This is by Alexis Hall …do I need to say more? Oh I supposed that’s my job…
Author: Alexis Hall
Cover Artist: Simone
Rating: 5.0 of 5 Stars
An instructive story in which vice receives its just reward.
Inspired by true and scandalous tales of the Gaslight aristocracy, we present the most moral and improving tale of Lady Rosamond Wolfram.
Weep, reader, for the plight of our heroine as she descends into piteous ruin in the clutches of the notorious Phlogiston Baron, Anstruther Jones. Witness the horrors of feminine rebellion when this headstrong young lady defies her father, breaks an advantageous engagement, and slips into depravity with a social inferior. Before the last page is turned, you will have seen our heroine molested by carnival folk, snubbed at a dance, and drawn into a sinful ménage a trois by an unrepentant sodomite, the wicked and licentious Lord Mercury.
Reader, take heed. No aspect of our unfortunate heroine’s life, adventures, or conduct is at all admirable, desirable, exciting, thrilling, glamorous, or filled with heady passion and gay romance.
For those already acquainted with Alexis Hall’s steampunk novel, ‘Prosperity’ I apologise for going over facts you are already aware of. However, I wish to encourage others to enjoy the pleasure of the steampunk world of Gaslight. This pseudo Victorian, Northern English town is founded on the money from mining the mysterious energy source Phlogiston, which is mined in the clouds aboard flying ships, and is the setting for ‘There will be Phlogiston’. It is a world of manners, social conformity and repression. It is also a world of dissatisfaction where one’s own needs and desires are secondary to progression through the ranks of society. In this world we meet ‘Lady Rosamond’, daughter of aristocracy and half sister to a brother she thinks weird, who is missing, and searched for endlessly by her Father. Her Mother is also absent much of the time in the grip of laudanum addiction. Rosamond longs for the attention of her Father, but never seems to be enough for him. She conforms with her parents’ wishes and attends endless balls and parties etc. as a débutante. She has the same aim as all the other débutantes, which is to marry a Duke or an Earl, but definitely well. Her world is changed forever when she meets Anstruther Jones who fits into none of these categories. What he is though is…
“Likerous.” Rosamond had to concede: whatever, it meant, it sounded filthy. And it suited Jones right down to the ground.
Anstruther Jones is a Phlogiston Baron, a self made man and as such beneath nice society. However, he has been taken under the wing of Lord Mercury, who is in love with Jones. Lord Mercury is the last in the line of old aristocracy and feels the weight of duty and society’s rules most of all. Being gay he would not be accepted at all, and he believes if he doesn’t have his good name and society he has nothing left.
These three characters are all ruled and repressed by society. One for being a woman, one for being working class and one for being gay. Together they learn how to be happy and how to throw off the shackles of societal norms.This is a long enough novella to develop great characters, wonderful world building and an interesting plot. There are Pygmalion / My Fair Lady references and enough intertexuality to make me grin,
…but the raihn in Spaihn stubbornly rehned on the plehn, and attempts to educate the man’s tastes were similarly unsuccessful.
and Lord Mercury refers to Jones as
His unshapeable Galatea. A sordid fantasy for endless solitary nights.
As much as we see Lord Mercury trying to teach Anstruther Jones to fit into nice society, and would therefore construe the Pygmalion references to refer to these two, Jones likewise moulds Lord Mercury who,
…had grown tired of laying increasingly elaborate façades over broken things.
The two of them eventually teach, and also mould Rosamond. There were so many really beautiful quotes I wanted to use, but that would make this review longer than the story itself. I have to include two more, one because it just resonated with me and one because it is just so ‘right’.
And Jones laughed and said it again – ‘I love you’ – so she tucked the words into some pocket of her heart to take out and look at…later
And this next line…
“Love, I’ve lived too long in this world to believe my masculinity lives in my arse.”
This does end up with a ménage relationship, which would be referenced as M/M/F, but please do not let that put you off this story. I haven’t read a m/f romance for years, but this was three people who needed each other and the sex scenes are subtle. The last scene is the coming together (so to speak), but it is really a male sex scene viewed by Rosamond in close proximity, and extremely erotic. The scene is also gentle, tender and almost poetic. Plus, any virginal woman who, after witnessing sex acts between two men, exclaims…
“Oh my,” said Rosamond, “sodomy is magnificent.”
is OK in my book!
