Saturday, 16 May 2020

Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger

Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger is a novel in her "Delightfully Deadly" novella/novel line, which feature (adult version of) characters from the Finishing School series, which started with Etiquette and Espionage. If you've read the Finishing School books, you'll remember Dimity from her school days. That said, this novel stands alone fairly well, with the few references to the past adding flavour rather than crucial plot elements. I originally thought it was a novella and was confused by the length, but clearly, I misread the cover.

A vampire hive descending into madness. A beautiful spy with a sparkly plan. The bodyguard who must keep them from killing each other.

SPY

Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott, code name Honey Bee, is the War Office's best and most decorative fixer. She's sweet and chipper, but oddly stealthy, and surprisingly effective given the right incentives.

VERSUS KNIGHT

Sir Crispin Bontwee was knighted for his military service, but instead of retiring, he secretly went to work for the War Office. Mostly he enjoys his job, except when he must safeguard the Honey Bee.

Neither one is a vampire expert, but when the Nottingham Hive goes badly Goth, only Dimity can stop their darkness from turning bloody. And only Crispin can stop an enthusiastic Dimity from death by vampire.

In a battle for survival (and wallpaper), Dimity must learn that not all that sparkles is good, while Cris discovers he likes honey a lot more than he thought.

Defy or Defend features the "have to pretend to be married" romance trope and the "in love with each other but convinced the other doesn't like them" romance trope, neither of which were played for as many laughs as I would have expected from Carriger. Not to say that the book wasn't funny at all, but I've read funnier Carrigers. So that was unexpected and a little disappointing. But even without much laughing out loud, I still enjoyed the book.

The main (non-romance) plot is about Dimity trying to rescue a vampire hive from a particular type of maudlin madness through sheer force of redecorating. Also some social manipulation. And with the object of her affections, Sir Crispin, there as backup. Tight-fitting male dance costumes are involved. The length of the book gives plenty of room to get to know the hive members as well as the protagonists. I was pleased to come fully to grips with each vampire's eccentricity, for example, and that made the final resolution all the more satisfying.

All in all, I quite enjoyed Defy or Defend, my only complaint is that it wasn't as funny as I hoped. I recommend the book to fans of Gail Carriger's other supernatural Victoriana books. I also suggest it's a pretty good place for a new reader to dip their toes in, since the book stands alone well and introduces the particular flavour of Carriger vampires (and werewolves, but less so). It is being sold as a romance book and it's not that there's no romance in it, but it's actually pretty light and more secondary to the other plot than I expected.

4 / 5 stars

First published: May 2020, self-published
Series: Yes! Delightfully Deadly series (order agnostic) and set after the end of the Finishing School series
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Kobo

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