I treated myself to a book binge last Sunday. I chose carefully, but my day of self-indulgence did not begin well: neither of the first two books I read hit the spot. In the first I liked the main characters but the plot resolution was weird; in the second I liked the worldbuilding but the characters lacked depth. Fortunately I saved the best for last. Grace Draven’s novella Gaslight Hades rescued my readathon.
The story is a steampunky second chance romance with a difference, and at 39k words it’s compact enough to read in a sitting, but long enough to avoid that rushed plot feeling you sometimes get with shorter novellas.
Here’s the official blurb:
Nathaniel Gordon walks two worlds—that of the living and the dead. Barely human, he’s earned the reputation of a Bonekeeper, the scourge of grave robbers. He believes his old life over, until one dreary burial he meets the woman he once loved and almost married.
Lenore Kenward stands at her father’s grave, begging the protection of the mysterious guardian, not knowing he is her lost love. Resolved to keep his distance, Nathaniel is forced to abandon his plan and accompany Lenore on a journey into the mouth of Hell where sea meets sky, and the abominations that exist beyond its barrier wait to destroy them.
I really enjoyed this story, and here’s why:
Highate Cemetery is a short walk from my house, and it’s a gorgeous, overgrown, tree-filled, shadowy, spookily gothic place. Click here for some moody images of the spectacular vaults and catacombs. In 1839 it was newly built and highly fashionable—the perfect choice for the heroine’s father’s resting place. And what better place could there be for an unnaturally resurrected good guy to find a home and a vocation?
Airships, grave-robbers and resurrectionists—whoo! This alternative nineteenth-century London is a dangerous and exciting place, and so cleverly rooted in the city’s real history that it feels entirely authentic.
Lenore has brains and backbone. She’s a lady who shared her father’s passion for engineering and who judges people on their merits, not their class. She lost her fiancé and now her father, too, but she’s not repining. She’s mourning her loss, trying to figure out why the mystery Guardian in the cemetery feels so familiar, and working out a daring but logical plan to support herself and her mother. She has guts and determination and I like her a lot.
Nathaniel was, and is, a great guy. He died a hero’s death and found himself brought back to life in another man’s body, and he’s even made something positive of that. His interactions with Lenore, and his care for her wellbeing, are beautiful and moving. I like him a lot, too.
Fun Secondary Character
Nathaniel’s ex-boss, and Lenore’s best friend, is a hard-drinking, gun-toting, wise-cracking female airship captain called Nettie Widderschynnes. What’s not to like?
The Big Reveal
The big question is, how and when does Lenore finally figure out exactly who the Bonekeeper is? You’ll have to read the novella to find out, but I loved it.
The book is a Gaslight Romance, so it’s not much of a spoiler to say that everything works out very nicely in the end 😉
The book is subtitled The Bonekeeper Chronicles, Book 1, which suggests that there should be other chronicles to follow. There’s no sequel bait, but I’m guessing they would be the stories of the other Guardians (there are seven in total). I hope I’m right. I’d buy those books in a heartbeat (live or clockwork).
So if steampunk is your thing, I strongly recommend Gaslight Hades. If you’re a fantasy romance fan, Grace Draven’s other books are pretty terrific, too.
How about you? Read anything good lately? Care to share?