I read this book about 15-Dec-2006. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1988. This note was last modified Wednesday, 27-Dec-2006 20:09:02 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
By Pat Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (I still haven't done anything to improve the handling of multiple authors here; but then so far even Library Thing hasn't, either).
This is an epistolary novel, specifically a series of letters between Cecelia, at home at Rushton Manor in Essex, and her friend Kate, who is in London for the Season. Regency London, with magic, as well as the intrigues of the mothers and aunts. And an amazing number of aunts and stepmothers it is, too.
By the end I'm convinced this is deliberate, and quite well done too: the girls keep annoying the more experienced magicians around them by refusing to stay out of the line of fire and be protected. The magicians are right, in that the girls don't actually know much, and can't protect themselves. And the girls are right, because in that culture being that dangerous is the only way to get anybody to pay any attention to them. They want a chance to learn how to do stuff themselves, rather than being protected all the time.
This edition (first I believe) has an especially awful cover—bad figure drawing, misproportioned, subtly enough that it's not obvious at first.