Completed 12/26/2020, Reviewed 12/28/2020
This was fun fluff. It’s a Victorian comedy of manners with a powerful heroine, vampires, and werewolves. I’ve had this on my bookshelf for quite a while and finally pulled it down. I was pleased that I enjoyed it and will eventually get around to reading some others in the series. The prose is quite nice. It is very easy reading. This is just what the doctor ordered after reading the terse Tolkien History of Middle Earth Series.
Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster (age 24!). She’s not considered marriageable because she is a little dark skinned from being half Italian and has a prominent nose. Her mother and stepsisters are more concerned with fashion and marriage than anything more substantial. So Alexia never tells them that she has no soul, that is, she’s a preternatural. When she touches a supernatural being, they are made powerless. When she touches a vampire, its teeth retract. When she touches a werewolf, it reverts back to human.
The story begins where Alexia is at a ball and meets a rove vampire, one that is not associated with a hive. Unlike all the registered vampires, this one does not seem to know she is a preternatural and attacks her. She fights it off and kills it with her trusty parasol and a wooden hairpin. This raises concerns with the local hive and the Queen’s department of the paranormal. The investigation is led by Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and a werewolf). Maccon and Alexia constantly trade barbs as their attraction to each other grows. But amidst this romance, Alexia is pursued by the local vampires and a mysterious wax-faced creature that appears superhuman and is not affected by her touch. Maccon and Alexia try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the appearance of rove, unregistered vampires and the strange creature.
The characters are well crafted. Alexia is a strong-willed young woman in the 19th century world of repressed women and mores. She’s instantly likeable. Maccon is great at the Scottish alpha werewolf investigator. He falls in love with Alexia despite their constant bickering. Alexia falls for Maccon as well, but she constantly, comically misreads his advances. Lord Akeldama is a great supporting character. He is an ancient vampire who is no longer associated with hive. He’s a flamboyant, gay fop who seems to know a little about everything that’s going on in the supernatural world. He’s Alexia’s best friend and confidant. There are several other supporting werewolves and vampires that round out this universe, as well as annoying humans including Alexia’s mother and stepsisters.
On the positive side, it’s always great to read a genre book with a strong female lead, especially in a Victorian setting. It’s also a delightfully different take on alternative history, where the supernatural have “come out” and have integrated into gentle society after centuries of living in the shadows. My one problem with the book is that it took too long for Alexia to comprehend Maccon’s intentions. This is a problem I have with most comedies of manners. People in these types of stories misread each other and I get aggravated with how thick they can be. But I guess that’s what makes for the comedy.
I give this book three stars out of five. It’s very fun and a good fluff read. I probably would have given it four stars if I hadn’t gotten so aggravated over the slow pace of Alexia’s coming around with the romance. I still look forward to reading more of this series as it is a great read after heavy novels.