Book Review: Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger

Last week, I participated in the #SteampunkReadathon hosted by Whole Latte Books. For this readathon, I chose Gail Carriger’s novella, Poison or Protect.

This novella is a snarky romance following a character from Carriger’s Finishing School series, Preshea Villentia neé Buss. It takes place several years after that series, when Preshea is an adult. She is hired by the Duke of Snodgrove, via their mutual acquaintance Lord Akeldama, to stop his daughter from marrying her current suitor, Mr. Jackson. Preshea, an assassin-for-hire, is cynical about this task, as it doesn’t fit her usual business. When the Duke leaves, Lord Akeldama explains that the Duke’s life is being threatened, and Preshea’s other task is to protect him.

The Duke throws a house party (which apparently, in Victorian times, is something that went on for over a week). En route to his house, Preshea meets Mr. Jackson (aka Jack) along with his friend, Captain Gavin Ruthven. Preshea and Gavin are instantly interested in each other, though they worry they’re on different sides where the Duke’s life is concerned (it turns out, however, they were both hired to protect the Duke).

Lots of witty banter and shenanigans ensue as the romance between Preshea and Gavin unfolds. This is a good time to mention that there are explicit (100% consensual) sex scenes in this novella.

I really enjoyed this novella. I’m not usually one for romance, but this story was filled with enough other plot (an attempt on the Duke’s life, shenanigans involving other guests of the house party) that it kept me interested and gave the romance plot more depth. As always, Carriger’s characters are charming and funny, as well as sincere and relatable. The romance is a very positive one, with an emphasis on mutual respect and consent.

As I mentioned, the story takes place in the same universe as the Finishing School Series (which is the same universe as the Parasol Protectorate, The Custard Protocol, and a few others of Carriger’s stories). I would recommend having read at least one of those before diving into this novella, if only to have prior knowledge to how this supernatural steampunk world works. While they aren’t very prominent in this novella, this world is one in which vampires, werewolves, and ghosts exist in (relative) harmony with humans. The hows and whys of this are better explained in Carriger’s other stories.

Overall, I gave this novella a 4 out of 5.

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