Challenging Authority ROMANCING THE INVENTOR–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new steampunk-style lesbian romance from Gail Carriager. ROMANCING THE INVENTOR features the lovestory of a woman I’d read about in her Finishing School books: Genevieve LeFoux. Genevieve’s all grown up, and the object of a parlourmaid’s curious eye.

romancing-the-inventorAbout the book:

Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?

This is a stand-alone LBGTQ sweet romance set in Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse, full of class prejudice, elusive equations, and paranormal creatures taking tea.

Delicate Sensibilities? This story contains women pleasing women and ladies who know what they want and pursue it, sometimes in exquisite detail.

Supernatural Society novellas can be read in any order.

My Review:

This is a book set in the 1870s London in a fictional past that includes vampires and werewolves. Much of this world has been described in previous middle-grade/YA book series (Parasol Protectorate or Finishing School) though this is an adult book featuring adult characters–who’d been youths/younger in the previous books. I kinda think you’d enjoy this book better if you’ve read some of those, because the world is already built, and the paranormal elements not as thoroughly explained in this book, as a result.

Imogene Hale is a 28 year old beautiful woman in a village. She’s had many a suitor, but never accepted any man…because she’s attracted to women. When a vampire hive takes up residence at Woolsey Castle, Imogene seeks a job. She’s heard vampires are perverted, and she may be able to find satisfaction with the Countess, if she’s very lucky and doesn’t get drained first.

Unfortunately, the vampires are selective. They sense she’s an innocent, and want to “save” her for a special occasion. In the meantime, Imogene is a parlourmaid and begins to attend the needs of the Inventor, Madame LeFoux–otherwise known as Vieve, or Genevieve, from earlier books. Genevieve is a cross-dressing “tom,” a woman who likes women…and she very much likes Imogene. But Genevieve is still grieving her wife, and that’s damping Imogene’s prospects with the inventor.

There’s a lot of posturing, and scheming on the part of the vampire countess and the werewolves, who are close friends with Genevieve. It looks as if Imogene will become just another snack for the hive, but Genevieve is able to halt this pettiness, and make some small claim to regaining her heart and finding love.

This is a sweet, slow-burning romance. Imogene makes a good partner to Genevieve, having an affinity for mathematics that complements Genevieve’s ingenuity. There are many obstacles to overcome, but Imogene is a steadfast companion, and finally wins Genevieve to her side. There’s not a lot of steam, but the language is fun, and the situations engaging. The real focus here is on Imogene, and how this country lass makes a good life with Genevieve. There are many characters here that are part of the larger fictional world, and fans will be excited to see Genevieve get her happy ever after.

Interested? You can find ROMANCING THE INVENTOR on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:

Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in 18 different languages and has 13 NYT bestsellers via 7 different lists (including #1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

You can find Gail online on her website, Facebook and twitter. Gail has a fun newsletter: the Monthly Chirrup, sign up here.

Cephalopod Coffeehouse June 2016: Tough Choices, POISON OR PROTECT?

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a new adult steampunk romance out from Gail Carriager. While I loved all the books in her YA Finishing School series, (Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracy, Waistcoats & Weaponry, Manners & Mutiny, ) I was totally excited to check out an adult read, see if the transition to an older audience would happen, or if it would feel too young… Reading POISON OR PROTECT, I was not disappointed!

Poison or Protect (Delightfully Deadly, #1)About the book:
Can one gentle Highland soldier woo Victorian London’s most scandalous lady assassin, or will they both be destroyed in the attempt?
Lady Preshea Villentia, the Mourning Star, has four dead husbands and a nasty reputation. Fortunately, she looks fabulous in black. What society doesn’t know is that all her husbands were marked for death by Preshea’s employer. And Preshea has one final assignment.

It was supposed to be easy, a house party with minimal bloodshed. Preshea hadn’t anticipated Captain Gavin Ruthven – massive, Scottish, quietly irresistible, and… working for the enemy. In a battle of wits, Preshea may risk her own heart – a terrifying prospect, as she never knew she had one.

