Romancing the Inventor, by Gail Carriger
Series: Supernatural Society Novellas, Book #1
(Other books in this universe are published by Orbit)
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A steampunk lesbian romance featuring a maid bent on seducing a brilliant scientist who’s too brokenhearted to notice. Or is she?
Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed.
Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?
Look for surprise appearances from popular Parasolverse characters and the occasional strategic application of cognac.
Paranormal (Werewolves, Vampires)
Unresolved Sexual Tension
Science as Sexual Innuendo
The Parasol Protectorate is a series of novels and novellas set in the same steampunk-inspired, ‘bustlepunk’ universe, connected by the reoccurring characters which inhabit it – particularly the supernatural ones – set between the 1850s to late 1890s. They are all delightfully witty, ridiculously fun adventures, with brilliantly written women and swoon-inducing men, and I’ve been an outspoken devotee of this verse since the debut of the first book, Soulless. It will thus probably not surprise you to learn I loved this story, but then, how could I not? Everything Gail Carriger writes is a joy to read.
The love interest of Romancing the Inventor is a main character in the original PP series, and plays smaller but still significant roles in the prequel YA Finishing School series, as well as sequel Custard Protocol duology; you do not however need to know anything about these characters to begin, and there is a helpful glossary in the back to explain any unfamiliar worldbuilding terms and ideas. Longtime readers will of course appreciate when favourite characters make an appearance – the humanisation (so to speak) of a minor recurring ‘love to hate him’ character was certainly a surprise, and as a fan of outsider POV getting to see them through new eyes is always a treat. But this is great jumping on point to start reading, and would definitely recommend this as a gateway to the rest of the Parasolverse!
Lowly born Imogene is haughtily beautiful, clever with sums, and utterly uninterested in the men of her village, or men anywhere, for that matter. She believes herself to be wrong and perverted, and seeks escape (and hopefully corruption) at the home of the local vampire queen – because after all, everyone knows perversions are part of a vampire’s allure, and acceptable among the supernatural set. There she meets Madame Lefoux, the lonely, brilliant inventor of all manner of technological marvels, currently indentured in servitude to the vampires and whose eccentricities include dressing in fashionable men’s attire and treating unworthy maids as an equal. Lefoux recognises Imogene’s untrained mathematical ability and attempts to recruit her for an assistant, but when she is denied a truly epic amount of mutual pining between the two of them begins. Imogene knows she is undeserving of the inventor’s affection but craves it anyway, and wants to take care of her. Genevieve is still suffering from a broken heart from which she fears she may never recover, and believes Imogene deserves so much more than she has to give. Meanwhile the sexual tension is off the charts, with Imogene desperate to be touched, and Genevieve unwilling to taint what she thinks is an innocent who is only interested in her as a sign of gratitude. Yeah, don’t worry. They eventually figure it out. And it is fantastic. ;- ) The sex scenes are more sensual than scandalous, but still wonderfully erotic; I’m a huge fan of scientific language as innuendo and bedroom talk, and while there could have been even more I was not disappointed here.
Considering most of the story necessarily remained set in one place (as vampires in this verse are confined to their home territory, or ‘hive’) the plot was still engaging and integration of some of the other, non-vampire cast from previous books was very well done. I would perhaps have preferred more dialogue between Imogene and Genevieve, and certainly more (mad) science and descriptions of inventions they created together, but for a short, romantic romp full of longing looks, hastily averted glances, bosom appreciation and cups of tea it can’t be beat.
Gail Carriger writes steampunk comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, Supernatural Society, and Delightfully Deadly series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers via 7 different lists (#1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.
Find her online at http://gailcarriger.com/