Review of The Headmistress by Milena McKay
When you read 100+ women-loving-women titles per year it’s incredibly exciting to witness the arrival of a new special talented author to our little community. A few years ago, the new gifted writer was EJ Noyes, later on, Anna Burke, last year (2020) was Haley Cass. This is definitely Milena McKay’s year. Ms. McKay was on my radar since her debut The Delicate Things we Make, and after the release of her novella The Perfect Match it was good to see that her debut wasn’t a one-hit-wonder. So I dropped everything to read The Headmistress for all of the reasons above and because… who can resist that title anyway?
Sam Threadneedle, a math teacher at the girls’ academy Three Dragons, gets involved in an unforgettable one-night stand with a mysterious woman. When the same woman appears three months later as the new headmistress in charge of unpopular changes to save the institution from bankruptcy, Sam will be torn between her allegiance to the institution and her increasing attraction for the woman who can destroy all she’s ever had.
The one-night stand sex trope is one of my favourites maybe because it brings the typical 50% mark romance book excitement to the beginning. A couple of wlw books do this pretty well, Gerri Hill’s The Killing Room and Carsen Taite’s It Should be a Crime. I admit that I was expecting something similar in this novel but the author surprised me. Instead of describing the main characters’ encounter at the beginning, Ms. McKay sprinkles little tidbits of the scene in the first few chapters… and in reverse chronological order… So these little sexy snippets act more like teasers than anything else. Very clever.
Due to the intrigue elements in this novel, a lot of this story is plot-driven. However, all the characters, main and secondary, are fleshed out extremely well, including Willoughby the cat. One of my favourite secondary characters was former headmistress Orla, as the author described her Irish traits very convincingly. As this story is written in third person from Sam’s point of view, the headmistress herself is a mystery to reveal in all her icy, aloof and sexy glory. As the story peels off layer after layer of her hidden personality, the reader falls in love with her along with Sam, inevitably.
The Headmistress mixes romance with a bit of mystery, action and intrigue. I confess I couldn’t see the villain coming, it really surprised me. As a matter of fact, “surprise” is an accurate word to describe my feelings toward this book, the good kind of surprise. After reading so many wlw novels, I’d say it’s quite an achievement. I’d be surprised (pun intended) if this novel isn’t in most of the top tens of this year. It will definitely be in mine.
If you are looking for an exquisitely written book with beautiful metaphors, well-fleshed characters, a little of action/intrigue and a beautiful romance, look no further. The Headmistress is one of a kind. Looking forward to reading what Ms. McKay writes next. 5 stars.