“There Will be Phlogiston” By Alexis Hall

Note: Someone in QSF Discussions told me about this book – I forget who – but I wanted to thank them.  I had no idea what I was getting into before I stepped into it, except I think we were discussing bisexual characters, and so everything was a pleasant surprise.

This is a MMF Steampunk Novella, and I should note that this is #5 in a series.  I didn’t know that before I started it, but I didn’t find that to be a problem either, because it’s an origin story of sorts, our of bad assed trio.

The backdrop is steampunk, but set in the Victorian Industrial Revolution.  Our main characters are Lord Mercury, a bachelor of old money, and though he’s completely broke from the debts of his father, his name is still good.  A new phlogiston baron, Anstruther Jones, needs help to start his name, and so he offers Mercury payment to coach him in the ways of the gentry.  The sparks between those two boys fly, but Mercury is so bogged down with propriety, that he can’t let Jones all the way in.

Enters Lady Rosamond Wolfram, a woman tired of Gaslight nobility and looking for adventure, who also catches Jones’s eye on her.  And suddenly this becomes an interesting triad.

My favorite part of this novel was the characterizations.  I could picture everything about them from their sulks, rages, and mouths-full-of-teeth when they laughed, to the shape of their fingernails.  Jones really came alive for me, and I adored his crassness and surprising vulnerability.  He wants something he’s being told is impossible, but it doesn’t stop him, it just makes him try harder.  That insatiable drive probably helped him become a baron in the first place.  Mercury is fascinating as well, and while both men are so desperate, Jones shows his own desperation by reaching out, but Lord Mercury swallows himself up, hiding it, until it becomes a wretched thing.  Lady Wolfram’s desires seemed to be out of control, but in the end I think she was the most in control of her fate.

So I mentioned that this was MMF, right?  Well, it’s more like a combination of all of those letters, if you get my meaning.  Something I’ve found curious is how MM readers don’t like “girly bits” (I swear that’s a direct quote) in their fiction.  I’ve also found that stance to be a little (okay, a lot) silly.  I felt like the love between Jones and Mercury and the love between Jones and Wolfram were very well done – perfect for characterizing the characters as is and characterizing the dynamic of each couple.  And it was also sexy, there’s always that.  I’d love to talk sex, but – spoilers!  I will say that the MMF scene was interesting, and I’d love to open a conversation thread about it.

The blurb says this is Lady Wolfram’s story, but Jones enraptured my senses.  I wanted to see him do everything, and would have enjoyed watching him brush his teeth.  I mentioned that this was a part of a series.  I’ll be checking it out.


Goodreads link: There Will Be Phlogiston


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