A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious by Mary Wine
Series: [yes but I don’t know what it’s called and the author’s website isn’t up-to-date]
Source: Personal shelf (e-book)
Steamy sexual tension and secret societies fuse together in Wine’s electrifying first steampunk romance.
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.
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I have to say, my overall reaction to A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious is fairly neutral. I read the book, I liked the book, but it’s not a book I would necessarily recommend. There are some definitely strong aspects but, overall, it’s not the greatest steampunk romance and there are definitely other books that I would recommend to friends before this one.
That being said, there are some good things in A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious. The best part of the book, in my opinion, is the worldbuilding. Mary Wine has created a very interesting setting for her books. It’s Victorian London with a twist, since there’s a whole separate society in the middle of the city: the Illuminists. They’re the essence of steampunk, very science-minded people building new technologies. They’ve also got something of a hippie vibe since they are all about being free with one’s sexuality. There are no shrinking maidens among the Illuminists since everyone has been taught that sex is something to be enjoyed, inside and outside of marriage. I thought the technology and social structure of the Illuminists was quite interesting and generally well explained, and it was a great backdrop for a love story. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as keen on the protagonists.
The hero of ALCNBTC, Darius, has been raised an Illuminist and stands Guardian for their society. In contrast, Janette is a more typical Victorian, though she does have wayward thoughts about science that get her in trouble with her father. And she discovers that she’s a Pure Spirit when she sneaks into a lecture in the Illuminists’ hall. Pure Spirits are able to handle Deep Earth Crystals, which regular people can’t do, and it makes Janette a hot commodity for both the Illuminists and their arch enemies, the Helikeians. There are Kelikeian spies hidden amongst the Illuminists and they remain a mystery even at the end of the novel, and I loved this classic mystery element to it. I assume the great reveal will come in future novels and I’m very curious to see who the diabolical mastermind is. 🙂
Getting back to the main characters, though, I have to say that they’ve got a great set-up but there was something about these two people that didn’t work for me. What it boils down to is that they were both very stock. We have a plucky heroine with a curious mind and a brave heart (who, incidentally, takes to the free-loving aspect of Illuminist society a bit too easily for me to believe it) and a broody alpha male with overprotective instincts and major sex skills. They’re the kinds of characters we see in a lot of romance novels and that’s not bad but it’s important that they stand out in some way. And Darius and Janette never really came alive for me in that way. Funnily enough, I didn’t have the same problems with the supporting characters and I was actually quite charmed by Janette’s friend Seraphina, who’s featured in the next novel. I was more interested in the tensions between the secondary characters, so I’m hopeful that the next book in the series will be more to my tastes.
A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious is a decent steampunk romance. It has good world building and some okay characters but I wasn’t blown away by it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it but this book is more of a library loan than a keeper for me.