Arabella and the Battle of Venus is the second book in “The Adventures of Arabella Ashby” series. Last year I reviewed the first book, Arabella of Mars, and was delighted by it’s fun combination of the Regency era and sailing ships that travel interstellar winds between planets. In fact, its escapism was sorely needed when I read it in November of 2016. This time the adventure has its high points but also a lot more drudgery, making it less romantic and dashing than its predecessor, but still an entertaining read.
After her adventures in the previous book, Arabella Ashby is finding life quite dull on her family’s Martian khoresh wood plantation. She is also missing her fiance, the honorable Captain Prakash Singh, commander of the Mars Company airship Diana. Their nuptials have been delayed due to Captain Singh being urgently called away to Venus. However, months with no contact have gone by and alarming news regarding Bonaparte have reached Mars. When a letter finally arrives Arabella is dismayed to learn that her fiance is being held on Venus as a prisoner of war, and that Bonaparte has escaped his prison on the Moon.
In her usual determined fashion, Arabella charges off with only part of a plan in mind and the intention of winging it once on Venus’s surface. Saddled with Lady Corey, a widowed matron deemed an acceptable chaperone by her brother, she manages to finagle passage to Venus aboard Captain Fox’s Touchstone. With only a few bumps, and dodging the advances of Captain Fox, they reach Venus only to be caught by the French navy. Being an officer, Captain Singh has been allowed freedom of the town he and his crew are being held in. Arabella contrives to be reunited with him by announcing she is his wife, and thus begins her new charade as Mrs. Singh.
Here is where the drudgery sets in. While Captain Singh and his fellow officers avoid hard labor due to their rank, the other men of the crew are worked punishing hours in dangerous conditions. Captivity is never pleasant and this is no exception. Instead of rejoicing at their reunion, Captain Singh is disappointed that Arabella came and their relationship is strained by secrets. Not nearly as fun or romantic as the events of the first book.
However, the book does end with a thrilling action sequence, lifting it back up from the gloom, and ending on a bittersweet note. Overall I still quite enjoyed the book but not as much as Arabella of Mars, so I give it 4 stars. In the acknowledgements I learned that while writing this book David D. Levine’s wife struggled with and ultimately lost her battle with cancer. Fuck cancer. This just gives me more incentive to finish my half cannonball goal so that money is donated to the American Cancer Society.