positive can come from their cause. While Hazel’s father is preoccupied and refuses to discuss the wounded woman, Hazel is resourceful. Sneaking into her father’s den to read the newspaper, she discovers that the lady is a suffragist. Hazel vaguely knows that suffragists are women who demand the right to vote. Now she is fascinated.

In her cosseted, luxurious, sheltered life, Hazel feels that she is at a crossroads. She is bored with her many expensive toys; the only one she still plays with is a rocking horse, on which she gallops while imagining a wild ride into exotic lands. But how can she change her life? It feels like an impossibility.

As Hazel’s claustrophobic existence continues, it is lightened only by her fun-loving and affectionate father. Hazel’s mother has always been on the eccentric side. She adores her house-soiling pet dogs and spends her time working at an animal shelter (readers who enjoyed Julie Hearn’s previous novel, IVY, are likely to be astonished and pleased when they realize the identity of Hazel’s mother).

At Hazel’s school, the exclusive Kensington School for the Daughters of Gentlemen, Hazel is intrigued by a new student named Gloria. Gloria causes a stir and a scandal when, on a school-sketching expedition at a nearby pond, she produces an X-rated rendering. Gloria is escorted back to school with her head under the teacher’s butterfly net. Although Hazel is riveted by this spectacle, it doesn’t distract her from a distressing glimpse as they pass by Hazel’s home in which she spies the family housekeeper, clearly terrified, running from the house. The situation causing this scene will disrupt Hazel’s life but not nearly as much as actions set in motion by her new friend, Gloria.

Gloria, it seems, is in the mood for revenge against the butterfly net-wielding teacher, Miss Amelia Gumm. When Gloria arrives for Hazel’s birthday party, she is accompanied by the uninvited Valentine, who is aiding and abetting Gloria with her retribution plan. But when Hazel is the stumbling block for their vengeance, Gloria turns her considerable wrath upon the unwitting Hazel. Hazel’s life, no longer uneventful and boring, takes a major detour, landing her on a Caribbean island --- an exotic land, much as she once dreamed about --- with an unexpected companion. However, Hazel could never have imagined the secrets and mysteries affecting her personally that she will encounter in her new life as her true education begins.

This is an excellent read with fully-realized and original characters and a well-paced plot with unforeseen twists and turns. Hazel is a particularly sympathetic main character. Although the setting is long ago, readers are apt to find Hazel’s situations and reactions to be completely relatable.


Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on October 18, 2011

by Julie Hearn

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2009
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 141692504X
  • ISBN-13: 9781416925040