In a steampunk version of America that lost the Revolutionary War, Charmian (Kit) Kittredge makes her living investigating magic crimes and exposing the frauds behind them. While Kit tries to avoid the nobs of high society, as the proprietor of Disenchanted & Co. she follows mysteries wherever they lead.
Lady Diana Walsh calls on Kit to investigate and dispel the curse she believes responsible for carving hateful words into her own flesh as she sleeps. While Kit doesn’t believe in magic herself, she can’t refuse to help a woman subjected nightly to such vicious assaults. As Kit investigates the Walsh family, she becomes convinced that the attacks on Diana are part of a larger, more ominous plot—one that may involve the lady’s obnoxious husband.
Sleuthing in the city of Rumsen is difficult enough, but soon Kit must also skirt the unwanted attentions of nefarious deathmage Lucien Dredmore and the unwelcome scrutiny of police Chief Inspector Thomas Doyle. Unwilling to surrender to either man’s passion for her, Kit struggles to remain independent as she draws closer to the heart of the mystery. Yet as she learns the truth behind her ladyship’s curse, Kit also uncovers a massive conspiracy that promises to ruin her life—and turn Rumsen into a supernatural battleground from which no one will escape alive.
Karina Cooper and Delilah S. Dawson are my gold standards for steampunk/romance/urban fantasy, and Her Ladyship's Curse comes really close to meeting that mark, creating a detail rich world in which the Brits won the Revolutionary War and the States are called Toriana. Rumsen, a west coast city equivalent of San Fransisco, is the home of our skeptical protagonist Kit. She doesn't believe in magic one bit, although I suspect her disbelief is more of a coping mechanism to give the appearance of control, as she is a very independent gel that wouldn't relish the idea of manipulation done by spellcraft. Her need for independence can be stubborn or isolating, depending on the situation, but neither detracts from her keen mind and curious nature. Kit often matches wit with Lucien Dredmore, the sexy, dangerous deathmage whose attraction has resulted in quite a few heated exchanges and stolen kisses that are more heated than Kit would care to admit. Dredmore is mysterious and exciting, definitely a character that I hope gets more page time as part 2 begins. He might possess the talent to kill with nothing more than a simple touch, no doubt he has done his fair share of wicked deeds that instill fear in the citizens of Rumsen, but I suspect he is also more, a man shadowed in darkness that can be an equal partner for Kit. Dredmore isn't the only interesting man in Kit's life. Chief Tommy Doyle of The Yard also has some non-professional interest in Kit as he investigates crime on the Hill. He is the opposite of Dredmore in almost every way, an upstanding citizen that solves crime more in the old-fashioned way, paring his deductive reasoning skills in combination with magic users within the department. His secrets have yet to be revealed so at some point I might change my mind, but for now, I remain suspicious of his involvement and investigation.
One of the many enjoyable aspects of the story occurs with the descriptions of Toriana because Viehl doesn't just dictate details and descriptions, she writes with the expertise of someone well used to showing readers instead of telling. The many steampunk innovations (like glassine, sparkglass, snuffballs, nozzers, mechworks, and flysticks) are not just gratuitously tossed around screaming "Hey, look at me. I'm steampunk!" like some that attempt this tricky and imaginative genre, each element gets an explanation as it relates to the storytelling.
My only complaint is that the story is being released as in 2 parts so the ending is rather abrupt, leaving me sputtering in disbelief at the seemingly impossible situation that ends this first installment. Her Ladyship's Curse is available now and His Lordship Possessed will be available in October.
Visit Lynn Viehl's Toriana blog for all things Disenchanted & Co.
Reviewed by Anna
This book was obtained thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.