RATING: ★★★★


Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)Image1
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

I kind of knew that I was going to enjoy this book as soon as our intrepid young heroine used the phrase “put the pudding in the puff”.

This is a good, fun story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The plot is a pretty solid mystery, pulling in all sorts of Victoriana type-tropes, but it was the characters that I really fell for in this story.

Alexia Tarabotti is a brilliant ‘take-no-nonsense’ woman, in a way that actually feels appropriate to the time period. She’s not strong, bookish and independent just because she’s not like other girls but because her family and societal expectations have shaped her that way (although, as an aside, the ‘soulless’ thing is a little special snowflakey and probably not completely necessary). She thinks on her feet and gets herself in-and-out of trouble while making acerbic comments and delivering sharp, witty one-liners.

I’m not a huge romance fan but I desperately wanted Alexia and the grumpy werewolf, Lord Maccon, to get together from the moment they started bickering over a dead vampire in the library at a party. And, boy, I not disappointed! The relationship is sweet, believable and built on misunderstandings, and the kissing scenes are red-hot. The only disappointment is that despite mind-blowing the kisses, the language turns a bit Carry On-esque (the films, not the Rainbow Rowell book) once they’re forced to spend a bit off time together with his clothes off (werewolves, y’all). To add insult to injury, the book culminates in a super cringe-worthy sex scene. Where did all the sex appeal of those passionate kisses go?

There were two things that soured the novel for me a little, both relatively near the end. I already mention the squicky sex but the other was that Alexia’s vampire friend Lord Akeldama (who admittedly had been playing the part of gay-best-friend throughout) just seems to reach frightening heights of stereotype. Especially when an entire army of his foppish ‘boys’ march in, all apparently experts at gossip and hair design… This is off-set slightly by a sweet sunset scene between him and Alexia after, as well as his bravery just before, but it still rubbed the wrong way a little.

tl;dr: Come for the steampunk paranormal mystery, stay for Alexia – hard-as-nails on the outside, with a soft and insecure on the inside – and her steamy and bantery relationship with Lord Maccon.


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