Warning: Contains men pleasing women, and ladies who know what they want and ask for it, sometimes in detail. May also contain plaid, appearances from favorite characters, and the strategic application of leather gloves.

My Review:
This is the first book in a series, and features an accessory character from the Finishing School Young Adult book series who is all grown up now. It’s an adult romance, set in a 1870s England Steampunk world, rife with political intrigue, assassins, vampires, werewolves, and mechanicals.

Preshea Buss is a four-time widow, mostly by choice. Trained as an assassin in her Finishing School she accepted the favor of a high-ranking vampire, Lord Akeldama, who proceeded to get her ingratiated to men who needed dispatch. Well, not the last one. He was just old, and not very troublesome. Dubbed the “Mourning Star” by the tabloids, she’s never met a man who’d claim her heart. She’s been contracted to destroy the budding romance of a plain, but well-fortuned woman, Lady Violet, and her erstwhile, penniless suitor, Mr. Jackson, by Lady Violet’s father, the Duke of Snodgrove. It’s not really Preshea’s cup of Darjeeling, but the reward will enable her to ruin the one man who decimated her heart: her dastardly father. Plus, there are concerns the Duke is in grave danger of assassination. Preshea can protect the Duke while she manages Mr. Jackson…

Captain Gavin Ruthven is a recent retiree from Her Majesty’s service. The tall, broad Scotsman would normally never be interested in a wee lass like the Mourning Star, but they are thrown together for three weeks while he attends his longtime friend, Jack (Mr. Jackson) on his quest for Lady Violet’s hand. It’s a good cover for the captain’s other mission: ensure the Duke isn’t killed. Is the noted widow there for pleasure, or will she seal the duke’s death?

I was drawn to this author because of her quirky and fun YA steampunk books. While we are still in that world per se, this novella is fully adult, with zinging banter, scandalous repartee,  and steamy interludes. It’s not a kids book, by any means, and I really enjoyed this slow-burning romance. Preshea has never been touched with love. Abused as a child, and a married woman, she has no need for another man in her life. She’s well-settled due to her many inheritances, and Captain Ruthven–while attractive–initially appears the epitome of a lumbering brute. Yet, the more time they spend the more she is captivated and intrigued by his quiet nature and compassionate conversation. Gavin has little interest in the staid ladies of the ton, even if he were a catch. He’s done well financially, making a decent fortune in investments, but he needs a woman who would take him well-in-hand. In short, he’s a submissive, and he lives to pleasure women with his compliance, as well as his body.

Expect mischief and mayhem, and the employment of dirigibles to both assassination and seduction. As with previous books, the story is rollicking with a pace that sweeps the reader into falling for unlikely heroes. Gavin is perfectly edible, and Preshea is a lonely woman who never understood all that she’d missed growing up so isolated. Not only does she gain a lover, she makes dear friends. Poor Mr. Jackson, is, however, broken-hearted….for a time.

Interested? You can find POISON OR PROTECT on Goodreads and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and be sure to visit my fellow Coffeehouse reviewer, to see if they have a book you might fancy.

Fatal Consequences Between MANNERS AND MUTINY–A Review

Hi there! I’m so excited to get back to one of my fave YA series…and I’m also a little melancholy that it’s over. Gail Carriger’s Finishing School steampunk intelligencer romances have been a real treat, and I’m wistfully bidding adieu to Sophronia and Dimity and even Professor Braithwope–Whot Whot! MANNERS & MUTINY is the fourth book in the series, so you’ll need to read Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and Waistcoats & Weaponry before you tackle Manners.

Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School, #4)About the book:

If one must flirt…flirt with danger.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster—in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

My Review:

This is the fourth (and final!) installment of the fantastic Finishing School series, and WOW! To recap: this is a steampunk YA romance set in 1850’s England and both vampires and werewolves exist. Some mild spoilers may be present.

