The Season

The SeasonSet in Regency England (the season of 1815, to be exact), The Season follows the first few months of the social debuts of Alex Stafford and her best friends, Ella and Vivi. In addition to the social pitfalls inherent to their status, there’s also a murder, spies, and romance. The story is full of the amusing banter between Alex and those who surround her.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A historian may quibble with it, but my knowledge is primarily based on reading Jane Austen and historical romances, as well as a steady diet of BBC costume dramas, and The Season fits in with all of that very well. There isn’t a ton of character development aside from Alex who is the main character, but neither are many of the characters simple cyphers—there is always more than one side to the story, even if we as readers don’t see all of it.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Family & Friends

There are several wonderful family relationships in this book. The fathers of the three girls are childhood friends and look out for each other’s daughters. Alex’s mother does indeed want to see her children well matched, and she expects to be obeyed in all things. But she has a sense of humor about it as well, which demonstrates the love she has for her children. It’s also obvious that Alex’s parents love each other very much. Alex has three older brothers who tease her and her friends, but never cruelly. Gavin, another childhood friend, becomes more because of the respect and friendship he and Alex share. Familial responsibility weighs heavily on all of them, but the actual relationships are healthy and strong.


With any book set in this time period, sexism will be an issue. One thing I appreciated about this book was that, while women’s roles may have been limited, the female characters were not. They found ways to express themselves and have an effect on the world around them—there were no true activists in the story, but there were also no doormats.

Alex, Ella, and Vivi do fight against expectation to a certain extent—they chafe at being paraded about in front of all the eligible bachelors, they pride themselves on being intelligent and outspoken. However, they still participate in the many balls, dinners, and parties that are expected of them. They wear their beautiful gowns, address everyone according to their station, and fill their dance cards. And, since it’s a romance, our Alex is engaged by the end of the book. She does, however, request a long courtship so she and Gavin can have some adventures before they settle down. Her views of marriage have evolved, but not completely changed.

The girls generally have negative opinions of their suitors, assuming that all men want pretty, vapid, and obedient wives. While some may have sought that, the men we meet in the story are more nuanced than that, and they appreciate the humor and intelligence of Alex and her friends.


It would have been easy to make Alex’s parents concerned only about marriage and appearance. Her older brothers could have been overbearing and sexist. The girl she’s jealous of could have been awful and shallow. The cad that Alex is friends with could have been up to no good. While to some extent all of these things are true, there’s also more to every character—at the very least, if we don’t see the depth for ourselves, Alex (and therefore the reader) is told she’s judging unfairly and prematurely. The villain is perhaps an exception to this, but he’s honestly only there to add tension and time pressure to the plot.


There is a murder, but it happens off screen. The villain is trying to kill our two main characters and he does brandish a gun that goes off, but he’s mostly plot device so after the initial murder the violence is all threatened. Alex does save Gavin’s life by stomping hard on the murderer’s foot, allowing Gavin to tackle him without getting shot.

Sex & Romance

This is truly a romance novel for the younger set. There’s much description of how exciting it is to get your first kiss, the flutters of realizing you’re in love, etc. It stays very PG, but it’s quite sweet.


I have a thing about secrets as an overused trope in books. One thing I really appreciated about this book is that the girls decide to tell their fathers when they figure out they were in over their heads. Of course, because the plot demands that they go explore the library, their fathers aren’t available so they go ahead with the back up plan anyway. But Alex shares her suspicions with Gavin even though it’s hard, and doesn’t truly regret her decision even when he doesn’t believe her—she knows telling him was the right thing to do and hopes that he’ll come to see that, too (he does). Ella and Vivi do promise not to tell when Alex runs off to warn Gavin about the murderer, but of course they ignore her and she thanks them for not keeping a dangerous secret. Even when they do try to lie, they get found out to some extent or another.


I think this is a delightful read for mature 10 year olds up through adults. It probably helps to have some understanding of the tropes (why is it so awful if Alex and Gavin are discovered to be alone together, even if all they’re doing is talking?), but it’s also a good introduction to historical romances and a natural lead in to Jane Austen’s books.

Daughter update:

My romantic 11 year old girl adored this book. She’s spending her own money to buy herself copy (the one she and I read was borrowed). I could see this being one of the books she reads over and over.

As far as I can tell, this is the only book by this author for younger readers—I’m looking forward to reading her other books, but I don’t think I’ll be sharing them with my daughter for a number of years!

Second daughter update:

She did in fact spend her allowance to buy a copy of the book, which she has read so many times that the pages are starting to fall out! She adores this book.


The Season by Sarah MacLean
Published in 2009 by Scholastic
Borrowed from BooksFree



  1. We need to get her some BBC costume dramas, stat.

    • ayvalentine says:

      🙂 Yes, we do. Austen movies are probably a good start. Then we’ll build up to the 6 hour miniseries.

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