When I went looking for something to read purely for fun, I indulged myself by picking up Cindy Spencer Pape’s Steam & Sorcery. My journey through the steampunk world of Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles was utterly fantastic. And eminently enjoyable!
Sir Merrick Hadrian is a Knight of the Order of the Round Table. Except in this alternate version of the Victorian Era, the descendants of King Arthur and his knights hunt monsters using not just swords, and now pistols, but also arcane talents. Merlin’s descendants serve the order as well as Gawain’s and Lancelot’s.
One night, Sir Merrick is in the London stews facing more vampyres than he counted on and finds that his only available allies are a group of street urchins–led by a teenage boy with all the talents of a budding Knight. After the battle, he brings all five children into his bachelor household only to discover that all of the children are uniquely talented: not just the unclaimed Knight, but also a mechanical genius, a highly powered medium, one who can see the future, and one who is simply a genius.
Sir Merrick and his Aunt Dorothy, who shares his household, need a governess for the children. Enter Miss Caroline Bristol. Caroline is intelligent, pretty, opinionated and out of a job without a reference. Again. After having vigorously defended herself from yet another employer’s rather importunate advances and being turned out.
Dorothy is certain that Caroline is the perfect governess for the unruly brood. Caroline is less than convinced. She has a secret of her own. Anything mechanical breaks when she touches it, including her new charge Wink’s fantastic mechanical inventions. Caroline’s other secret–she finds her new employer, Sir Merrick Hadrian, positively irresistible.
Meanwhile, there are vampyres infiltrating London high society. They have banded together in order to get their claws on a formula that will finally allow them to blend in with mortals, at least at night. And they seem to have a spy somewhere in the Knights organization!
As Merrick and Caroline try and fail to resist their increasing attraction to one another, Merrick must also figure out who among the Knights has been suborned to the vampyre cause, all while adjusting to the utter disruption of his formerly placid bachelor life. The game is afoot!
Escape Rating A: I stayed up until after 1 am reading this, finished, and then I was sorry it was over. I looked at the time, decided “oh, what the heck” and read Photographs & Phantoms before I went to sleep. I hope the author returns to this world. I’d like to see Tommy’s story and Wink’s. There were hints that those might be interesting!
Meanwhile, Steam & Sorcery was an absolute hoot! I loved Merrick’s adjustment from having a bachelor household to having a family. His failure to resist was portrayed with a lot of gentle humor. You know he’s going to succumb, but it’s still fun to watch. The tutor either had a bit too much of a stick up his arse or he had a bit too much of a conversion by the end, I’m not quite sure which.
The romance between Merrick and Caroline was terrific. Neither wants to get involved, but they are the right people for each other, and it’s very clear in the story. It’s easy to root for them to get their happy ending.