Soulless: The Parasol Protectate: Book the First
by Gail Carriger

What would happen if Jane Austen decided to write a supernatural romance? This book. Allow me to quote the opening chapter:

Miss Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening. Private balls were never more than middling amusements for spinsters, and Miss Tarabotti was not the kind of spinster who could garner even that much pleasure from the event. To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favorite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire.

I love that opening.

In this novel, the things that go bump in the night have revealed themselves and integrated with normal Victorian society. Vampires, werewolves, and ghosts simply make up part of the normal English landscape. They’re still monsters, but they’re civilized monsters. The Bureau of Unnatural Registry keeps track of the beasties and is itself staffed by such self-governing monsters.

Miss Tarabotti is not a monster. In fact, she is the exact opposite: she is preternatural. When she touches a supernatural creature, she cancels it out and makes it human again. When she’s attacked by the unexpected vampire, well, it causes a bit of a stir. Who sent the vampire? Why are lone werewolves disappearing? What exactly is the Hypcras? And will Alexia ever convince her dearest friend to not wear unfashionable hats?

The book is a hoot. My Nook had a special on this novel for ninety-nine cents, and I’m very glad I picked it up. Clever writing and a charming protagonist drew me in, and an involving mystery kept me.

This is most certainly a supernatural romance, so expect not only mystery but some untraditional courting and a few steamy scenes. I delighted in the romance. Miss Tarabotti grabs the attention of a certain alpha werewolf, who attempts to court her as if she is an alpha female. Well, Alexia is hardly a werewolf and doesn’t understand pack dynamics, leading to some fun interactions. I could have done without the steamy scenes; they add nothing to the story. The scene in the epilogue in particular is a bit explicit. It’s not harlequin, mind you, but still more than I needed to read about!

My one major complaint with the book is the quick wrap-up. The mystery is solved, and then I expected to see some action. While we certainly do get some, it wasn’t quite enough to fulfill me. This may simply be the author playing to the strengths of the genre – a genre I don’t particularly dabble in.

Anyway, if you’d like a pleasant distraction, pick up this book. You’ll be delighted you did.


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