Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears - leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.
But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.
She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.
Simply put, I loved this book.
Second in the Parasol Protectorate Series, I enjoyed her first book, Soulless, but this one was even better.
Alexia and Lord Woolsey, now married, are still enmeshed in the connubial bliss associated with the first few months of marriage. Woolsey can't get enough of Alexia's nubile proportions it seems, and takes every advantage of letting Alexia know just how appreciative he is of her natural endowments, whether it's her body or her brain. Although they are not together for various parts of the storyline, when they are, it makes for great reading! I love the way Ms. Carriger writes, it's so clever and makes me laugh when it comes to Alexia and Connal!
For example, when Connal is in one of his amorous moods and her mind is on something else and she wants to discuss it. Ever the pragmatist, she realizes she might as well just give up and enjoy it:
Alexia sacrificed herself on the altar of wifely duty, enjoying every minute of it, of course, but still determined to pull him back...
His response after he gets his way is just as funny!
"Right," he said, as though he had just finished a refreshing beverage. "Shall we continue on, then?"
*giggles* Oh, how I love him! He knows his wife well and knows she'll want to get back to business and the subject at hand, but that doesn't stop him from making his own demands first - he has his priorities, after all! I love an alpha - whether man or werewolf!
One of the things I love about their relationship is the coy references to the passion that goes on between them. In most cases, this PG version is even sexier than an R rated version. The little tidbits of the earl nibbling down his wife's neck and spine are more evocative of the fun they must be having together between the sheets than if we had a more graphic description of their love life. It's obvious Alexia has no reason to complain in that department, even if she has to sleep during daylight hours and go about her business in the middle of the night (werewolf hours).
Alexia has come into her own in this book, and though she is soulless, not the sort to become overwrought with emotion or overly sentimental, I could relate to her better as a married woman. She has much to deal with now, namely her wayward best friend, Ivy, and her selfish unmarried younger half-sister, Felicity, who never has a nice thing to say about anybody! Alexia has settled into married life well. It hasn't stopped her one bit from noseying about in her husband's BUR business or aiding Queen Victoria as her muhjah (a type of unofficial and secret advisor) on the Shadow Council.
The basic plot of the book takes Alexia to Scotland with her best friend and sister in tow. While there, we learn of Connal's background and his mystery as to why he is no longer the alpha of this former pack, for it's unheard of that an alpha leaves it's own pack, but apparantly Lord Maccon did some years ago. The big question is why. In addition, we find out that there seems to be some sort of moving plague that has left it's mark around parts of London and seems to be en route to Scotland. The plague is attacking all the supernatural beings (vampires, ghosts, werewolves) temporarily taking away their supernatural powers. What is causing this, where has it come from, and how can it be stopped? Alexia, ever the take charge person, is on the case, even if her life is in danger - is someone trying to kill her?
Before leaving for Scotland, Alexia meets a beautiful yet disarming lesbian Frenchwoman who dresses as a man. She is an inventor, although we are unsure if she is good or bad. Is she some sort of spy that is trying to kill Alexia or not? Whose side is she on? Connal, before leaving for Scotland on the family business regarding his former pack, obliquely leaves instructions to Alexia to meet this inventor woman at her hat shop. Alexia does, and the woman had made (at Connal's request) a unique and 007-like parasol for Alexia with a lot of secret weapons and useful tools in it that later come in handy. Madame also seems to make a romantic play for Alexia herself, though Alexia is not interested - she has her highly sexed werewolf husband to consider! But, the main point of the book is that Alexia must get to the bottom of what is causing this plague - and afterall Alexia's joie de vivre is to get to the bottom of everything and fix it!
There are lots of exciting moments in the book, including a nerve wracking death defying fall off a dirigible. I enjoyed the family and pack infighting between the werewolves and Connal. Many interesting and comical side characters added color to the story, a Major Channing Channing, who looks promising for future books, Connal's valet cum actor, Turnstell, who finds himself in love with Alexia's wayward best friend, Ivy. Their reciprocal romantic conundrum is amusing as well as Ivy's fashion faux pas and ditzy commentaries on the strange events surrounding her - she's basically clueless about everything. Alexia's sarcasm made me laugh out loud often and her tart retorts to bitchy sister Felicity were well done. In fact, I admire Alexia mostly for her ability to think on her feet (and off, for that matter) and be the "common sense" person for much of the zaniness that goes on around her. I had some issues with Felicity fading into the background towards the end and I got a bit lost in the mechanical descriptions of transmitters and thingamabobs and that sort of thing, as well as the big wrap up and motivation of the villain and background history of the whys and wherefores, but those are minor gripes, for mostly I really loved the details and witty characterizations thoughout the book. I guessed who the villain was in the story, but it was by no means predictable - as is nothing in this book!
The 800-pound gorilla I'm avoiding is the major cliffhanger and big misunderstanding at the end of it. No spoilers here, but just when things are looking great and the mystery is solved and everyone is happy - all hell breaks loose! Poor Alexia - aargh! To say the least, I was shocked and dismayed and am in dire need of reading Ms. Carriger's next book Blameless as soon as it comes out! I'm not fond of clffhangers and this one is a doozy, but it did ramp the series up a notch for me and gave it a whole new depth, though it has me gnashing my teeth! I really have enjoyed the first two books enormously, the locales, descriptions and details of the Victorian period are first rate and the whimsical homage to steampunk gives it an amusing twist.
This is a promising author and series, I highly recommend it, though if you detest cliffhangers - you're going to be really upset at the end of this book. Still, I loved it and am eager to read on - cliffhangers or no!