Sparks and Tarts Review Edition: The Sumage Solution
The Sumage Solution (San Andreas Shifters #1)
Gail Carriger, LLC
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.
Well folks, it’s happened. Gail Carriger wandered away from the Parasolverse, and the results are fantastic.
This is not to say she is no longer writing books set in the Victorian Steampunk universe for which she is most famous. There are still plenty of those coming out, including the third Custard Protectorate book and several side stories. But she’s started a new series under the name G. L. Carriger, and if that naming convention is familiar to you, you can probably guess what type of book The Sumage Solution is.
That’s right! G. L. Carriger, like L. A. Witt, A. M. Arthur, K. J. Charles, and all their friends, has written a M/M romance. (For the uninitiated, that’s male/male. Man/man. Gay. Whichever way you’d like to refer to it.) And folks, I will repeat myself: it’s pretty fantastic.
Set in the modern day, The Sumage Solution exists in a world that is mighty similar to the Parasolverse. It might even exist in the same universe, though that would suck for all the people we know and love in the Parasolverse. There are mages, which do not exist in the Parasolverse, but there are also werewolves and other supernatural beings.
Have you read Marine Biology? It’s an adorable short (very short) about Alec, a young werewolf and the merman that he mates. You don’t have to have read it to read The Sumage Solution, but you get to know Alec a little better, and you might understand the family dynamics a little more.
I’ll wait for you to finish it. Done? Great. Cute, right? Now. Let’s talk about Biff and Max.
Biff (who I will call Bryan from here on out because Jesus) is the Beta of his newfangled werewolf pack, new to the San Francisco Bay Area. The majority of the pack has come west from Boston, split from their old pack, and they’re hoping to get a fresh start a world away from Alec and Bryan’s asshole dad and the toxic homophobic masculinity of the whole pack. This is a universe in which supernatural beings are just a part of life, even though they have their own government. Naturally. And new packs in an area have to register with said government in order to be allowed to stay.
Biff, the calm, steady, responsible one in pack leadership, is the one who has to do that. But what he isn’t expecting is Max, the beautiful, surly, flirty sumage who doesn’t smell disgusting (it’s a shifter thing). He’s the low-level official who has to sign off on his paperwork, and as a mage and gay man, doesn’t take kindly to the stereotypical werewolf pack invading the bay area.
Good thing their pack isn’t stereotypical, as shown by the way Bryan flirts back. He has only recently come to terms with his own sexuality, but he hardly even knows what that means. But the pack isn’t planning to ride their Hawleys through the Castro terrorizing the queer population, not with a gay Alpha.
The two hit it off immediately–no hard-to-get feelings here–but have no fear, angst lovers: there are Big Misunderstandings and Stubborn Beautiful People galore in this story. Max has serious (and understandable) Daddy Issues, and Bryan nearly makes himself physically ill at the idea of causing someone harm. As a natural Beta, he has healing powers, and hurt and pain—whether physical or emotional—are torture.
But don’t worry; there are sexy-times, too. And puns. All the puns. True to Carriger style, this book makes you dive right into the world; no info-dumps to bring you up to speed. Each new revelation is a delight, unless it makes you more confused (but I promise, most of your burning questions are answered by the end).
My biggest issue with this book, as a regular consumer of contemporary entertainment, was the dialogue. It can occasionally read a bit off, either sounding too British or from another time. With Carriger’s writing history, that’s not much of a surprise, since practically all of her other books exist in a different time and place.
It’s nice to think that people my age from the Bay Area talk that way, though. And maybe in a universe featuring the Super Saturation, they do. 🤷 And of course, we have yet another woman writing M/M romance, but as long as it’s being approached in a thoughtful and respectful way, I won’t say no to more of these stories.
When it comes down to it, there’s little that took away from my enjoyment of this book. I might shout questions to the empty room, but they would be answered by the end. I might be pulled out for a second by a phrase that isn’t quite right, but I’d go right back in, ready to slap sense into people and loving every minute of it.
I can’t wait to see who she pairs up next. (My money’s on a kitsune.)