You know that feeling when you finish reading a certain book? When you just have to tell everybody how awesome and amazing it was? You’re a reader, so you know what I mean
I finished Cold Stone & Ivy: The Ghost Club by H. Leighton Dickson a little while ago. I was in a bit of a reading slump beforehand, and boy, did this novel shake me out of it. Take a look:
Jack the Ripper gave her his heart. Now he wants it back.
The year is 1888, the clockwork British Empire is crumbling and young writer Ivy Savage has literally received a heart in the post. Terrified, her father sends her north to a strange sanitarium in Lancashire where the brilliant but unpredictable “Mad Lord of Lasingstoke” makes his home.
Here, Ivy finds the dead are as dangerous as the living and she is immediately swept into a world of manners, mystery, and supernatural intrigue, uncovering a secret that will lead both her and the Mad Lord back to London and the dark streets of Whitechapel.
This book is crazy in the best kind of way. It’s got Jack the Ripper, packs of ghosts (What do you call a group of ghosts, anyway? A flock? A murder? A posse?), and steampunk gas masks to protect people from the toxic fog filling London’s streets. Then there’s the mysterious mad lord with the gothic and gloomy estate, a doctor with clockwork legs running a suspicious sanitarium, and the determined young woman caught in the middle of it all.
And of course, there’s the murderer. Or make that two murderers. Wait, are those dismembered corpses over there related or the result of yet another murderer?
To say the book has twists and turns would be an understatement. It’s hard to find a part of the plot that’s straight. Subplots that seem random and unrelated come together beautifully at the end of the story. And there’s so much mystery. Characters aren’t what they seem, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on them, another dark secret is revealed.
Ivy Savage, the protagonist, is a gothic heroine in all the best ways. Shipped off to the countryside for her own safety when she receives a human heart in the mail, she finds herself surrounded by MYSTERY. And like any good gothic heroine, she sets out to uncover the truth.
I don’t think she wears a flimsy white nightgown at any point in the investigation, though, so she doesn’t get full gothic heroine points. 😉
While plucky and determined, she has moments of despair when she realizes her sleuthing has made everything worse. I also like how she fully acknowledges she’s attracted to the dark and macabre; she’s a mystery novelist, after all. She’s torn between that need for adventure and the societal expectations and restrictions she’s subjected to as a woman in the Victorian Era.
Another thing I love about this book is the setting. Ivy travels around England, but everywhere is deliciously gothic and atmospheric. From the dark backstreets of London where the Ripper stalks to the stone manor in the countryside where the forbidden wing is haunted, everywhere is beautiful and full of menace. It’s also inhabited by automatons, steam-powered carts, and airships to scratch your steampunk itch.
If you follow this blog, chances are you’ve read my gothic steampunk novel, The Ghost Machine. If you liked it, chances are you’ll like Cold Stone & Ivy: The Ghost Club, since it’s got a similar blend of gothic romance tropes in an alternate steampunk 19th century. Fans of either genre will probably like this book. I know I did.
Grab your copy here.
What’s your favorite gothic romance? Favorite steampunk? Let me know in the comments.