net galley

Book Review: Enchanted by “Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship’s Curse”

ladyship'scurse Her Ladyship’s Curse by Lynn Viehl
Publisher: Pocket Star
Date: August 12th, 2013
Genre: Steampunk Romance / Alternate History
Series: Disenchanted & Co.
Sequel: His Lordship Possessed
My rating: I’d go there again!
e-ARC provided by NetGalley

Her Ladyship’s Curse begins the story of Charmian (Kit), a young woman living in an alternate United States that lost the Revolutionary War to Great Britain. Magic, ghosts, curses, and steampunk technology coexist … except Kit doesn’t believe in magic. She has spent the last few years in the city of Rumsen working as a private investigator, resolving clients’ problems by finding mundane motives and causes of curses, disappearing and reappearing boxes, and other magical occurrences. This time, Lady Diana Walsh has asked her to dispell a curse that carves hateful words into the lady’s flesh while she sleeps. In the course of the investigation, she runs into her longtime nemesis, a deathmage named Lucien Dredmore, who is determined to have Kit. She receives help from an old family friend, now the Chief Detective Inspector of the police, Thomas Doyle.

In a world where wives are considered their husbands’ chattel, and women have no rights outside of working for a living, Kit skirts the attempts of men to control, guide, and own her, fiercely holding to her own independence while solving the mystery of the curse and unraveling a political and magical conspiracy that lies at the heart of the mystery. Fearless, determined, and witty, she is a strong and delightful heroine.

The world-building was a bit fragmented and confusing, although Viehl did avoid info-dumping. A close reading is essential for understanding Kit’s world. I remain confused about a few historical and geographical points, and a map of the alternate world would have been appreciated. Why are the Hungarians the Enemy? That is never explained in this first part, yet it seems to play such a key role in Kit’s personal history. Kit’s discovery of her own past leads in one direction at first, but abruptly changes, without any real explanation. This was the main problem I had with this almost novella-length first installment. There was a lot to explain in terms of world-building and context, and yet the novel was so full of action and drama (not a complaint!) that not enough lines were devoted to clearing up some of the mystery of Toriana and the world. On the other hand, it is very easy to grasp the history and organization of Rumsen, where the action takes place.

The romance is predictable, but still enjoyable – Viehl is a master at writing the interactions and relationships that develop between an antagonistic heroine and an enigmatic “enemy.” In this book, Kit believes Dredmore is a charlatan like all other mages, and that he is essentially evil. She fights his interest in her (and hers in him) because she believes him to be interested only in possessing her. And he is, but things are not as simple as that. At one point, when both Dredmore and Kit dine with the Walshes, different foods are served according to the gender of the diners. Kit silently objects, and ultimately Dredmore slips her some of his food and exchanges it for some of hers. At the end of the novel, these two still have issues to resolve, but the reader is left with the hope that they will (and with the anticipation of future battles of wills).

The ending is frustrating, because I can’t immediately pick up the second volume – it might as well be under the definition of “cliffhanger” in the dictionary. Clearly the “Part 1” in the title is to be taken literally. If you don’t like waiting for the sequel, I would encourage you to wait to read this until you can read all three parts together.

Viehl is one of my favorite science fiction authors, and I was delighted with this foray into the arena of steampunk and alternate history. I feel it would have come together better and been more cohesive if it had been a full-length novel, instead of one part of a divided novel. Action-packed, witty, with great main and supporting characters and an intriguing alternate world, it will be a great addition to fantasy, steampunk, alternate history, and paranormal romance collections. I cannot wait to read the next installment.

Also by Lynn Viehl:

If Angels Burn (Darkyn #1)   Stardoc (Stardoc #1)   Bio Rescue (Bio Rescue #1)   Shadowlight (Kyndred #1)

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Book Review: The Officer and the Bostoner

Red Beauty  The Officer and the Bostoner by Rose Gordon
Publisher: Night Shift
Date: June 2013
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: Outstanding Adventure

The Officer and the Bostoner is an American historical romance by Rose Gordon. When I saw the description for Gordon’s latest, I will admit to feeling some trepidation. The setting is in the American West, which is a departure from everything else I have read by Gordon. But since I have loved everything I have read by Gordon, I decided I would give it a shot – it also helped that I was granted a review copy via NetGalley.

Allison Pearson is a proper young Bostonian traveling to Santa Fe to meet and marry her betrothed. Unintentionally, Allison is left stranded in a military fort where it would be in her best interests to marry temporarily until her fiancé can arrive and escort her to Santa Fe. To avoid improper advances from the soldiers stationed there Allison decides to marry Captain Wes Tucker for protection, never expecting to fall for her temporary husband.

Captain Wes Tucker is a Southern gentleman and really has no ulterior motives in helping Allison out by marrying her. When Wes encounters Allison left behind at the fort, he offers his name in marriage to protect her. While I question this logic somewhat (surely there is another way to help Allison), I like the marriage of convenience theme, so I will enter into a suspension of belief. Wes is immediately drawn to her, but is aware that Allison will be leaving him and the rough conditions they live in at the fort. The problem is, Wes starts to wonder what it will take to make Allison stay in the backwater town, leaving her rich fiancé behind.

I cannot express enough what a wonderful surprise this one was. I loved Gordon’s Groom series, but I wasn’t sure about this change in setting. I shouldn’t have worried; everything I love about Gordon’s writing was still there. We still have a young, and rather naïve hero and heroine and their romance is impossibly sweet. This was exactly what made me continue with Gordon’s Groom series after scoring Her Sudden Groom for .99 cents. I found Gordon’s stories are a refreshing change from the usual historical romance fare I typically read. I liked this lighter read and the fact that both the hero and heroine were not experienced in the ways of the world. I don’t think you come across this type of story in mainstream historical romance often, and I love the departure that Gordon takes us on. Gordon is the perfect go-to author if your looking for a sweet, uncomplicated story with a guaranteed happy ending.

What I also like about Gordon’s style is her portrayal of a romantic relationship. While I think most of us like a lot of angst in our romance reads (it’s expected in a romance), in real-life , it’s just not quite the same. I think that Gordon does a fantastic job of showing readers a more realistic relationship. I have nothing against those types of historical romances where insta-attraction turns to love, and in fact I read a lot of them, but because Gordon’s style is markedly different, I’ve taken notice and she’s become a go-to author for me.

And finally, I have to say something about the marriage of convenience trope. It is probably one of my favourite set-ups in historical romance. In real life, this would be horrifying, but I love that it generally works out in a historical romance. What I liked about Gordon’s take on this trope in her latest, is the fact that this marriage of convenience didn’t suddenly force the characters into a happily ever after. Despite the short length of The Officer and the Bostoner, Allison and Wes take their time getting to know one another and it’s clear that they have respect for each other. Wes has to be the perfect hero who has no intention of manipulating Allison’s vulnerability.

Overall, I loved this new addition from Gordon. The new setting pleasantly surprised me and I can’t wait to see Second Lt. Jack Walker’s experience with a mail-order bride.

Read-Alikes:

To Wed a Wicked Earl (Devine & Friends, #2)Too Wicked To LoveThe Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)Lessons in Seduction (Once Upon An Accident, #2)