The Delightfully Deadly series is basically a companion and continuation to Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series which is a prequel to the Parasol Protectorate (also a series, or rather two). You don’t need to have read the Parasol Protectorate, but it would really help with the Delightfully Deadly series if you have some familiarity with the Finishing School series. All of them are set in a generally steampunk-esque Victorian England that includes some knowledge and existence of werewolves and vampires. Defy or Defend is part of the Delightfully Deadly series, the second although order seems to not matter much. This particular novella focuses on the character of Dimity grown up. She, like many of her Finishing School mates, has become a spy and fixer of supernaturally-tinged events. Like many of the author’s books, this one is largely a romance, Dimity’s and Sir Crispin Bontwee’s. He’s been assigned her bodyguard on a mission, and he’s annoyed by it, externally because Dimity (code name: Honey Bee) apparently needs a lot of watching and reminds him of his sisters (he’s got five). Internally though, he knows he’s attracted to her, and as it turns out, she is to him as well, but neither of them quite realize it until they are forced to talk about it because their mission involves them going undercover as a married couple and they are expected as such to share a bedroom and bed.
The romance is cute and pretty expected but neither of the two characters involved have much personality. The novella kind of assumes you remember Dimity from her Finishing School days, and I have to admit it’s been a few years since I’ve read that. The mission is also a little bit underdeveloped because it’s basically to asses a local group of vampires who are supposedly “going Goth” meaning they are losing their sanity, and this is apparently displayed by wearing a lot of black velvet and acting like characters in a Gothic novel. Their queen (of the vampire household) has apparently abandoned them for some unknown reason, and if the hive falls into insanity they will have to be killed on account of crazy vampires being dangerous to pretty much everyone. The reason for the queen abandoning her hive is really stupid, but also fits with the generally goofy and slightly literarily tinged setting and scenario. Dimity’s solution is also silly, but then “Sparkles’” (Sir Crispin’s nickname for her) plans often are but they tend to work.
Probably the best part of this whole story is the vampire Justice, who is one of the only characters to display any kind of personality. Justice has a relationship problem, and also gets a bit on an identity reveal which is also pretty sweet. The closure of this part of the story is probably the best part of the whole novella. It’s obvious what’s going to happen for Dimity and Crispin, and the epilogue proves that to be the case. It’s a cute story, but again, the main characters just aren’t the most interesting part.