There Will Be Phlogiston by Alexis Hall
Genre: M/M/F Steampunk Romance
Plot: 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.
Review: A debutante in all things steampunk, I was told again and again to use There Will Be Phlogiston as the pond in which to dip my toes. And now in turn, I implore you, dear readers: read this book! It’s a thrilling romp through a world made up of aristocrats and airmen, school girls and carnival folk. At its core, two aristocrats learn to come to grips with their innermost desires and in turn, be able to love the low born yet wealthy, Anstruther Jones. Arkady is the effeminate last of his line who can’t allow the rest of the aristocracy to know that he prefers the company of men like Jones; Rosamond is a seventeen year old school girl thrilled to be able to marry yet devastated by what that entails. These three meet and perform an unlikely courtship that is madcap, dizzying, and fantastical as it shifts from gilded ballrooms, the gutter, and a nightmarish circus populated with mechanical animals. The pace is frenetic and over the top; the language is lush and otherworldly. In the end, the message is simple: find love where you will and embrace it. There Will Be Phlogiston is one of the smartest, finely crafted books I have read in ages and it will be sure to tickle your interest for more from Alexis Hall.
You’ll enjoy: phenomenal world building set in a fantasy land called Gaslight; the finely honed and playful language of the author; the various sexy scenes between alternate pairings of the three main characters; the character of Anstruther Jones who reads as the perfect romantic hero for anyone anywhere ever; the fact that this is a side-story in a wider catalog of steampunk stories written by the author meaning that there are many more adventures that await you.
You might not enjoy: steampunk is not for everyone – it’s a weird hodgepodge of fantasy, mechanical invention, and alternate reality without any real explanation of how it came to be; a menage-a-trois story (M/M/F) which some find implausible; the grandiose language; the seemingly quick ending which sneaks up on you out of nowhere!
Final score: 9/10