REVIEW: Naughty Victorian Days – Bea St. Lea

Naughty Victorian Days - Bea St. Lea

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Humor, Historical, Erotic

LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Gay, Lesbian

Reviewer: Tony

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About The Book

What could make a woman weep forever?

The inhabitants of the teeming city of Landan are readying for King Victor’s jubilee. But, away from the bunting and souvenir tea-towels, a conspiracy is brewing. People are killing themselves for no apparent reason. A man has gone missing. And Vividia Whistful, a rich heiress, is afflicted by a strange magic that has left her crying silently and ceaselessly.

Daniel Gleason and William Bumard, two down-on-their-luck clerks, are drawn into this mess. Joined by streetwise prostitute Sally, and an orphaned servant known as The Boy, the search pulls them into the hidden underbelly of the capital. They will discover dangerous mysteries, and they will all be forced to reveal secrets of their own.

This mystery adventure features graphic sex, queer romance, a touch of fantasy and intrigue.

The Review

Naughty Victorian Days is set in a very different Victorian London from the one we all know. Well it’s Landan for a start and King Victor is on the throne. There are four main protagonists, Nop, William, Sally and The Boy. It is written in a very stylised form using appropriate vernacular for the time. Some of the words used are obscure and may have you looking them up online. Some I am familiar with but haven’t heard used in such an unapologetic way in a long time. I found myself laughing at highly inappropriate moments. It’s all very politically incorrect but well meaning and upfront. Just wait and see when you find out what ‘was healthier than opium, provoked fewer headaches than booze and was cheaper than gambling’ for the upper and upper-middle classes. 

William and Nop decide to help resolve Lady Vividia Whistful’s inheritance issues and are drawn into a world of kidnapping, murder and plots against the crown. They are helped on their journey by Sally and The Boy who are familiar with the underworld the two guys are about to be plunged into.

I sort of enjoyed following their exploits but it was a troubled journey for me as there were a lot of little things that kept pulling me up. The action can suddenly jump from one location to another without much in the way of a transition or any indication it is about to take place. For example Nop has just made space on a table for his breakfast and is stuffing toast into his mouth while talking about where they need to go next. The next moment he is outside the locked door of his apartment.

There are an abundance of contradictions. Why is William washing his own long johns when they have The Boy, ‘their servant-cum-scullery maid-cum-cook-cum-cleaner-cumfootman.’

Lady Vividia’s veil does not seem to conceal much as William seems to see her features clearly through it.

Vividia and Mordecai are married by ‘his friend, an ordained high priest’ but apparently: ‘As our rite had been carried out without Priest, Tau or Tzaddik, and neither church nor law sanctified my union with Mordecai,’

Nop somehow knows Lord Fortbarn is an intimate of the couple but only William knows this at this point in the story and he has been scrobbled before he can impart that knowledge.

The four ‘investigators’ know they are up against some mastermind and not just the thug Slasher but they do not refer to whoever it is until suddenly they are on the lookout for the ‘conspirator’. That term sprang out of nowhere in the theatre.

What do we make of ‘I watched a man navigate his way through a lightless maze by talking to moss, or something of the like.’? Nop is the ‘I’ in question and unlike some of the others he does not have a ‘quality’, a special ability, unlike the man in the quotation, unless it’s the ability to watch someone do something in the pitch dark. The qualities, themselves, add a bit of spice to the story and firmly place you in this other parallel world. They are also more believable than some ‘qualities’ exhibited by characters in other books in the fantasy genre.

So what do I think? Well I’d have given up on a story if the plot was too clumsy or illogical but here I just let go and went for the ride. Of course my little inner grumbling note taker kept a check on the questionable stuff but let me keep going. So cast your doubts aside and follow the four heroes as they make their journey, revealing something hidden about themself as they learn to trust each other and struggle against social mores and violent foes. You could well have a few chuckles on the way if you do.

The Reviewer

Tony is an Englishman living amongst the Welsh and the Other Folk in the mountains of Wales. He lives with his partner of thirty-six years, four dogs, two ponies, various birds, and his bees. He is a retired lecturer and a writer of no renown but that doesn’t stop him enjoying what he used to think of as ‘sensible’ fantasy and sf. He’s surprised to find that if the story is well written and has likeable characters undergoing the trails of life, i.e. falling in love, falling out of love, having a bit of nooky (but not all the time), fending off foes, aliens and monsters, etc., he’ll be happy as a sandperson who has just offloaded a wagon of sand at the going market price. As long as there’s a story, he’s in. He aims to write fair and honest reviews. If he finds he is not the target reader he’ll move on.

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