Review Detail

A Summer of Smoke and Sin, by T.J. Nichols
Books EW Elaine White February 29, 2020 551
Beautiful Story
 POV: 3rd person, dual POV (one page of 1st person)
Themes: steampunk, historical, succubus, club owner, alt history, uniform, politics, nobility, possession, opium/recreational drug use

 A Summer of Smoke and Sin is a unique steampunk story about love, justice and self-discovery. It is clever, hot and takes you through a world full of secrets, lies, and deception while navigating a beautiful love story worthy of the perfect ending it was given.

 The story dealt with some hard topics, but in a smart and sensitive manner. It had political intrigue, family drama, and a world prejudice against same-sex relationships, while also revolving around the murder who created snuff photography. While there was a lot going on, it all came together beautifully and I felt that the story was both well paced and well rounded. It didn't fail to address any of the questions or curiosities I had along the way.

 When it comes to character, Nathanial was adorably naive and innocent, stupidly loyal and faithful. I rooted for him to grow up, free himself, and find his independence every step of the way. Watching him find that strength and curiosity to explore was beautiful. It was a true journey amongst the chaos of his investigation. On the flip side, Jericho came across as a smart, independent and well put together individual, until you discovered that it was all a mask to protect himself. Watching him unfold, trust in Nathanial, fall in love and admit his vulnerability was equally as beautiful. While she wasn't a central character, I was very intrigued by Eulalia and her place in it all. The final revelations about her were a nice twist that I didn't see coming.

 In a book that is both steampunk and paranormal, it can be hard to find a balance between the two. But I felt the world building was handled with the usual skill I expect of the author. Clever, good pacing, and smart twists kept this story running on track. It also managed to keep the steampunk at an acceptable and almost-familiar level, for the historical time period, while letting the paranormal aspect sit comfortably within that world. Neither side drowned out the other.

 When it came to the big revelation, for Jericho to tell Nathanial the truth about his curse, I loved that he'd already begun to put the pieces together. You saw him trying to figure it out long before it became something to talk about. Then he turned his logical Detective brain to the matter.

 Honestly, it's like one of my favourite authors has read two of my favourite books – the series, Gentleman Demons by Jasper Black and the solo novel, Innocent and Carnality by J. Alan Veerkamp – because, while completely unique and different, A Summer of Smoke and Sin is what would happen if those two books had a book-baby. This would be it. The perfect blend of historical horror and steampunk romance against all the odds.

 Was it perfect? No. I'd say my rating is more a 4.5 than an outright 5*, only because there were a lot of editing issues throughout, in my final version from Amazon and I felt that the continual interruptions – newspaper articles, letters/notes from friends/family – could have been more seamlessly introduced to the story. For me, they broke the story up at important intervals, right in the midst of the drama, and took me out of that tension and suspense. Add on the editing issues – wrong words, spelling and punctuation issues – and it wasn't flawless. But, in the end, the story was beautiful, clever and brilliant, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. For that reason, I've rounded up instead of down. This is definitely a story I'll be reading again, and I'll be buying it in paperback, too.

 I've been a fan of T.J. Nichols for a very long time, and I've loved everything of theirs that I've read. This book is no exception. Despite the minor flaws, I still fell madly in love with Nathanial and Jericho.

 For fans of: paranormal twists, steampunk adventures, and sweeping romances with some drama.


 Favourite Quotes

 “Was anyone ever truly free or were they all birds with programmed orders they had to follow?”

 “With the soft click, the heart he'd pieced together after Liang's murder fragmented. It would take more than a demon to put it back together.”
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