By Gail Carriger
Publisher: Gail Carriger
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
To Sum It Up: Imogene Hale isn’t sure what to expect when she enters into service as a parlourmaid for the Woolsey vampire hive, but surely life there must be more interesting than the one she’s leading now. Intrigue for Imogene arrives quickly in the form of Madame Genevieve Lefoux, a brilliant inventor indentured to the hive. The chemistry between the two is instant and undeniable, and Imogene would love nothing more than for the inventor to show even the smallest sign of sharing Imogene’s feelings. Madame Lefoux, however, appears to still be nursing a broken heart, and Imogene faces quite the challenge in convincing the inventor that she might be able to love again.
Review: What a trifecta of awesomeness Gail Carriger has released in 2016: first with her novella Poison or Protect, then the second Custard Protocol novel, Imprudence, and now with her latest novella, Romancing the Inventor. I was very, very much looking forward to reading the latter not only because I absolutely adore the supernatural, Victorian steampunk world of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and will read anything set in it, but also because Romancing the Inventor checks in on Madame Genevieve Lefoux, a Parasol-verse character last seen facing a rather hapless fate after running amok through the streets of London with one of her inventions.
Readers who are not familiar with Madame Lefoux’s previous adventures need not worry here. The ingenious thing about both this novella and Poison or Protect is that they are entirely self-contained; no familiarity with the Parasol-verse is assumed or required. You get enough of Madame Lefoux’s backstory to understand her character here, but without overwhelming neither newcomers to the world nor readers who already know her history with too many details. Carriger strikes a harmonious balance in writing with both sets of readers in mind.
Although Madame Lefoux features prominently in Romancing the Inventor, it’s parlourmaid Imogene Hale, a character new to even readers of Carriger’s other works, who is the novella's protagonist. Life in a small English village holds very little for Imogene, so she gains employment at Woolsey Castle, home to the Woolsey vampire hive and its queen, Countess Nadasdy. The much hoped for excitement Imogene sought among vampires doesn’t take long to materialize, and what follows is a wonderfully sweet, slow burn of a love story. The romance runs into a few obstacles along the way, including hesitance on the part of Madame Lefoux, who still isn’t quite over a past love. Fortunately for Imogene, she later gains a very persuasive ally to assist her with convincing Madame Lefoux to entrust her heart to someone again.
Like Poison or Protect, Romancing the Inventor was just the right number of pages. Other novellas I’ve read felt a bit short and not long enough to really get to know the characters and/or tell a complete story, but neither issue arises here. Math and I have always been archenemies, but even I chuckled at the clever math references. I’m also extremely curious to read more about a certain character from the Parasol Protectorate novels thanks to the side of that character that’s shown here. Not only would I love to see this character featured in a future novella, but really all of the minor characters from the Parasol-verse because these novellas are such a delight to read.
All in All: I can’t emphasize enough that you can pick up this novella and enjoy it whether you’re completely new to the world or have read any number of other works set in it. If you loved the original Parasol Protectorate series like I did and always wondered what happened to Madame Lefoux, then definitely read Romancing the Inventor to find out; you won’t be disappointed!