Published by: Widdershins Press LLC
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Reviewed by: Erin
Rating: A fantastic new historical/paranormal series, featuring ghosts, hot mediums, a diverse cast of characters, and a whole lotta scary.
Plot: After losing the family fortune to a fraudulent psychic, inventor Henry Strauss is determined to bring the otherworld under control through the application of science. All he needs is a genuine haunting to prove his Electro-Séance will work. A letter from wealthy industrialist Dominic Gladfield seems the answer to his prayers. Gladfield’s proposition: a contest pitting science against spiritualism, with a hefty prize for the winner.
The contest takes Henry to Reyhome Castle, the site of a series of brutal murders decades earlier. There he meets his rival for the prize, the dangerously appealing Vincent Night. Vincent is handsome, charming…and determined to get Henry into bed.
Henry can’t afford to fall for a spirit medium, let alone the competition. But nothing in the haunted mansion is quite as it seems, and soon winning the contest is the least of Henry’s concerns.
For the evil stalking the halls of Reyhome Castle wants to claim not just Henry and Vincent’s lives, but their very souls.
Review: This is a book that I don’t so much want to review, so much as run around making shrieking pterodactyl noises telling people to read it. I love this book!
Henry Strauss is an inventor in Victorian-era Baltimore. He’s trying to invent an “Electro-Séance” to replace human mediums in the detection and removal of ghosts. Henry is dedicated to the idea that anything can be explained, measured, and managed by science. Mediums are all frauds, you see, and taking the human element out of the process can eliminate any chance of tampering or abuse by the human mediums who were so popular at the time. He has a reason for this, which becomes clear the story progresses. He lives and works with his cousin Jo, whose mother was black. For this reason, both Henry and Jo have been cut out of the family and have little in the way of funds.
Vincent Night is a medium. A real medium, not a fraud. He both has the power of clairgustance, which is the ability to taste spirits from the beyond, (both cool and kind of yucky) and can also be possessed by ghosts, allowing them to act through him. Due to a tragic accident several months ago, he has not used his skills at all, and has warded himself and his home from spirits. He blames himself for his mentor’s death, and is living in constant fear. He and his partner Lizzie are just as down and out as Henry and Jo, struggling to run a failing spiritual shop, and not bringing in any other income through Vincent’s work.
Vincent is Native American. He doesn’t remember his parents and grew up on the streets of New York. He spins wild tales of a “Mohican princess mother” for white people, using his “educated Red Indian” persona to gain more clients. In reality, he was educated and brought up by another medium, along with Lizzie. Vincent dresses beautifully and has impeccable manners. He knows that his clothes and his manners can sometimes mitigate the racism he encounters, as well as his sharp, sly wit. He’s a bit of a flirt, and far more experienced in the ways of the world than Henry. Vincent is also, it must be noted, smoking freaking hot. Like. Really hot.
Henry, Jo, Vincent, and Lizzie have been summoned by a Mr. Gladfield in a contest to determine if Henry’s inventions or Vincent’s talents are more successful in locating and banishing the ghost haunting his property. Both teams are desperate for the money and both teams think the others are frauds. This provides nice tension right from the start, with nobody trusting each other in the midst of a clearly dangerous haunting. Adding to the tension is Vincent’s flirting with Henry to mess with his head (it does) and both of them being surprised by their mutual attraction.
Enemies to friends to lovers, folks. I love it.
I really enjoy how they learn to work together and come to respect each other, using both Henry’s technology and Vincent’s talent. Henry does something particularly awful that some readers may find unforgivable, but I thought that Hawk did a good job of setting up Henry as an impulsive, reactive failboat, so I thought it was reasonably in-character. He gets a lot of practice working on sincere apologies in this book.
I don’t want to spoil anything about the actual plot, because it’s too much of a wild ride to spoil. It’s genuinely terrifying in parts — I actually jumped and yelled at one point — and you’ll definitely want to shake Henry until his teeth rattle. I found myself just as absorbed in the mystery as in the romance, and I’m so excited that this is setting up a series. Hawk has a real talent for creepy Victoriana, and this is no exception. The book is well-researched, well-written, and scary as all hell.
Things you may not like: Lots of creepy/scary moments and a horrifying backstory for the ghost, transphobia and transphobic violence, and the romance at times takes a backseat to the mystery.
Things you will love: A really sexy séance, Vincent’s wardrobe, two fantastically written women, Henry finally getting a damn clue, the shiver of a good mystery, and a nice vacation to Victorian-era America. (Nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live there.)