Thursday, 27 February 2014

Soulless by Gail Carriger

What strikes me most about this book is how much, despite the vampires and werewolves and vague steampunkery, this feels like a very straightforward romance novel. Not a bad specimen of a romance novel, but so exactly falling into those tropes. If you took one of the few romances I've ever read, one where the main female character was a spunky female detective who ran afoul of the handsome, rough-around-the-edges-but-still-well-off male character and they gradually discovered they feel strongly about each other, and he rescues her from her spinster state even though she's spunky and self-sufficient and could survive without a husband...and replaced the conspiracy they're looking into with werewolves and vampires, you'd have almost exactly the same book.

So, this is a romance. With historical urban fantasy flourishes. And for that, it's not bad, although I do wonder why almost all of these ruggedly handsome rogues who never intended to settle down are Scottish. That's my husband's ancestry, so I'm not arguing, per se, but it seems that "Scottish" has become code for a certain type of romance male, an alpha male who is really dying to have a woman stand up to him. To this, we're just adding "werewolf."

The object of his eventual affections in this is Alexia, who is (gasp!) half-Italian! Doesn't have porcelain skin! Likes to read! Oh, wait, and she also doesn't have a soul. Which seems to limit her not a bit - if I read further in the series, I hope the actual implications of that are made clear. It certainly doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings, or morals, or ethics. But in this world vampires and werewolves suffer from an excess of soul, and she is their opposite. And temporary antidote.

Her feather-brained mother and sisters, naturally, don't understand Alexia's distaste for late Victorian society, and have consigned her to spinsterhood. She wants to work for BUR, and I don't remember what that stands for, and I don't care enough to go check. It's the BPRD, all right? She keeps running across Lord Maccon, the alpha werewolf in town, and they bicker in a way that totally in no way disguises sexual attraction.

But there are evil forces abroad, kidnapping the recently integrated vampires and werewolves and performing experiments on them. And boy, they would just love to get their hands on soulless Alexia. And along the way, she starts to experience feelings. You know, down there. And there are almost sexy times, repeatedly.

So yeah, romance. Fun, very slight, romance. With werewolves. And vampires.

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