Sophronia has been at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s for four years now, and she’s sad that her bestie, and ardent admirer Soap–a black “sootie” (steamworks worker keeping the airship school afloat)–is no longer aboard the ship. He was gravely injured in the previous book, and Sophronia brokered his healing by pledging herself to serve the werewolf dewan–advisor to the queen.

Sophronia’s still on the look out for the nefarious Picklemen who seek to discredit all supernaturals, and also control all the steampowered devices in the land. She catches these rascals on board the school, but they escape after completing some unknown purpose in the pilot’s port. This later ties in to the Picklemen causing serious havoc with the school.

I do not want to give the plot away…at all, but Sophronia has her work cut out saving her friends and teachers aboard the airship. She’ll be tested mentally, physically and emotionally and forced to cooperate with one of her former adversaries. The love story between Sophronia and Soap seems to be doomed–it is unsuitable by society’s standards–but Soap’s new status leaves him outside of society altogether. Is this is path for them? Will Sophronia survive the Picklemen’s plot? It’s a rather hair-raising ride across England and in the path of constant danger of not only marauders but an untethered vampire.

I simply adored this series. It’s witty and fun, and frisky! There are some not-so-subtle hints toward burgeoning sexuality, male nudity, interracial romance, even…well, allusions toward outre lifestyles for some of the boys. It tickled me from the first page, and wrapped up the four-book plotline beautifully. I highly recommend reading the series.

Interested? You can find MANNERS & MUTINY on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Also, try your local library.

About the Author:

Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in 18 different languages and has 13 NYT bestsellers via 7 different lists (including #1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

You can find Gail online on her website, Facebook and twitter. Gail has a fun newsletter: the Monthly Chirrup, sign up here.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

 

Building A Love: The CLOCKWORK HEART–A Review & Giveaway!

HI there! Sharing a review for THE CLOCKWORK HEART by Heidi Cullinan. This book is a large departure from the contemporary fiction Ms. Cullinan writes–NOWHERE RANCH, CARRY THE OCEAN or even SLEIGH RIDE, and yet I haven’t picked up a book of hers I didn’t want to recommend. And that’s still true.

CLOCKWORK HEART is an alternate reality, steampunk, M/M romance that creates a world where Napoleon didn’t meet his Waterloo, where the Empire of France consumed most of continental Europe and the leaders there are further bent on conquest. Also, clockworks–steam and aether-powered machines that do all and sundry, even replace bits of humans damaged or wished to be “upgraded.” It was a fascinating piece, not only for the romance! Adventure, betrayal and ingenuity are the call words of the day, here.

Clockwork Heart (Clockwork Love, #1)About the book:
Love, adventure and a steaming good time.

As the French army leader’s bastard son, Cornelius Stevens enjoys a great deal of latitude. But when he saves an enemy soldier using clockwork parts, he’s well aware he risks hanging for treason. That doesn’t worry him half as much, however, as the realization he’s falling for his patient.

Johann Berger never expected to survive his regiment’s suicide attack on Calais, much less wake up with mechanical parts. To avoid discovery, he’s forced to hide in plain sight as Cornelius’s lover—a role Johann finds himself taking to surprisingly well.

When a threat is made on Cornelius’s life, Johann learns the secret of the device implanted in his chest—a mythical weapon both warring countries would kill to obtain. Caught up in a political frenzy, in league with pirates, dodging rogue spies, mobsters and princesses with deadly parasols, Cornelius and Johann have no time to contemplate how they ended up in this mess. All they know is, the only way out is together—or not at all.

Warning: Contains tinkers, excessive clockwork appendages, and a cloud-sweeping tour of Europe. A little absinthe, a little theft, a little exhibitionism. Men who love men, women who love women, and some who aren’t particular.

My Review:
Holy steaming smokes, folks!

Delirious with stars for this fast-paced, espionage-packed, odd-couple, steampunk, alt-history, scorching hot, M/M romance.

