Romancing the Inventor
by Gail Carriger
Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?
It’s probably best not to read this review if you haven’t read the Parasol Protectorate series and you’re planning to!
I recently finished the Parasol Protectorate series, and because I love this world and these characters I immediately began to dive into the shorter works Gail Carriger has written before tackling her Finishing School and The Custard Protocol series. One of my favourite characters of the series – quite possibly my absolute favourite, aside from Alexia of course, and Conall, and Lord Akeldama, and Biffy, and Lyall… nevermind – is the French inventor Genevieve LeFoux.
Genevieve dresses in men’s clothes, openly loves women and science and wears her heart on her sleeve. Naturally, I’ve adored her since we were introduced to her in Changeless, so to know I had a novella waiting for me centred on a woman seeking a relationship with her had me very excited.
There was so much about this novella I loved. Imogene is a really refreshing voice in a series that has so far followed the gentry throughout, so to finally have a heroine from a working class background was a lovely change. She can’t read but she loves mathematics – she also loves women, something she can’t acknowledge in her alternate Victorian era town, so she takes up a job in the local vampire hive, hoping there might be at least one woman in there who’s willing to show her what she’s been missing. When the vampires fail to show any kind of interest, it’s the inventor they’re keeping in their potting shed that catches Imogene’s attention.
If you’ve read the Parasol Protectorate series then you’ll know Genevieve ended up being indentured to the Woolsey Hive after her actions in Heartless, and so far the poor woman’s only served four of her ten years. Now that her son’s attending university in Paris she’s lonelier than ever. Enter Imogene.
Honestly I was surprised, at first, at how much darker this novella was compared to other books I’ve read by Carriger; Imogene is treated rather horribly by some of the staff, and some of the vampires, when it’s clear Genevieve is interested in her. I had to remind myself that, unlike the other books in the Parasol Protectorate series, this story focuses on a character living with vampires. Alexia is surrounded by werewolves, and Imogene herself sums it up perfectly: werewolves are true gentlemen, vampires only act like it.
(Aside from Lord Akeldama, of course, who doesn’t make an appearance in this novella, but still deserves to be separated from the rest of his kind because I adore him too.)
These darker elements didn’t stop it from being a sweet novella, though. In fact I really appreciated that Carriger didn’t make this story a silly one; Genevieve does wear her heart on her sleeve and it’s been broken before, so it was satisfying to see her work through that instead of watching her fall head over heels in love with Imogene with no mention of Angelique whatsoever.
Imogene is lovely, too, and her relationship with Genevieve works. They have chemistry and while there are some steamy scenes – I loved that Imogene uses her knowledge of algebra in bed to find Genevieve’s ‘x’, if you catch my drift… – the story as a whole isn’t a story about sex. They have chemistry outside the bedroom, too, and it was so endearing to watch Imogene chase after this lovely woman who struggles to let herself be loved.
There were a few cameos from other characters in this series, too, and I can’t deny I was thrilled to see Alexia and Conall again. I love, love, love Alexia’s friendship with Genevieve and it was so nice to see Alexia putting her practicality to good use to solve problems again – especially when these problems were getting in the way of her ability to enjoy her dinner. Alexia has her priorities sorted.
Also it made me so happy for Alexia to admit that, had she not already met and fallen in love with Conall, she might have given a deeper relationship with Genevieve a chance herself.
I really enjoyed Imogene’s friendship with Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings, too. Every time I see that man’s name it makes me smile, and he’s a character who doesn’t make himself easy to like in the other books which therefore means I like him a lot? I’m just as confused as you are. He carries himself as something of a womaniser, but his friendship with Imogene was incredibly sweet and I want him to be her big brother and look out for her when Genevieve isn’t around.
I realise this is more of a gush than a review, but basically I loved this novella and I was thrilled to have a story devoted to Genevieve getting some kind of happy ending at last. If you’ve read and enjoyed the Parasol Protectorate series then you should definitely give this novella a try, and now I can’t wait to read Romancing the Werewolf – as it’s set during Christmas, though, I think I’ll
try to wait until December to read it!