by Gail Carriger
Book #1 in the Parasol Protectorate series
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Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.
Alexia Tarabotti is a soulless spinster whose deceased father is Italian. Apparently she inherited her father's physical traits, which were not considered vogue in 19th century England. Even her mother felt it unnecessary to have her participate in the ton season, thinking it a waste of time. They live in a world where the paranormal (werewolves, vampires and others) coexist openly with humans and the story opens with Alexia accidentally killing a vampire. The werewolf Lord Maccon, leader of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. Everyone seems to believe she is responsible when it is determined that vampires are appearing and disappearing unexpectedly. Oh, as a soulless, she has the ability to render supernatural powers useless.
This story is part comedy, mystery and romance. Alexia is an extraordinarily interesting character who has a keen mind and sense of humor. While she may not have the physical attributes that are considered attractive in the period, it doesn't mean she's unattractive or encumbered by these opinions. She's self confident and just plain interesting. The tension-filled relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon is filled with witty dialogue and their attraction to each other undeniable in the end. She also isn't weighed down by the petty traditions of London society, though she's respectful of them.
There just seems to be a perfect balance of it all in this story, which flows rather nicely between the sleuthing to solve the mystery of the disappearing vampires, the burgeoning romance between Alexia and Lord Maccon and the interactions with London society. Add to it all a well-rounded cast of secondary characters and you have quite the tale. I found myself immersed in the clever reparte and voice of the period, which the author clearly mastered. Though I wasn't sure if this story was for me, I'm now committed to the rest of the series. I'm so glad I put this on my bookshelf.