The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter
The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter is disjointed: part guardian-ward romance, part erotic fiction, part steampunk, part fantasy, and too much sequel. This book may be a better read for someone entrenched in the series, but as a newcomer, I was very often completely lost.
Mia, Dr. Exeter’s ward, has a crush on her guardian and a tendency to uncontrollably turn into a panther. Their friend America Jones is pregnant with the child of her partner Phaeton Black, who’s gone missing in a parallel universe. Mia’s problems and America’s problem are solved in two parallel plots. Mia’s transformations can be brought under control if she gains sexual experience (which clearly Exeter will take care of). They do this while on a rescue mission to two versions of Paris, taking along the pregnant America and a bunch of other characters who presumably were introduced in previous books but who pretty much blurred in my brain.
Neither Mia nor Exeter is what I’d call fully rounded, but they’re pleasant enough. It’s contrived that he has to sleep with her to bring her panther under control, but I can enjoy a contrived plot, and I do enjoy a guardian/ward relationship as an obstacle. The sex scenes are extremely spicy and escalate over the course of the book, culminating in some voyeurism and even moderate contact with third parties. If that’s not your cup of tea, then be forewarned. I did find it jarring to have both erotica and gynecology in the same book. Exeter and Mia perform a pregnancy examination on America, and Mia delivers the baby, and after that, it’s kind of weird to return to the less-practical functions of ladyparts.
I don’t know how good the worldbuilding is to someone who’s read the two previous books in this series, but if, like me, you only read this book, it’s not very clear. What’s the deal with Phaeton Black, America Jones, Prospero, Tim, or any of the six thousand other supporting characters? Is the twenty-first century alternate universe our world? I thought so when it was called the twenty-first century, but then I thought not, when there seems to have been a massive war and a reliance on some energy source called aether (if I never see another use of the “ae” spelling to make something seem more steampunky, I will be grateful). What is aether, magic or analog? (I kept picturing natural gas.) If this is a steampunk universe, why are there wizards who can fire energy balls from their hands? If this is a fantasy universe, why are there clockwork/robot beetles which can seek out and detect humans? If it’s both, I needed more explanation how and why, and some exploration of the magic/science conflict.
I was reading an ARC, so I hope some of the many typos will be corrected by the final release. I will call out two problems, though, because they appear in the advertising excerpts from the published prequels and therefore presumably will be in the final edit of Miss Education. First, I wish the author used semicolons instead of commas to divide her independent clauses. That’s nitpicky for some people but it annoyed me. Second, a new speaker should get a new paragraph. In Miss Education and the other excerpts of Stone’s works, you will find two separate people talking in the same paragraph. This makes it sound like the first speaker is answering him or herself, and I kept having to reread to make the paragraph make sense.
The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter is pretty solid light erotica and a reasonable guardian/ward read, but the steampunk/adventure plot is too confusing to a newbie to make the book recommendable. If the ideas sound interesting, then make sure to read the series in order. The first book is called The Seduction of Phaeton Black. Maybe if you read that one, this will make more sense.