I do love me some steampunk, and this book brings alt-historical steampunk on strong–along with the romance, the yearning, the lovin’ and the sexin’, too. The world is a glorious alt-historical 1910’s era Europe with France having conquered vast swatches of the continent, and in continual battle with Austria. The main fuel source is aether, a gaseous mix that’s mined in Austria and coveted by the French. It powers mighty dirigibles that are used to make war and trade.

Cornelius is the notorious gay exhibitionist bastard son of the Archduke of France. Conny’s father who aims to “unite” all of Europe by force. Peace through subjugation, it seems. As a master tinker’s apprentice, Cornelius is well versed in designing and implanting clockwork parts into people. He happens upon a barge stack high with dead Austrian soldiers, he’s overcome with grief over his father’s eternal war and the huge loss of life that is its toll. Then one of the men moves, and Cornelius’ soft heart compels him to rescue this man, even though he is an enemy. Any that he can save is a knock against his father, to Conny.

His Austrian soldier is a big man with many, many terrible injuries. He requires an entire leg graft, a partial leg graft, a new arm and all of this is not a trouble to Cornelius. What is, however, a problem is the shrapnel in the man’s chest. The only way to fix this stranger is to give him a clockwork heart. And, Conny’s tinker-master, Felix, had created just this fearsome thing many years before. It is both priceless and dangerous, and Conny steals it to heal his soldier.

As Johann heals, he finds himself a monster–what he had feared becoming if he fell into French hands. Initially, all the clockworks freak him out, and he’s sure that he’s now one of the automaton soldiers the French are rumored to be building. Despite the language barrier, Conny is able to convince Johann of his kind intentions. Conny’s flamboyant friends, notably Valentin, are not happy that Conny is not out socializing in their local bawdy cafe, and this brings Conny to disguise Johann as an air pirate, and masquerade him as his lover. Johann has no experience in loving…anyone. He’s just 18, a soldier since a young age, and a deserter, truth be told. Conny has no idea how prescient his “pirate” disguise was.

This is a rather tense adventure with several escapes, lots of daring rescues, and a whole lot of falling in love. Conny and Johann strike up a tentative, tender romance, and the sexytimes could melt a glacier. I will confess that their bond involves role play, clockwork “toys,” fantasy, and even a bit of menage. These are very different, very liberal times, with the use of cocaine-laced absinthe to spark a whole lot of amorous exchanges. Expect orgy scenes–which was fine by me.

I was captivated by the lush descriptions and deep plotline. I never felt the plot bog, not once, and could not stop turning the pages. The book is the first in a series, and I expect the next Clockwork Love book will center on a different lovestory, though I’m anxious to have more of Johann and Conny.

Inerested? You can find THE CLOCKWORK HEART on Goodreads, Samhain Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a signed copy and a cute clockwork keychain!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Heidi CullinanAbout the Author:
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and teenaged daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Spy Life Is All WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for Gail Carriger’s third Finishing School novel, WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY. I just adore this steampunk world! I have read and enjoyed both Etiquette & Espionage and Curtsies & Conspiracies, which tended to be more “tween” in tone. With this third installment the storyline has taken a decidedly YA turn. Yay!

Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School, #3)About the book:
Sophronia continues second year finishing school in style — with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown. She, best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and charming Lord Felix Mersey stow away on train to return classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspects what or who would be aboard the suspiciously empty train.

My Review:
This is the third book in the YA steampunk Finishing School series. It is best to read these books in order.

World note: the story takes place in a steampunk setting, in 1850’s England, where vampire and werewolves are a part of society.

Sophronia is a 16 y/o student at Mlle. Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies–which is in truth a training school for female spies. This year, Sophronia’s education includes lessons in seduction…

“Seduction in its purest form is a never-ending acquisition of knowledge about another individual. Every male is a new challenge, every occasion warrants a different approach Take the greatest of care when applying these techniques, for they can be more dangerous than actual weaponry.”

The girls all straightened. Lady Linette’s lessons were always interesting, but seduction was supposed to be the best. What young lady didn’t want to know how to manipulate a man? This was what finishing school was all about!

