REVIEW: A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious by Mary WineThursday, August 9, 2012 1:00
It’s 1840 England with young Queen Victoria on the throne, but Mary Wine’s England in her latest book, A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious, is very different from what we’ve read about in history books or traditional romance novels set in this time period.
Change is in the air, spearheaded by a society called the Illuminists, who, through their study of science, have invented modern-day wonders like horseless carriages, lighter-than-air airships, smokeless lights, running hot water, and other marvels. The nobility fear these changes and shun the people who proudly and openly declare their affiliation by wearing a gold lapel pin. Janette Evans, born into the nobility, is fascinated by her glimpses into the world of the Illuminists. When she can no longer control her curiosity she steps over the divide and enters a brave, new world where she is free to explore her curiosity and seek answers to questions she has never dared to ask before.
Darius Lawley is a long-time member of the Illuminists. He has sacrificed his happiness and relationships to maintain his allegiance. He is a guardian of a solitary house which is a place of learning for a group of Illuminists. When Janette cannot contain her curiosity anymore and steps across the street from her friend Sophie’s house, she enters a lecture where an esteemed professor is showing the group the power of electricity using crystals. Unbeknownst to Janette, she is a Pure Spirit and the crystal leaps out of the professor’s hands to come to her like a homing pigeon. She and Darius are struck by an electric current as he attempts to take the crystal from her to return it to the professor so he can escort her out of his house before she can learn more Illuminist secrets.
While crystals drive the scientific marvels that the Illuminists invent, they also invent weapons that a rival secret society uses in their pursuit of world dominion. Janette’s affinity and her handling of the crystals in the lecture hall brings her to the notice of this dishonorable rival society called the Helikeians. She is betrayed by her family and comes into the hands of a mad doctor who tortures and lobotomizes people on behalf of the Helikeians. Rescued by Darius, she joins his safe house and begins the course work that will enable her to become a full-fledged member of the Illuminist society.
For the first time Janette has the freedom to explore all her senses openly and experiment, but she’s not going to be left alone to learn and grown in peace. Highly sought after for her skills in locating crystals, she is forced to go to the crystal fields and leave behind all that is known and familiar. Darius, who has been conflicted by his attraction to her and his role as a guardian, resigns his position as guardian and appoints himself her personal protector/guardian. Together they experience some interesting adventures. Her growth from a meek and fearful person forced to stay within the bounds of birth and society into a fearless, independent woman who stands up for her beliefs to win against all odds is inspiring.
I was very curious about the Steampunk genre. I looked up wikipedia for the book definition to understand that Steampunk is a genre which incorporates elements of science fiction, fantasy, alternative history and speculative fiction and involves an alternative setting where steam power is widely used in an alternative history such as Victorian-era Britain. The author has definitely blended all the elements contained in the definition in her book, and while I did find certain scientific elements such as the navigational sight and the bend in the earth which allowed them to travel to Hawaii even faster than we can travel today fascinating, the story did not fire my imagination nor did it connect with my emotions in any way. This is my first Steampunk and I would definitely try this genre again.
Janette Aston is fascinated by all things scientific, and couldn’t care less that her thirst for knowledge is regarded as unladylike by Victorian society. Enthralled by the Illuminists, a group of individuals committed to scientific discovery, she sneaks into their headquarters and is caught by Darius Lawley, an Illuminist Guardian. The attraction between the two is instant and magnetic. When the Illuminists realize Janette is a rare Pure Spirit who can harness the power of crystals, she’s targeted by a rival society, the Helikeians. It’s up to Darius to protect her for the sake of science and love.
Read an excerpt.