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You may have noticed my blog header: all those gears and steampunky angst. (Corsets may have been involved.) So, yeah. I like steampunk. And when I heard that my guest this week was Jennifer Harlow, author of the completely steampunk Verity Hart vs. the Vampyres, I think we all know I was doing the happy dance.
Jennifer spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virginia home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time, she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad, Midnight Magic Mystery series and The Galilee Falls Trilogy. For the soundtrack to her books and other goodies visit her at www.jenniferharlowbooks.com
The whole of Victorian London knows there is something not quite right about the Lady Verity Hart. She may be the daughter of an MP and the sister of famed inventor Lord David Hart, but she is a spinster whose own father threatens to send her to the madhouse every fortnight. Because Society is correct—Verity Hart is no lady. If they suspected how quick with a quip she is, let alone the majority of her brother’s ingenious machines were her design, the sale of fainting couches would double. Verity requires one herself when her beloved brother is kidnapped by vampyres in the dead of night. With the aid of an aggravating, rude American bounty hunter with a secret of his own, Verity takes to land, sea, and even air to rescue the only person who could ever love and truly accept her. Or is he?
Title: Verity Hart Vs. The Vampyres Omnibus Series: A Hart/McQueen Steampunk Adventure 1 Author: Jennifer Harlow Genre: Steampunk Romance Publisher: Devil on the Left Books Pages: 293 Format: eBook
Available from: Amazon
Quick: what makes a story steampunk? Steam of course, powering all the fantastic inventions that the 19th century really should have had. Brainstorm a basic list and you might come up with gears, airships, goggles, chronometers, aristocrats, pirates, adventurers, spunky do-gooders, urchins… Branch out a bit, and you bump into vampires, werewolves, and the other night-time-bumping things.
Add them all together, throw in an antisocial American, and you have the grocery list that went into Verity Hart Vs the Vampyres. Jennifer Harlow’s new omnibus presents the adventures of Lady Verity Hart: genius, adventurer, inventor, and above all, properly well-bred victorian aristocrat and daughter of the Eighth Earl of Carlisle. Verity leads a double life, with her beloved brother David as front for her inventions that have brought a fortune to her family but forced her to hide behind the facade of the proper lady. But when her brother—the only person in the world who loves her for who and what she is—gets kidnapped, Verity doesn’t hesitate to plan a rescue. She turns to two most unlikely allies, the oddly reclusive Count Ivan Orrlock, and the rude but oddly charismatic American, Jamie McQueen (emphasis on the odd in both cases). The fact that the first turns out to be a vampyre (Verity, of course, uses the spelling chosen by John Polidori when he produced the first vampire tale in 1819), and the second a werewolf might make the reader question the number of supernatural creatures inhabiting London society, but only makes Verity more determined to use their special… talents.
As befits its early life as a serial released in five parts, Verity’s story is action packed. Fantastic inventions crowd equally fantastic zombies, ghouls, vampires, werewolves… The dialog is often as fast-paced as the action, and even more entertaining. For example, Verity is showing McQueen some of the weapons she has invented.
He picks up the Artemis. “What on God’s green is this?”
“I designed it. It fires silver spikes.” Next, he picks up the Incinerator. “It emits a stream of petrol ignited by the flame at the tip.” Then the Fountain. “Projects holy water.” I show him my ring. “Syringe inside with a sedative. The cigarette case injects silver nitrate via syringe, as does the card case. Then, of course, pistols and miniature rifle with silver bullets, daggers, and crossbow, though I didn’t have enough time to replace the old arrowheads with the silver ones I acquired today. Will it be enough?”
“Um, yeah,” he chuckles and shakes his head. “Shoot, I don’t know if I should run screaming from this room or marry ya. Damn.”
One of the appeals of steampunk is, I think, the contrast between the socially restrictive Victorian society and the fantastical adventures of the main characters. So even though Verity is terrified of riding in airships, or breaks down after she is forced to kill an assailant, she pulls on her gloves and continues “…on as if nothing had happened with my head held high all the way to our destination. It is the English way.” As they grow and learn to depend on each other, Verity and McQueen slowly abandon their stereotyped picture of each other. And as each adventure brings them closer to the goal of finding Verity’s brother, both are forced to give up their weapons, their self-deceptions, and their very ideas of self.
I can’t deny that there are problems with the book. The author bounces back and forth between American and British spelling and phrases. Characters and apparent clues are occasionally introduced in one serial section, and just as the reader is trying to integrate them into the whole, they disappear never to be heard from again. But the steel-spine strength of Verity and McQueen in the face of a society which will never really accept either of them was so refreshing and entertaining that these inconsistencies don’t seem to matter. I’m delighted to give four stars to Verity Hart Vs The Vampyres. I only hope there are more adventures ahead for Team Hart & McQueen!**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
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