I had the greatest biology teacher my freshmen year of college. Among the many quirky things he did he dressed as a funeral undertaker for our first exam, had an open casket (no cadaver) on the lecture stage, and had funeral floral arrangements throughout the auditorium. Chopin’s Funeral March greeted us as we entered. If nothing else, we all had a laugh before we sat down to the test that might very well spell our doom. (I got a B, thanks for asking.) This might be why I love nerds; science guys tend to be just my ticket. Something about steamy glasses can be oh, so romantic.
Gemma Murphy has had to work hard to make it in the man’s world of reporting, so having elusive prey is not new to her. Ever since she eavesdropped on the intriguing trio she came across in a remote Canadian town, she has been following them in the hopes of learning more about the mysterious magical sources they spoke of. But it’s clear they’ve seen her and that her best bet is to avoid them till the ship she follows them on to safely docks in England. However, she is intrigued by the unique group and is determined to know just what is going on. Besides, she has knack for getting people to talk, even when they don’t want to.
Catullus Graves noticed the feisty, redheaded reporter when she first listened in on their conversation, even though she’d made an effort to hide. It would be impossible not to notice her now that she has broken into his cabin. Dragging Gemma along on his latest Blade adventure seems to be the only way to keep her safe from the perils to which she’s just exposed herself. But as they journey across England, battling danger side by side, he quickly realizes that the greatest threat to Gemma (and himself) just might be the feelings he has for her.
This is the fourth book in the The Blades of the Rose series. You don’t need to have read the others to read this one. In this novel, as in the three previous books, the Blades’ biggest enemies are the Heirs of Albion, a group ruthlessly determined to turn the British Empire into a global empire, with most of the world serving as pseudo-slaves. The Heirs are now one step closer to their goal, since they have the most powerful of the sources in their hands. To try and change the balance of power once more, the Blades are gathering as many of their numbers as they can for the mighty battle that is clearly imminent. As the science guy for the Blades, Catullus knows he will have a prominent role in that battle.
And this is where the book really struggled, in my opinion. Catullus has long been built up as an inventive genius, a man who spends hours in his lab crafting things to help the Blades as they battle evil. Yet even in this, his own book, we see little of invention. Catullus uses magic, not machines, to overcome his enemies. In a moment where science is called upon, the level used makes Bill Nye the Science Guy look like an advanced physics class. I can certainly understand the author’s dilemma. In spite of my awesome biology teacher, my own level of science is probably lower than that of the average third grader. However, when you take it upon yourself to write on these issues, a certain level of research is called for.
Gemma and Catullus certainly have a fine romance, if a rather liberal and modern one for the times. Catullus, the son of former slaves, does agonize a bit over the bigotry Gemma will face as a result of their union. But in the end, they brush it aside. They are part of the Blades, and really, if you inserted that group into the modern day Democratic party you couldn’t tell the difference between them and 21st century people except for the clothes and technology. In that sense, they know they will always have a home.
While the story and romance here were fine, I really couldn’t shake the feeling of disappointment I felt over the lack of science and invention. Most sci-fi romance authors don’t try to completely explain technology and I certainly would have understood that here. But this went beyond that. The author chose to have her inventor not invent or use machinery, except in the most rudimentary of ways. In the end, that really detracted from who Catullus was and what he was like, which in turn detracted from the entire tale. This turned what could have been an extraordinary book into a rather ordinary story. Important things happen in this book, so fans of the series will want to read for that alone, but I would recommend those interested in starting the series begin with a different novel.