Review: Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger (2016)

Supernatural Society, Book 1

Review of Supernatural Society, Book 2

Heat Factor: Heated moments are shrouded in euphemisms

Character Chemistry: Longing glances, “accidental” touches, and purposeful misunderstanding

Plot: Parlourmaid falls for wacky inventor, seduction ensues

Overall: A delightful read

To give you a sense of the tone of this book, here is the title of Chapter 1: “In Which We Hope Vampires are Perverted.” I read that, and snickered, and hunkered down for a fun romp, and was not disappointed. 

The basic premise: Imogene decides to take a job as a maid at the local vampire house. Vampires like pretty things, and she is awfully pretty – which has caused her no end of trouble with the local lads, in whom she has no interest. Her mother tells her to watch out, because vampires are known to be perverts; Imogene thinks, duh, mum, that’s the whole point! Unfortunately for Imogene’s plans on finally getting corrupted, the vampires aren’t really interested in her beyond her abilities with a feather duster. Fortunately for Imogene, there is a mysterious inventor also in the vampires’ employ: one Madame Genevieve Lefoux, who may have destroyed part of London with a mechanical octopus. 

There are immediate and obvious sparks between Imogene and Genevieve, but there are some obstacles to overcome. Genevieve has an old heartache to get over. Imogene is quite, quite virginal and doesn’t know the first thing about seducing someone. Plus there is the class difference between them, as Genevieve is essentially Imogene’s boss. Plus Imogene is holding on to fear and shame for her desires for other women. So there is a lot of yearning going on. Months and months of it, in fact. 

As a sidenote, Carriger’s decision to write Queer Paranormal Steampunk Victorian Romances is in some ways quite genius. Because it’s the Victorian era, it makes absolute sense that Imogene would be deeply closeted and confused about her desires, especially as an uneducated, lower-class woman from the countryside. However, because this is an alternate world with werewolves and vampires and dirigibles, an open lesbian relationship is possible for our heroines, once Imogene moves into the sphere of the supernaturals – the standard rules no longer apply, and we can see the possibility of a happily ever after for these ladies. 

The final obstacle between Imogene and Genevieve and True Love is a swarm of nasty vampires, who sort of maybe own the two of them, or at least have rights to their blood and labor. This is where the book is weakest as a standalone story. There’s a lot of politicking going on, and characters from other parts of the Parasolverse show up. I could generally follow along (I have read two books from the YA Finishing School series, so I know Carriger’s general rules for vampires, and Erin has read pretty much everything else, so she could fill me in on who some key characters were), but someone who had less familiarity with the vast world Carriger has built might be occasionally frustrated or confused. (I am still not sure what the giant wicker chicken is about, but then again, maybe it’s just a giant wicker chicken that’s hanging out for funsies.) 

Carriger is able to bypass this issue somewhat by presenting the entire story from Imogene’s perspective. Imogene has a general idea about what vampires are, but she, like the reader, has not been privy to the immense backstory and political machinations of Genevieve and the other characters. A few key things are therefore explained to Imogene (and the reader) – just enough so that Imogene and the reader both have a better handle on the obstacles to love that Genevieve places in her own way. 

Overall, this novella is a delightful read, mainly because the prose is so fun. Here’s Imogene, swooning over Genevieve: “The dimples reappeared. Imogene wondered if she could develop an immunity. Since she was now fantasizing about kissing them, probably not.”

Ha! Who needs vampires to corrupt you, when you have a sexy sexy inventor of your very own?

Buy Now: Amazon

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