In the Provincial Union of Victoriana, a steampunk America that lost the Revolutionary War, Charmian “Kit” Kittredge makes her living investigating crimes of magic. While Kit tries to avoid the nobs of high society, she follows mysteries wherever they lead.
Unlike most folks, Kit doesn’t believe in magic, but she can’t refuse to help Lady Diana Walsh, who claims a curse is viciously wounding her while she sleeps. As Kit investigates the Walsh family, she becomes convinced that the attacks are part of a more ominous plot—one that may involve the lady’s obnoxious husband.
Sleuthing in the city of Rumsen is difficult enough, but soon Kit must also skirt the unwanted attentions of a nefarious deathmage and the unwelcome scrutiny of the police chief inspector. Unwilling to surrender to either man’s passion for her, Kit struggles to remain independent as she draws closer to the heart of the mystery. For the truth promises to ruin her life—and turn Rumsen into a supernatural battleground from which no one will escape alive.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
If this book, or its cover, look familiar, it probably is. The publisher originally released Disenchanted & Co. in two parts; Her Ladyship’s Curse, and His Lordship Possessed, in 2013. Then they put the two parts back together (where they belonged) and published the whole thing as a single title.
Confused? So was I, a bit. The action in Her Ladyship’s Curse ends on a massive cliffhanger, and then the story is resolved in His Lordship Possessed. On the one hand, don’t read one without the other. On that other hand, if you want the ebook, it is slightly less expensive to buy the thing in parts.
I picked up this book because it is a combination of alternate history and steampunk, and because I’ve read Lynn Viehl before and generally like her stuff. Even though this is a departure for her, it looked like good fun.
The alternate history is fascinating; this is a Victorian era a century after the American Revolution failed, so the Colonies are still part of the empire. The country is called Toriana, and all the cities have names that are sometimes near, and sometimes far from their real-life counterpart.
Our heroine lives, and definitely works, in Rumsen, which turns out to be San Francisco. I get Settle for Seattle, but Rumsen for San Francisco was quite pretty far off, and we don’t know why. There is a glossary in the back of the book for all the terms that are used. Except for place names, it’s as though British slang was developed here as well as across the pond.
Back to our heroine; Charmian (Kit) Kittredge is not the lady who is cursed, Kit is the curse-breaker. Or curse-debunker. Kit doesn’t believe in magic, because it never works around her, therefore she can’t believe it exists.
Lady Walsh hires Kit to figure out who is coming into her room every night and cutting words into her skin. Kit is just certain there is a non-magical explanation. Lady Walsh just wants the torment to stop.
Things get interesting when Lord Walsh decides to ruin Kit rather than believe his wife. There is much more to this conundrum than meets the eye. Even Kit’s extremely skeptical eye.
Kit is a woman working in a man’s world. Her need to preserve and maintain her independence is the cornerstone of the life she has made for herself. The wrong word can ruin her, imprison her, destroy her ability to make a living, or all of the above. Yet she is never resigned to the place that society decrees for her, no matter what obstacles appear in her path.
Kit assists Lady Walsh because she understands what the other woman feels and fears. Even though she knows that working for the aristocracy has the potential to blow up in her face. Which, of course, it does, or there wouldn’t be a story.
The first half of the story is the worldbuilding and settting up Kit’s character and circumstances. Not just her business, but also the two men who both help and hinder her investigations; Lord Lucien Dredmore and Inspector Thomas Doyle. A cop who wants to protect her, and a mage who wants to possess her.
But in the second half of the story, we discover that nothing is as it seemed. This case, which seemed so personal, turns out to have world-changing political implications. Kit seems to be in over her head.
Until she discovers that there really are spirits, and that the secret of her own origins is darker and deeper than she imagined.
The story is tremendously fun, but it changes course in midstream from being about Kit’s investigations to saving the world. The reasons that the world needs to be saved are ancient, evil and complicated in the extreme. And then the ending sends everything you think you know off into another tangent altogether.
The alternate history setting is fascinating, and the first half was terrific. In the second half, Kit isn’t as strong a character and the focus shifts to the political (and other) machinations.
I give Disenchanted & Co a B.