Sophronia has a BF, Dimity who is more interested in a normal life after school, but Sophronia knows she has several options in front of her. She has an unknown (but she suspects royal) patron who pays her schooling. Plus, she receives regular gifts from a rogue vampire Lord Akeldama high in London society. She has a bosom friend in Lady Kingair “Sidheag” whose family is a pack of werewolves in Scotland.

It is when Sidheag receives notice that her beloved pack is in disarray and her great-great-grandfather has challenged for Alpha of a London pack, that life goes wonky. Sidheag flees to London to intercept Lord Kingair accompanied by the werewolf arms training teacher, Captain Niall–which will absolutely ruin Sidheag.

Meanwhile, Sophronia and Dimity are released from school to attend the engagement ball of Sophronia’s brother. Who also has garnered invitations? Dimity’s brother Pillover, and Felix– Lord Mersey–both of whom attend the companion school, Bunson’s School for Evil Geniuses. Pillover isn’t much of a fan of Felix, and neither is Sophronia’s (inappropriately close) acquaintance Soap. Soap is a black boy who works as a sootie at Mlle Geraldine’s, tending the boilers and boys who also work below decks.

It seems that Soap and Felix have a bit of a tendresse for Sophronia, thought Sophronia’s of mixed opinion on them. She knows Soap is an unsuitable mate; he has no family, and even worse prospects. But Felix, despite being son of an Earl, is also allied with the Picklemen–a secret society which despises the supernaturals in society and wishes to control communication across the nation. As a friend to Sidheag, and receiving aid from a vampire, Sophronia is not opposed to the supernatural, and the Picklem tried to kill her and Dimity in previous books, so she’s decidedly against Picklemen.

Felix, on the other hand…

And then he was bending down, looking as if he might actually kiss her–in the back of an open cart!

Turns out that this love triangle intensifies as Soap stows away to keep Sophronia from falling into Felix’s affection. Pillover settles this rather succinctly:

He addressed Soap, “Although I respect the courage of a man who wears satin breeches THAT tight, but in the end you’ll have to cede to Lord Mersey. He’s too much of a peer, you understand? And a bit of a prick, as well.”

Interruption of the engagement ball by Sidheag and two werewolves is almost a welcome distraction. Especially when all the mechanicals of the house go absolutely bonkers. Sophronia, Dimity, Sidheag, Felix and Soap depart to bring Sidheag to Scotland, so she can help her uncles in the pack who are likely to be slaughtered now that they have no Alpha and are accused of treason. The ladies dress as boys (scandalous!) to ease travel, and stowaway aboard a train. The trip is entirely eventful.

There are two gunshot victims, two vampire drones tossed over, and three females trained for espionage who pretty much save the day. Felix is “rescued” by his father, the Duke and upstanding Picklemen, but not before declaring himself…

“Ouch, darling, must you be so rough?”
“Just stoppering up your silly mouth.”
“I know a better way.” He pursed his lips at her.

Soap isn’t quite as lucky. Though he does live to see another day.

This series is a hoot, for real. I love the wit, and the banter. It’s truly fun, and the new advent of more teen-speak is welcome. Sophronia’s world is one of strict social mores, but what does one do when confronted by a naked aristocratic werewolf in all his hairy…dangly, glory?

How on earth was Dimity going to react to dangly bits? Will she faint? She’ll probably faint.

Spoiler alert: She didn’t faint.

Still, the book ends with the love triangle slightly bent, Sophronia with a direct patron, and a lot of ‘splainin’ for Felix, Lord Mersey. Can’t wait to find out more…

Interested? You can find WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your library shelves.

