Cover Image: A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions

A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions

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Member Reviews

Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman. This adage has been floating around for generations, but what if there was more to it than that? Sheena Boekweg’s A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions explores just that, in an alternative historical fiction that will knock your socks off.

The Society has been molding women to shape the world through their influence on men since the days of Abigail Adams. As Mothers, Wives, Spinsters, and Gossips, they try and make the world safer for all women. They help women escape dangerous situations, they guide powerful men to good and right decisions, and they do it all in secret.

Elsie joined the Society as a child, chosen to be a Wife and trained up to not only make a man fall in love with her, but to discreetly lead him in all of his decisions. Her dearest friends, Bea and Mira, are trained up in this same fashion, as is their frenemy, Greta. When they’re all selected to compete for a Priority One in the summer of 1926, to win the heart of a future President, their friendship is challenged in new and dangerous ways. To be a First Lady- that’s one of the highest positions in the Society, a real way to make a lasting difference in the world. All they have to do is make one man fall in love with them.


Elsie’s world is well constructed and believable, a 1926 unlike anything we’ve seen. As Prohibition reigns, Elsie and her friends set out to change the world as a Wife. But complications arise- a dashing rumrunner, ambition for more, and a yearning for an acknowledged identity all collide in unanticipated ways.

There was so much to love about this novel. The grand era, the well developed spy network, the tapestry of all women- trans women, women of color, unmarried women, asexual women- all working together to make the world a safer place for women inside and outside the Society alike. It’s a dream world, yet even it is complicated. But the representation of all types of women, and it’s presentation as normal and not a plot point– that is something that makes my heart soar. This novel is inclusive and beautiful in myriad ways, and it’s all presented as standard.

The representation in this novel is absolutely incredible. In addition to the variety of women listed above, there are also all shapes and sizes of women. Elsie is plus sized, as is her dear friend Bea. They are beautiful and comfortable with their size. Much like in our own present day society, it is the outside world that is left uncomfortable with their curves. Though there are a few moments of self-doubt after particularly hurtful moments, their self-love shines through most of all. It’s uplifting and encouraging to see larger main characters, when their size is not a plot point but just a fact of who they are.

The diverse cast is all intricately developed, making the characters feel real and causing the reader to want to befriend all of them. Their relationships to one another, their flaws, their ability to love on another- all of these components combine to create this entirely believable sisterhood, where they can be competing and helping one another at the same time.

The plot is well paced and thoroughly enjoyable. There are moments of intensity in the plot, and I’ll include a trigger warning well down below, as it does contain a spoiler.

This is an iceberg book, so be prepared for a deep dive. There is more here than meets the eye. It is thought provoking, enchanting, and there’s a fair chance it’ll make you cry. It’s one of those novels that once you close the cover, your mind keeps drifting back to it, ruminating over plot points and how it made you feel.

It truly gave me all the feels, in a way I won’t soon be forgetting. It’s the kind of book that stays with you, and it definitely has re-readability.

A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions will be available on June 1, 2021. Thank you to Net Galley, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Feiwel & Friends for this advanced copy so that I could write this review.

The trigger warning below includes a spoiler. Please proceed with caution.

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Trigger Warning: This novel contains a child’s death.
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3.5 stars 

This book has the ingredients for a sure winner in my reading life: diverse characters, solid representation, and some advanced (relatively) ideas about women's roles and opportunities in society. 

I was immediately sucked in by the first scene and the whole concept of the Sisterhood, but while the early parts of the novel felt exciting, as soon as the main mission arrived, the excitement waned a bit. Yes, this mission is a great backdrop for getting to know the characters and their motivations, but in some ways, it felt like a very slow and even creepier version of a dating show at times. 

The characters are engaging, the concept is gripping, and this is an entertaining read overall, but I hoped for a more exciting series of events. I'll definitely read more from Boekweg.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this book!

3.5/5. I really, really, REALLY like the concept of this book. The 1920s combined with social justice issues including race, LGBTQ+, feminism, voting, body shapes and sizes, etc. was interesting to read -- albeit a bit strange considering the historical context. BUT that's what makes this book beautiful.

The prose is absolutely amazing and has many quotable lines. Additionally, our protagonist Eloise is an amazing writer herself, and the chapters occasionally end with poetry about the events in the novel. The novel itself is about dreams and ambition (e.g. the title of the book) and the ending was immensely satisfying.

I do this the prose was semi-chaotic though because it ran as a stream of consciousness almost from Eloise. At times, I just couldn't keep up because it was almost annoying trying to keep up with what was going on with the writing style.
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★★☆☆☆ 2/5

first off i just want to say how much i LOVED the casual queer representation. i would have liked to see a w|w character though...

unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations for it. the plot was kind of all over the place, and there were a lot of loose ends that were never tied up. 

— SPOILERS —
i DESPISED the whole patch storyline. not only did it throw off the entire plot, involve the worst trope ever (instalove), and kill one of the only interesting characters in this book for no reason, but we have NO idea what happened to him. okay, he was thrown in jail. but he is never mentioned again?? elsie was in love with him and you’re telling me he was just WIPED from her thoughts instantly? bullshit.


(arc provided by netgallery and Feiwel Friends. all thoughts and opinions are my own)
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I’m writing this review through tears. I just finished reading A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions and Elsie’s (the MC) speech at the end gutted me. I’m left with hope, with heartache, and a desire to call my sister and tell her how much I love her.

Elsie is a bit brash, a bit selfish, and a bit much. But I absolutely adored the love she has for her friends and for the women she and the Society help in general.

With a cast of characters you love (and maybe a couple you love to hate), you’re rooting for every single one of them to get a happy ending. And maybe the happy ending isn’t what they want, but what they need.

I was invested in the story from the first page and fell in love as soon as they described their guns as ‘sleek as a pair of pumps.’ The author has a magnificent way of bringing the feminine and strong into every single sentence, every single paragraph, every single page. I want to thank the author for bringing attention to Asexuality, the truth about Chanel, the value of mothers and those who choose a different path—all of us are worthy.

As the author said and conveyed through the entirety of the book,
“WORTH IS INTRINSIC.”

♥♥ ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ♥♥
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Using their feminine wiles and roles, a secret sisterhood founded by Abigail Adams helps rescue abused women and controls politics through wives. A group of friends are given the opportunity to attract a future president, priority one level. 

Elsie is determined to marry Andrew Shaw so that she can make her parents proud and be in politics. But when her fancy is caught by another, she must decide if her ambitions or her heart will lead. And if she even wants to be a wife...

Despite morally gray choices, Elsie is a likeable, plus-sized character who is secure in her intelligence and her curves. There is positive queer rep and plenty of awesome feminism. 

A great read-a-like to SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE by McKelle George.
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A secret sisterhood created by Abigail Adams during the founding of our country? Yes, please! I think A SISTERHOOD OF SECRET AMBITIONS can best be described as a super feminist Bachelor meets the Selection with a splash of the Handmaid's Tale that takes place in the 1920's. The story was so unique, creative, and thought provoking and I would be so excited to see a prequel detailing how the society was created by Adams as well as a follow-up to this novel to see how each woman made their impact on society as they grew older. SO much potential as a series! This book definitely had a liberal slant, but wasn't overtly political and had some great girl power vibes as each woman tried to use their voice and believe in themselves, rather than men they were to be attached to. There were a lot of inspiring quotes that I found myself highlighting. I can't wait to share this book with our audience and I will keep it in mind as a serious contender for a future book pick for our monthly book club. Thank you to Feiwel Friends and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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