Prudence and the Professor
by Sibelle Stone
I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Prudence Worthington is a business minded war widow who intends to make enough money to open her own business school and get completely out from under the thumb of her horrid in-laws. Professor Gerritt Rhinehart is a crazed inventor who eschews the paperwork side of his business in favor of working on his fantastical creations and supporting and developing the entire town. The whole thing is set in a steampunk version of Wyoming in the 1800's during the civil war.
There are mysteries surrounding who wants Garritt's inventions and who wants Prudence out of town and it wasn't immediately clear who the villain or villains were. It is a fun and amusing story, and the characters can be quite hilarious, particularly Alma. And I wasn't bothered by the supposed character transplant as the story went along, because to me that was sort of the point, neither one of them were really the character they tried to present to the world, so it made sense they would try to show their true selves to one another. The thing that did bother me was that the steam punk elements seemed to be more of a plot device or a sop to enter a less crowded sub-genre than an integral part of the world building, as there was really very little mention of curiosities being used in everyday life, and the ones mentioned were sketchily rendered to the reader. Additionally, the addition of the paranormal element three quarters of the way into the book was a bit startling. It will be interesting to see how that might play out in future books.
Overall I enjoyed this book, and the adjective that first comes to mind is "rollicking", it just didn't blow me away like Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series, but then few books are likely to reach that level so it probably isn't a fair comparison. And, while I should have known from the blurb, this was really more historical romance than steam punk.