Gail Carriger
About the Author:
Ms. Carriger writes steampunk urbane fantasy comedies of manners to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. She then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by a harem of shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London and cats that pee into toilets. Her books are all New York Times Bestsellers.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads and twitter. Gail has a fun newsletter the Monthly Chirrup, and you can sign up here.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Celebrating Bollywood! Interviews and Giveaway

Romance and Intrigue: Bollywood Style Giveaway
Something Bollywood Going On Here

Sonali Dev and Susan Kaye Quinn met in a most unusual place: Library Journal’s Top 10 E-Romance List for 2014. Sonali’s A Bollywood Affair and Susan’s Third Daughter both made the list with their Bollywood-themed romances – something that was so cool, it cried out to be celebrated!

Scroll down to win some great Bollywood-themed prizes!
Contemporary and Steampunk Bollywood Romance

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years–not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be–if her husband would just come and claim her.
Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naive village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life–cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.
The Third Daughter of the Queen wants to her birthday to arrive so she’ll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince’s proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Third Daughter is the first book in the Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance takes place in an east-indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

I have read and loved all the books in this series. Aniri is a fantastic character, and her fearless devotion to her family and friends leads her on a journey that risks much and saves her world from war. Eventually… Click the titles for my reviews on THIRD DAUGHTER, SECOND DAUGHTER, and FIRST DAUGHTER.

~*~
Romance and Intrigue: Bollywood Style

This short Q&A with Sonali and Susan talks about marrying for love and writing romance!

Q: Marrying for love is a modern, and in some ways Western, concept, but arranged marriages have a long and complicated history. How does your novel tackle the subject of arranged marriage?

Sue: Third Daughter is set in a fantasy world, but it’s a blend of cultures in the real one, including being an analog to India (both current day and some of the past). In the Dharian Affairs world, royal marriages have a history of being arranged for political purposes, but the general population of the countries marry for love. This leaves the titular Daughters with varying conflicts between marrying for duty and marrying for love ñ some embracing their arranged marriages, some fighting against it. The marriage dynamics of the three daughters in the trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter) drive much of the story- along with political intrigue and skyships, of course!
Sonali: In India where I grew up arranged marriages are still very much a part of the fabric of the culture. Having said that, one of the most interesting and unique things about Indian society is how diverse it is within itself. While you still have communities and families who will give the marrying person absolutely no say in whom they marry there are those who don’t believe their parents and families have any say when it comes to whom they choose to marry or live with, and then there is the rest of the sizable population who falls somewhere between those two belief systems. In A Bollywood Affair, Mili is from a tiny village from a very orthodox family and it is perfectly natural that her family would arrange her marriage. She would expect that. It wouldn’t even strike a girl from her background that she could choose for herself. The age at which she was married isn’t usual, though, but there is a reason why her grandmother gets her married that young. As for her being in love with her husband, again, the conditioning to be devoted to your husband is so ingrained in the culture that it would be strange if someone like Mili didn’t love someone she believed was her husband. 
Q: Whether set in a fantasy world or the modern one, romance is romance! There are many romance tropes–star-crossed lovers, lovers thrown together by circumstance, enemies turned lovers–what kind(s) of romance tropes does your novel contain?

Sue: My books are really a blend of romance and adventure, although the first book is a classic ‘lovers thrown together by circumstance’ as Aniri (the Third Daughter) goes undercover in accepting a marriage proposal from the barbarian prince in the north in order to spy on him and determine if his country truly has the rumored flying machine that would upend the political dynamics in both their countries.
Sonali: Although I didn’t set out to write it that way, several readers have pointed out that A Bollywood Affair is a Worldly Rake and an Ingenue Virgin trope. And now that I think about it, there’s truth to that. 
Q: Are you planning on writing more romances in this story-world? If so, tell us about it!

