In an alternate history Victorian London with Steampunk gadgets, werewolves, a ruling nobility known as the Echelon, where the men are all enhanced with vampire blood, Miss Honoria Todd (who certainly doesn’t in any way dress or appear anything like the burlesque streetwalker on the cover of the book) has been forced to move to the Rookeries of Whitechapel after the death of her father. She is working as an elocution coach under an assumed name to support her younger sister (who also takes in mending) and ailing brother, and they are all hiding from the rich, powerful and very dangerous former protector of her father’s, who wants Honoria for a number of nefarious purposes. They are barely making ends meet, and when Honoria’s brother takes a turn for the worse and Honoria loses her job, she has no choice but to turn to Blade, the master of the Rookeries, for help.
Normally only the members of the Echelon and their chosen servants are allowed the blue blood that gives enhanced abilities, speed, strength and an extended lifespan, but Blade survived the experiments of a nobleman and escaped into the Rookeries, where he and his men rule with an iron fist, challenging the authority of the ruling lords. He desperately wants revenge on the corrupt duke ruined his life and when he discovers that Honoria and her siblings are hiding from the same man, he extends his protection to the little Todd family. Doesn’t hurt that he’s instantly drawn to the prim, yet fiery Honoria, determined to make her his.
It shouldn’t surprise me that books with absolutely prepostrous covers in the paranormal fantasy/romance genre can contain entertaining and well-written stories. I’ve seen Bec McMaster’s book mentioned on a number of “If you like books by X, you’ll probably enjoy…” lists, but always avoided it because of the horrible cover. In October, it was the alt book in Vaginal Fantasy Hangout and I decided to finally give it a chance. I’m glad that I did. The world building is clever and I like both the alternate history Steampunk twist and the variation on vampires and werewolves here.