Her Ladyship's Curse by Lynn Viehl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this as part of a contemporary fantasy book club. It's not something I'd normally have picked up. The description pings my "alpha male" radar.
There is, indeed, an alpha male. There's also steampunk, alternate history, magic, and a willful lady protagonist. So, it balances out. This is only the first half of Disenchanted & Co.
Charmian (Kit) Kittredge makes her living ending what her customers call curses, and she calls events perfectly explained through mundane investigations. Kit doesn't believe in magic, though everyone around her does, to one extent or another. She does believe in ghosts, because she's seen them. Then, while she's investigating for a woman in the nice end of town, she meets her grandfather, a ghost who can only show up when she removes the locket her mother gave her.
I thought this book had a good approach to worldbuilding. The elements that are different are pretty easy to follow in context, though Kit's interest in the failed American Revolution seems disproportionate. Allowing for a Victorian Old West certainly lends itself to the tone the author is going for here.
The parts I didn't like as much come in with the love interest, a magician Kit starts off determined to reveal as a fraud. Their rivalry makes sense, but not how quickly it turns to romance. Her resolve melts all too quickly. I realize it's a romance trope, but it still felt forced.
I didn't realize when I picked this up that it was only the first half of a longer book. I have no idea why the publisher would split the book like that, but it made for an abrupt ending. It didn't even seem like a logical place to split the book. Nothing is resolved by that point, and a new conflict is introduced.
Still, I read on with cautious optimism.
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