Welcome to my tour stop for the Aether Psychics Series by Cecilia Dominic! The tour runs December 14-18 with reviews of both Eros Element and Light Fantastique. This is a New Adult Steampunk with a sweet romance (not graphic). The book is available in ebook formats worldwide.
Earlier this week I reviewed the first book in the series, Eros Element, and today I am reviewing the second book, Light Fantastique. You can read my review of the first book here.
Title: Light Fantastique
Author: Cecilia Dominic
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: December 2015
Length: 301 pages
Series?: Aether Psychics #2
Genre: Historical Steampunk
At the Théâtre Bohème, danger decides who takes the final curtain call.
Hailed as the most talented actress of her generation, Marie St. Jean has something more to her ability than mere talent. She loses a bit of her soul to each role. When the ghostly spirit of the theatre promises her an easy fix, she’s tempted by the chance to finally live a normal life.
Unfortunately, the man she’s drawn to is the last one to settle for normal. But with the Prussians surrounding Paris, there’s no escaping that temptation, either.
Violinist Johann Bledsoe thought he’d left his disgrace in England, but a murder outside the Théâtre Bohème makes him wonder if he’s been exposed. Another reason not to stick around once the siege ends, even if Marie fascinates him.
More murders, steam-powered ravens, and past and present secrets bring them closer to discovering just what lurks within the theatre, and who threatens from without. The only way to save themselves is to reveal their darkest shames—and use the Eros Element in a way that has already driven one man to the brink of madness.
***** Review *****
The convoy of Professor Bailey, his friend the Maestro Bledsoe, archaeologist Iris McTavish and her “maid” Marie St. Jean, along with their companions Dr. Radcliffe and Patrick O’Connell, have all returned to Paris to the theater Marie’s mother owns and runs. Of course, they return to Paris battered from their experiences in Rome, and are trying to recover from that incident while staying off of the radar of Parnabay Cobb and The Clockwork Guild, to whom Bledsoe owes a debt. Lucille St. Jean holds over the entire group of vagabonds that they are staying in her theatre free, so they are all contributing in various ways to keep her happy. Chief among their contributions is Professor Bailey’s work with the new Eros Element to produce gas lighting for the theatre. The more the element is studied and used, the more unusual things happen. Deadly things.
This second installment in the series focuses heavily on Marie, who is Fantastique in the play, and for which she is known by in Paris.
- Professor Edward Bailey – a neuoritic professor who is suffering from his own guilt about what occurred in Rome; he is dedicated to making the aether and Eros Element work in the Théâtre Bohème; he is very good friends with Bledsoe and is semi-courting Iris
- Maestro Johann Bledsoe – a formerly known womanizing, gambling musician; he is dedicated to Edward; he feels an affinity for Marie and is a target for most of the book
Madame St. Jean turned to Johann, and he had to take his eyes from the retreating figure of her daughter. He made it a policy not to ogle young women when their mothers were present – he’d almost gotten trapped into marriage that way once.
- Iris McTavish – an archaeologist and scholar who is helping with the Eros Element and other research; she loves Edward and will be in the hot seat if she ever returns to London (with the authorities and more)
- Marie St. Jean – a young actress turned maid for Iris during their trip; she has resumed her acting career for her mother at the Théâtre Bohème; she resents and regrets and is ashamed of admitting she was wrong
“Maybe I want to be someone else.” Or someone else wants to be me. She’d never been able to explain it, only that when she was preparing for a role and on stage, she felt possessed by whatever character she played.
- Doctor Chadwick Radcliffe – an African American doctor; he serves as the theatre’s in-house doctor
- Patrick O’Connell – an Irishman who worked with Doctor Radcliffe and now is helping Edward with the lighting
- Madame Lucille St. Jean – Marie’s mother and the owner of Théâtre Bohème; she has an insane network of spies and resources; an elite in Parisian society
Now Lucille beamed at her, and Iris wondered again just how much of what Lucille did and said was real and how much an act to manipulate others.
- Inspector Davidson – the London detective assigned to the monitor the convoy at the Théâtre Bohème, especially Bledsoe
- Frederic LeClerc – another violinist in the production; favors Marie; at odds with Bledsoe
- Fouré – a musical conductor invited to conduct for the theatre; Marie discovers another element of his identity
Marie couldn’t explain it, but she felt strangely at ease with Fouré. He was like Zokar, an older gentleman who never looked at her inappropriately and whom she felt she could trust. To a point.
- Zokar – an underground Roma whom Marie visits so often; he helps Marie always; Marie also discovers another element to his identity as well
- The Spirit – a masked man who continues to “visit” Marie in the theatre; he wants to hear her story and role with Parnabay Cobb
- Parnabay Cobb – the wealthy American who fired the convoy and left them high and dry in Rome; at odds with the spying Clockwork Guild
“I’ll let you know if the Prussians are upon us.”
“You have nothing and everything to lose, so must never let them take anything away, least of all your pride.”
“And I know who you are, English swine.”
