When Gemma Lamb takes a job at a quirky English girls’ boarding school, she believes she’s found the perfect escape route from her controlling boyfriend – until she discovers the rest of the staff are
hiding sinister secrets:
● Hairnet, the eccentric headmistress who doesn’t hold with academic qualifications
● Oriana Bliss, Head of Maths and master of disguise
● Joscelyn Spryke, the suspiciously rugged Head of PE
● Geography teacher Mavis Brook, surreptitiously selling off the library books
● creepy night watchman Max Security, with his network of hidden tunnels
Even McPhee, the school cat, is leading a double life.
Tucked away in the school’s beautiful private estate in the Cotswolds, can Gemma stay safe and build a new independent future, or will past secrets catch up with her and the rest of the staff?
With a little help from her new friends, including some wise pupils, she’s going to give it her best shot…
When an American stranger turns up claiming to be the rightful owner of the school’s magnificent country estate it could spell trouble for everyone at St Bride’s . . .
No one can believe it when the headmistress, Hairnet, instantly accepts the stranger’s claim, not:
● the put-upon Bursar, ousted from his cosy estate cottage by the stranger
● the enigmatic Max Security, raring to engage in a spot of espionage
● the sensible Judith Gosling, who knows more about Lord Bunting than she’s letting on
● the irrepressible Gemma Lamb, determined to keep the school open. Only fickle maths teacher Oriana Bliss isn’t suspicious of the stranger, after all she can just marry him and secure St Bride’s future forever. That’s if inventive pranks by the girls – and the school cat – don’t drive him away first.
Who will nab the stranger first? Oriana with the parson’s noose? Gemma with sinister secrets? Or could this be the end of St Bride’s?
Gemma Lamb is ready for an uneventful term at St Bride’s, she’s had enough of dastardly deeds and sinister strangers.
However, she’s barely back at school before:
● Unlucky in love Oriana is sneaking around at odd hours
● Handsome Joe is keeping secrets
● Militant Mavis feels a scandal is brewing
It’s all a bit much, but when a stranger appears Gemma thinks she’s had enough. But this stranger isn’t so sinister, instead he looks rather too familiar. If Gemma can’t get him away from the school
the whispers and scandal his presence could unleash may just close St Bride’s doors for good.
Debbie Young is the much-loved author of the Sophie Sayers and St Brides cosy crime mysteries. She lives in a Cotswold village where she runs the local literary festival, and has worked at Westonbirt School, both of which provide inspiration for her writing. She is bringing both her series to Boldwood in a 13-book contract. They will be publishing several new titles in each series and republishing the backlist, starting in September 2022.
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My thoughts: one of my favourite tropes is the boarding school story (Malory Towers, The Chalet School, you name it, I’ve probably read it!) and these books are a lot of fun. Told from the perspective of Gemma Lamb, newly the head of English (a team of one) at St Bride’s school for girls. The school holds a lot of secrets, among the staff, and of course the students have theirs too. But Gemma discovers it’s also full of kindness and good people, quirky though they are.
She helps see off several attempts to discredit and bring down the school and its unusual headteacher. A safe haven for the daughters of rich men, some of whom are perhaps a little questionable, and even teachers on the run or in hiding cough *PE teacher Jo* cough.
There’s lots of hijinks and a cat that changes gender in term time (which made me laugh out loud and my own cat jumped!), dodgy money grubbing frauds, bonfires, library books that could fund the school for some time, the lovelorn Burser, tunnels, a rather crazy security guard, expeditions to the town, all sorts of excitement. I think I would have liked St Bride’s even if my parents were perhaps wise in not giving in to my requests to go to boarding school when I was 10.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.