Soulless by Gail Carriger is the first of the Parasol Protectorate series. It's a paranormal mystery romance mashup with some steampunk thrown in for good measure. The original series has spawned a graphic novel adaptation and a YA series.
The book like a parody of Crocodile on the Sandbank (assuming, though that Amelia Peabody and Evelyn are one person). Of course Elizabeth Peter's book is in itself a parody of the H. Rider Haggard books Peabody is such a fan of reading. Anyway, like Peter's book, Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster with a deceased father. Her father was Italian, a fan of improper but enlightening books. Alexia, has inherited from him — her looks (not a popular thing in Victorian England) and her soullessness.
The proper term used in the book is preternatural. A person's amount of soul determines how attractive they are to various paranormal groups — the two big ones in the British Empire being werewolves and vampires. Alexia can't be changed into either because when she's in physical contact with a paranormal, they temporarily lose their paranormal abilities (and become human).
Soulless introduces the reader to an alternate Victorian London where paranormal creatures live openly and are regulated. There's also the alternate technology — akin to the devices described by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne but expanded to fit the paranormal world. Finally, Queen Victoria has her own group of agents to keep watch on illegal paranormal activity. Think Torchwood, but call it BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry).
Although this book is primary about Alexia learning how her powers fit into the world of paranormals and BUR, and her finding romance, there's also a mystery. Paranormal creatures who are neither vampires, nor werewolves are rampaging in London. Therein is the true heart and soul of Soulless.
So although the series has been out for ages, I'm only now become a rabid fan. I have Stephanie, bookseller extraordinaire, at the Hayward Bookshop for that. See, I don't like the cover — I still don't. Bustle or no bustle, I want to realign Alexia's broken spine every time I look at it. Stephanie, though, patiently wore me down by asking every single time I stopped by the store if I had read the series yet. Eventually, I gave in. I'm glad I did. I'm about to start the third book, Blameless.
Comment #1: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 00:28:38
Haha-good job Stephanie! I was distracted by the lovely color of her outfit and didn't even look at her spine. Now I need to pick up the rest of the series.
Comment #2: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 22:18:16
Stephanie (and the other staff) is wonderful. I'm lucky to have such a great bookstore so close to home! I'm eager to start Blameless but I have to wait for my husband to finish first (as he patiently waited for me to read the first two).