Sue: The Dharian Affairs trilogy is complete, but I’ve enjoyed writing in this east-Indian steampunk fantasy romance world so much, I’ve decided to do a follow-on trilogy from the point of view of a new character–a female tinker who has a grand invention that may change the world, but also is caught between the spy she might love and the spy she can’t resist. Those books likely won’t be written for a year or two, but I will cycle back to writing in this world in the future!
Sonali: The Bollywood Bride comes out next year and it’s the story of a Bollywood star who comes home to Chicago after ten years to escape a scandal in Mumbai and comes face to face with the man she betrayed for stardom. And then there are two more stories I’m working on in the same series. Which isn’t a series in terms of continuity or overlapping characters but because the stories are set in the same world and either the hero or the heroine work in Bollywood. 
~*~
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Paperback of Third Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #1)
The Dharian Affairs Trilogy in Ebook
2 Paperback copies of A Bollywood Affair 
Handwoven Pashmina shawl from India
Sticker Henna Tattoos
Indian bangles (bracelets)
(all physical prizes are US ONLY; ebook is INTERNATIONAL)

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Get Caught in CURTSIES & CONSPIRACIES–A Review

Hi all! Today I’m getting a little punky…steampunk-y, that is. As you may have learned from some of my reviews, I’m a total science geek. *shrugs* As, such, the steampunk genre lights up all my bells and whistles. Gail Carriager’s Middle Grade/Tween/YA steampunk novel, CURTSIES & CONSPIRACIES, features a 15 y/o girl with a big imagination and lots of spirit, Sophronia, who happens to be my kindred spirit.

Curtsies and ConspiraciesAbout the book:

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing. For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ships boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is at first apparent. A conspiracy is afoot—one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans.

Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

My Review:
This second book of the Finishing School series picks up several months after the first, with (now 15 y/o) Sophronia Temminnick back at school following the thwarting of several groups’ attempts at obtaining the “prototype”. What we learn is this prototype is a guidance valve, for use in transmission across the aetherosphere. And, it had been created by the parents of Sophronia’s dearest friends, Dimity and Pillover.

This tale brings Mlle. Geraldine’s floating Finishing School into London–along with the company of ten male students from Bunsen’s School of Evil Geniuses, among them Pillover and Lord Felix Mersey who is quite taken with Sophronia.

Attempts to kidnap Dimity are dashed by Sophronia’s quick thinking and incomplete training, but Sophronia knows she must learn whom is behind the attempts, in order to keep her dear friend safe. Also, the cause of their mission–observation of a transchannel trip through the aetherosphere—seems to be far outside the realm of normal intelligencer behavior. It seems there is a covert test planned, one that may cause great harm to Sophronia’s favorite vampire professor.

In unraveling the conspiracy, Sophronia must keep her wits and seek alliances with old friends and new acquaintance–even dandy vampires riding about the London scene. Sophronia’s uncanny ability to spy, scheme and escape are put to the test when Dimity and Pillover are finally napped. But, can she apply her training to remover herself from the sticky business of finding herself caught between two suitors–especially those who do not suit? In the end, Sophronia discredits one teacher, nearly gets another murdered, and learns to accept that sometimes her schemes will force her to employ–gasp!–a dandy gentleman’s attire.

Oh, and it seems Sophronia’s being courted. By more than one powerful man. With all the mayhem and gore, this book’s heavy on the espionage and light on the romance, though the book seems decidedly more YA than the first one in the series (which I would suggest is Tween). The pace is blistering and the language is humorous and fascinating. I love the period speech, and the nuances of manners, how they are used to advantage by these intelligencing women. Lord Mersey will be a problem, no doubt, going forward, but so will Sophronia’s “friendship” with Soap, the black sootie. Looking forward to the next adventure.

Interested? You can find CURTSIES AND CONSPIRACIES on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and lots of other places, for sure. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

As this is the second book in the series, I’d recommend reading book one, ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE, first. Not only because it’s a hoot of a story, but because the books are built to be a series, and so lots of the characters and their relationships have been fully described in ETIQUETTE. Click here for my review.

Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School, #1)About the book:

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother’s existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea–and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right–but it’s a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

Gail Carriger
About the Author:
Ms. Carriger writes steampunk urbane fantasy comedies of manners to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. She then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by a harem of shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London and cats that pee into toilets. Her books are all New York Times Bestsellers.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads and twitter. Gail has a fun newsletter the Monthly Chirrup, and you can sign up here.