When Elizabeth Hunter asked me if I’d be interested in an ARC for her short “A Very Proper Monster,” I obviously said yes. In fact, what I said was that I’d trade my first born for one of her ARCs.
(Turns out that’s not the deal she thought we made, and now she’s trying to reneg, even under threat of no avocado with my book review sandwich metaphors!)
One of the highest compliments I can pay to any book (or author) (or person in general) is to say they made me do research and/or buy more books.
So, even though I received this short for zero dollars or human trade, I’ve already spent more money buying books than I would have otherwise.
So, thanks a lot! (Sincerely. Thank you.)
A Very Proper Monster is part of a two-novella collection that was released today (go! go forth and purchase it!). Because I also love the other author, and she didn’t send me an ARC, obviously I already have purchased. One-click, baby.
Josephine Shaw spends long nights filling the pages of her Gothic stories with the fantastic and the macabre, unaware that the suitor her father has arranged is one of the dark creatures she’s always dreamed. For Tom Dargin, courting an ailing spinster was only one duty in a long life of service to his sire. But after he meets the curious Miss Shaw, will Tom become the seducer or the seduced? Can a love fated to end in tragedy survive a looming grave?
We were introduced to Tom and Josie a bit in “A Scarlet Deep” (mmmm…..Murphy) and I was pretty excited to get a glimpse into the eccentricities (she’s too wealthy to be crazy) of Josie and her mate.
This gothic romance made me remember how much I love Gothic tales (hence the Amazon one-click spree. In addition to picking up a copy of the book mentioned throughout this tale (“Carmilla” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu), I followed Amazon’s “if you like that, you might want this” suggestion trail for way too long.
I was a little uncertain how well I would relate to the characters. Tom was a rough-spoken vampire who worked for the not-yet-in-charge-of-Dublin Murphy and Josephine was a wealthy, single lady dying of tuberculosis. (Am I the only one who thought Ruby Gilbert made dying of consumption sound kind of romantic? Yes? Okay then…) She spends her free time writing gothic romances under assumed names and being idiosyncratic by moonlight.
When her father makes a deal with Murphy (mmm….Murphy) to sell his business in exchange for one of Murphy’s brother’s agreeing to marry his daughter we see the best of arranged marriages and one of the main reasons I love Elizabeth’s writing. There is no coercion, even when it would be culturally appropriate. Tom agrees, but only if Josie enters into it of her own free will.
The rest of the story is [spoiler], but it’s a delightfully period appropriate gothic bodice ripper, without any actual ripping of bodices.
(Trust me when I say do not google image search “corset removal.” And also be happy you don’t wear a corset on the regular.)
“Ripping corsets,” he said as he unhooked her at the back, “is seldom as comfortable or as quick as novels make it out to be.”
You guys! THIS IS TRUE! (Well, I don’t know about the corsets specifically. I am much too fond of any of my corsets to try this out. BUT BUT BUT ripping any undergarment off, without super strength and a super ability to withstand the paid of having your clothes ripped off, is difficult and unlikely to result in the desired romantic aftereffects [because ow].
“‘Tis a foolish woman who courts Death. He is the most jealous lover.”
Look, he brought a flower! Soooo romantic!
There are so many places where Ms. Hunter’s use of the English language delights me, inspires me, makes me grin with glee… She is an master of scathing description. Take Neville (which just sounds a bit snivelly to me):
Neville Burke looked like a man who’d spent his whole life in clubs and at dinner parties. His clothes were fashionable, his face soft. His pale blond excuse for a mustache hung limp beneath his narrow nose, as if it too had given up on any proper attempt at manliness.
Isn’t that fantastic? Don’t you want to turn your back on Neville whilst out in society? (Don’t worry, later you’ll want to punch him. Or rip out his throat.)
And the kissing (for of course it’s a kissing book)…Elizabeth Hunter can write some hot kissing scenes, even between a vampire and a consumptive virgin. Almost made me blush.
I found this review ridiculously difficult to finish. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, like the book, I didn’t want it to end. It was too short (which is how I feel about most of the wonderful things I read) although it really was the perfect length for the story.
I’ve not a single criticism to air, other than I want more than the book – any book – could give. I want Elizabeth to move into my house to drink gin with me and read me bedtimes stories.
So I’m just ending it. Just like this.
And not just for “A Very Proper Monster,” but for the other piece, too. Grace Draven can doe things with words that make me so very envious, and although I’ve not yet read her contribution (I will be doing that later today), I know it will be fantastic.
Gaslight Hades Blurb
In GASLIGHT HADES, Nathaniel Gordon walks two worlds—that of the living and the dead. Barely human, he’s earned the reputation of a Bonekeeper, the scourge of grave robbers. He believes his old life over, until one dreary burial he meets the woman he once loved and almost married. Lenore Kenward stands at her father’s grave, begging the protection of the mysterious guardian, not knowing he is her lost love. Resolved to keep his distance, Nathaniel is forced to abandon his plan and accompany Lenore on a journey into the mouth of Hell where sea meets sky, and the abominations that exist beyond its barrier wait to destroy them.
If you’re interested in a little more about the novellas before reading, check out Elizabeth’s blog post about them.
Go forth and read, blogateers! You won’t be sorry.