Love in the Laboratory: Gail Carriger’s Romancing the Inventor

Romancing the Inventor, Gail Carriger, 2016Romancing the Inventor

Supernatural Society #1
Gail Carriger
November 1, 2016

Romancing the Inventor is the first book of the Supernatural Society, an LGBTQ+ focused novella series set in Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse.

Note: A review copy was provided at no charge by the author.

Imogene Hale is young(ish), more than averagely pretty, and so not interested in you. She’s spent her entire young life fending off the boys in her village, and believes going to work as a servant in the big manor house the vampires occupy will be a two-ply blessing for her: they pay well, so she can support her family; and since they’re vampires, they must have proclivities that can help her justify her own. Long ago, a werewolf helped verify what Imogene had long since known to be true: she has no intention of marrying a man. Or kissing a man. Or anything else with a man. And now, she’s going to work for the local hive, praying that they might share her own perversions.

In the years after Timeless, the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series, Gail Carriger takes us back to Woolsey Castle, formerly the seat of Lord Maccon and his pack, where the Woolsey Hive, formerly of London, is now in residence. Imogene, clearly aware of the hierarchy of vampire hives, wants to move up from Servant to Snack, desiring nothing more than to be ruined by the vampires. But Countess Nadasdy, the hive queen, is being annoyingly coy. Meanwhile, Imogene continues her local practice of dazzling the house staff with her smiles and being completely unaware of herself—she knows she’s pretty, but has no idea how disarming a simple smile can be.

And then she is told to bring tea out to the inventor’s shed—ahem. Laboratory.

Imogene, naturally skilled in math, is fascinated by the environment; not just the chaos of the inventor’s work, but the inventor herself: Madame Genevieve Lefoux, the not-quite-absent-minded woman in gentleman’s clothing with a hell of a mind for science but no patience for social graces. The two have an immediate personal connection, but Imogene sees the impropriety of a parlormaid furthering any relationship with someone above her social stratum, even one of mere acquaintanceship. It doesn’t stop her from fantasizing about Madame Lefoux’s dimples and sharp green eyes, though.

Circumstances place her regularly in the inventor’s company, but their interactions become cool after the first day. Imogene agonizes over each interaction and what they mean, but does not act in anyway. Then, Imogene throws the house into an uproar by surreptitiously correcting an equation on the large chalkboard in the potting shed, leading to even more regular exposure to Madame Lefoux. Unable to bear being indifferently in the fascinating woman’s presence, Imogene throws all caution to the wind and decides to pursue her.

The inventor, however, continues to not attend her in the ways she wants. Needs. Whichever.

Meanwhile, several appearances by Lord and Lady Maccon keep readers and vampires alike on their toes.

The magic of Romancing the Inventor is not only that it takes what should be an agonizingly taboo situation and plays it out like your average romance, but also that any reader can come and experience Gail Carriger’s world without needing to ask too many questions. Carriger is fantastic at worldbuilding; and when there are questions, she has a brief glossary in the back for terms that have not been explained. Since this is a sweet romance, it’s good to note that there are sexytimes, but they’re not incredibly descriptive. You might be embarrassed if your grandma read certain scenes over your shoulder, otherwise, it’s somewhere between sweet and explicit. Structurally, the story plays out perfectly for the number of pages provided. Anything longer, actually, might have made readers pull out all their hair in frustration. There are a few typos, but that comes with the territory of being your own publishing company. Nothing we can’t overlook for the sake of a thrilling scandal. What Would Alexia Do, and all that.

This standalone novella is a delight to read, whether you are well-versed in the Parasolverse or a newcomer. Readers who are familiar with the Soulless series or Finishing School will be familiar with Countess Nadasdy and Genevieve Lefoux, but you can come to this without having read them—if you’re okay with being completely spoiled for Soulless. But of course it’s no question: anyone who enters the Parasolverse by way of Romancing the Inventor will be diving into the others soon, just to experience more of the marvel that is Alexia Maccon nee Tarabotti and all that she decides to manage.

But don’t be alarmed if you are familiar with Ms. Carriger’s work: while the first in a series, this book is a standalone, and the two don’t have to wait another several books for their HEA. And neither will you.

Jessica Pryde

Jessica Pryde

Copyeditor Jess is a book hoarder and equal opportunity geek. She loves to get lost in stories of all kinds. See what she's lost in: @jessisreading