Sometimes dreams don’t come true the way you want or expect them to.
The rose opens, and the thorns will dance.
The Highs and Lows
- + Lucille St. Jean. She is a master manipulator, even to those who know her best. It makes me wonder if she even manipulated a person with a double identity in the book. Iris believes she is 70% manipulator and 30% real. Lucille is beguiling and knows just where to twist with the perfect amount of pressure. She is one of the behind-the-scenes driving forces in the book.
Madame wanted to have control down to the smallest detail. She acted with the aggressiveness of someone who had let it slip once and had lost a great deal.
- +/- Frederic vs. Bledsoe. Frederic’s opposition of Bledsoe is so strong it is comical, and extremely frustrating for Bledsoe. All the while, Marie does nothing to make her favor known one way or another. A love triangle that has some dire consequences later.
Johann found himself in the role of concertmaster, conductor and cat herder during the rehearsal. Every time he suggested something, Frederic would argue with him about it, and by the end of the first hour, he was sure he’d lost clumps of hair due to pulling on it in frustration.
- Setting. The book begins in 1870 England with the convoy returning to the Théâtre Bohème. There were a few times the era and year was referenced in narration, but not as time relative to the expedition. I found the negative commentary about the American “Civil” War unnecessary, especially the reference that it was “a proxy war between England and France.” At this time, they are under siege by the Prussians. The city of Paris is essentially shut down at its borders and they cannot receive goods or people in or out, however, we all know what happens during times of dire trouble…rioting, looting, and those who have $$$ run the show. *hint hint*
- + Théâtre Bohème. The theatre is the perfect place to have multiple characters coming and going. It is the set up that allows for Inspector Davidson to further his investigation due to the suspicion of individuals, and also allows Lucille St. Jean to run a lucrative business (and maintain her spy networks) as this is the only theatre in Paris still operation instead of serving as a hospital out of wartime necessity.
- – Inspector Davidson. The inspector has it out for Edward, Iris, Marie and especially Johann. It is interesting how quickly he arrives on the scene when they fled Rome in secrecy. Everyone must keep the inspector happy, least he get arresting-happy. He’s like a dog who won’t give up the hunt for the bone, but is led on a wild goose chase in the process, but he’s going to get that damn bone, by God!
- + Iris. She is devoted to Edward after Rome, and she is the classical woman yearning for him to open his eyes. All in a good way, as she will wait for him until he is ready and past his fragile mental state. She is also pretty smart and continues with her research where it left off in Rome, which I know is going to pay off big. After a time I felt her character kind of dissolved in to the background when the plot really picked up.
“Don’t worry about me,” Edward said and pried Iris’s hands apart before taking them in his.
“But I do.” The tears her eyes fragmented the reflection of the aether light into sparks.
- – Edward. He is very fragile and dealing with a lot that he refuses to talk about to his friends. They all walk around on eggshells, and he pushes them away and buries himself in his work with the aether for the theatre’s lighting. I feel like there were very few and small parts where he appeared in the book.
- – & + Marie. She is a mixed character from beginning to end, especially in her interaction with Bledsoe. She fears she is going mad due to the theatre’s “spirit” haunting her. The main focus of the book revolves around Marie and the theatre (an extension of her mother), so she is involved in everything. When the spirit starts visiting, and all these other things, she begins to fear something far greater than Inspector Davidson.
Most girls her age were being trotted out for potential husbands. She was being put on stage, although she had never objected, only wondered. But as for confiding in her mother – absolutely not. Lucille would only want Marie to develop her talents further at the cost of her sanity. That was why she needed to get away, to spend time in an unfamiliar place among people who didn’t know her so she could figure out who she was. As young as she was, she was mature enough to know she needed to determine her own identity before she could think about loving someone.
- + The Spirit. I was DYING to know who the heck this person was, whom I assumed was a man. (BTW, I was right, but had no clue who he was. Such little details!)
- + Bledsoe. His hold on his womanizing ways is loosening, and he comes to stand as the protector of Marie and the theatre until other characters appear later in the book to stand by his side. He is a proponent and supporter of Marie and clearly cares for her, while trying to evade the Inspector and the Clockwork Guild.
And she is the idealized woman in a room full of fools and madmen.
I liked one particular aspect above all the rest: the waiting game. None of the characters knew what was coming, nor was it ever directly hinted at by the narration, leaving absolutely no clue just where the ending was going…and who was orchestrating it, just like a puppet. Lucille is excellent at that kind of game, but for once even she was at odds and a loss of how to protect her Marie. I wondered the entire time what happened to a character from the first book, and was frustrated that the character seemed to have just died in this second installment, as if they didn’t exist anymore. Oh, no.
The ending is also marvelous. It was angsty and shocking, and I want to know what will happen in the next installment and where it will take the convoy.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
I definitely recommend buying! It will be needed for re-reading and referencing previous events in detail.
***** About the Author *****
Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.
***** Giveaway *****
$25 Amazon or B&N gift card (INT)
Ends Dec. 23rd
This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.