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Lord Mercury – Arkady if you’re Jones, apparently – doesn’t seem to have any effective defenses against said Jones and his unrelenting natural state of self-acceptance, and everything else Jones has that the Lord wishes he could be, and share.
I had the feeling of dancing, gliding along as I encountered and welcomed Hall’s words. He’s got this way of saying something extremely direct, nakedly direct, that is the very definition of a smirk with a kiss and some truth tossed in for necessary measure.
Lord Mercury had rather been hoping for spontaneous demise…
… he wished to burst into flame and disappear thanks to his embarrassment. I read that line four times.
Sadness and beauty, wanton need and breathy hope, undeniable truth and inevitable change – and I had only just come to the end of chapter one.
And now, may I present, Lady Rosamond. A subversive yet increasingly bold talker of truth:
Men were so fortunate. They could do that sort of thing, and everyone admired them for it. A grumpy-looking woman, however, was inelegant and inappropriate, and nobody would want to marry her.
Yes! Tell it, sister, tell it. So many rules and baseless expectations, and time wasted on meaningless cultural demands. Ok, ahem, moving on (or I’ll be here all day), but keep preaching, sister.
I’m resisting the ridiculously strong urge to give you quote after quote… after quote. Really. It’s bad. Hall’s relationship with language is fiercely mutual, confidently showing off what this level of partnership can create, can give to all of us.
This spangling, restless joy that made her bold and rough and eager.
I mean, c’mon! It’s like he sauntered into my life, my heart, and said, ‘yep, I’m using that’ and he plucked me right out from under… me.
The greatest and most rewarding feeling, sometimes labeled as power, results from pleasing someone, experiencing their pleasure because of you, in you, from you. Couple that with freedom of the heart and you have Anstruther Jones. I still can’t decide if I want to be him or Rosamond.
All of these characters are bucking the norms of their society and, if not yet accepting it, acknowledging it and living it. Explorations of sexuality and relationships, the effects of gender history and how this can all force us into narrower and narrower spaces, this story is a beautiful way of making sure we go the way of expansion, not exclusion.
Rosamond, I am utterly, truthfully and completely in love with you. It feels a bit like self-praise because I see so much of how I feel about so many things all wrapped up in you. May we be friends? I feel that we must. Your words and perceptions and actions, they’re like looking back at my own spider web of roads taken and not.
Maybe it was because she was strange and unnatural, too.
Aren’t we all? Which then leads to this undeniable conclusion: we’re all strange and none of us deserve marginalization, to be cast off under the lying guise of it’s too much work to do otherwise, too difficult to acknowledge and express vulnerability and love by way of accepting everyone’s odd perfection. Jones has reached the other side of this stream and is holding out his hand, and heart, to Rosamond (and Arkady?), showing her that the current will carry and reward, not punish and drown.
So many of the social constructs, the accepted modes of behavior foisted upon us all, they are bunk. Hooey. Lies. Everyone cries. Everyone feels fear, exhaustion from that fear. Everyone recognizes freedom when it suddenly coats every cell of your being. Everyone knows how it feels impossible to relinquish it when society demands we do so.
So we don’t. Neither do Jones, Rosamond and Arkady.
Interesting: a line spoken by a minor character about the malleability of people, like mercury, just hit me. Lord Mercury, is his the mechanical exoskeleton meant to be broken free, letting his true self buck and canter, huffing those contented, thankful breaths?
Rosamond: ”I suppose what I can’t understand is why… why we care so much.”
Arkady: ”Because this is what we know. And, without it, there is nothing.
Love. Passion. Truth.
I’m gutted. Gutted by Hall’s unfettered connection to humanity and his ability to remind me of and strengthen my connection to my own, to ours.
There is a large, overarching question being asked by this story, these characters, this book, and the answer to it is no. For the inalienable right is freedom. Of self. Of heart. Of love. No, Arkady, you are not less worthy.
The depth of emotion entwined with the natural heat between these characters had me mesmerized… and more.
The last couple chapters of this book had me enthralled, unable to stop and not wanting it to end. I was languidly content in the literary sense. Energized. Greedy. I want more! More Arkady, and Jones, and definitely more Rosamond. She is BAD. ASS. Or ARSE, if you prefer. 😉
Alexis Hall, thank you for giving me something that is simultaneously already a part of me and something new that I will treasure always. Thank you.
I would like to thank the author for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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