The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, a romantic steampunk history, is the culmination of a dream I had as a teenager when first read Hound of the Baskervilles and hoped I could write characters as fascinating as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Not being Arthur Conan Doyle, my idea for a Victorian mystery ended up quite differently, with a dash of magic, technology and an strong element of romance.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes form the book, a classic “detective meets client” scene with a little dash of sexual tension.
Bookshelves covered the walls, their dark color matched by the huge throw rug on the floor that was decorated with swirling Oriental-style designs against a black background. In the center sat a comfortable sitting couch with matching chairs on either side.
Gregor Sherringford was not as indifferent to his surroundings as he had first appeared. She could certainly picture him here, curled up with a book, his dark hair falling in front of his eyes. A pleasing image.
She heard the door close behind her. She turned, her face full of color. She had no reason to be embarrassed, but she was.
“Why did you not tell me to wait here at the beginning, sir?” she asked.
“It is interesting to see how people react to the workroom. If they are appalled or otherwise react badly, then they’re not people worthy of my time.” He hung his leather apron on a coatrack and rolled down his sleeves. “And I was in the middle of an experiment.”
“I do not much like trusting my future to someone who tests me like that.”
“And I don’t like being interrupted by someone ill-mannered enough to snap at me. If you wish to leave, you know where the door is located.”
She reluctantly shook her head and kept a firm grip on her tongue. If she could keep her temper with her father, she could keep it now. “What I wish is to have had no need to come to you, sir, but that is sadly not the case.”
“I’m clearly your choice of last resort. That would not be unusual among my clients.” He smiled thinly, as he had a moment ago in his workroom. “Please, stop glaring at me, Miss Krieger, and have a seat. We will both be more comfortable. Also, no more calling me sir. Mr. Sherringford will do.”
“I was not…” She cleared her throat. She had not been glaring. She had been studying him. In this setting, he belonged. The softer light burnished his hair and skin, as some silks glowed in certain candlelight. Now, she could well imagine him a gallant romantic hero as well as a champion. “I suppose I was glaring. My apologies. I have never done anything like this before. It has me off-balance.” She clutched her pendant tight as she sat down. “How much do you charge, sir?”
“That depends,” he said. “On how much I can afford to pay?” she asked. He drew his eyebrows together. She had angered him somehow. Again. “It depends on your problem. I have valuable work, as you saw. I dislike interrupting
it.” was like trying to get a proper measurement off a squirming customer.
“So it must be a problem that can be solved quickly?” Trying to sort out what he meant was like trying to get a proper measurement off a squirming customer.
“On the contrary, only a complicated problem would be worth setting aside my other matters. As to the fee, if it presents a proper challenge, I will waive it.”
“Excuse me? Usually, more work means a higher fee, not a lower one.”
“So I have been told. But those are my terms.” He looked at her and opened his palm, clearly signaling the next move was hers. “You definitely seem like a person who might have a worthy case. Thus my interest in hearing you out.”
She had an unsettling feeling that he was as interested in her and why she had come to him for help as he was in the problem itself. To him, she might be like one of his experiments, something to be examined and studied. Did he have feelings underneath his cool demeanor?
“I am not certain if my problem is complicated. My mother believes I could be imagining it. Or even losing my mind. Yet there is still a woman dead, and I want to know how she died.”
Magic—and love—balanced on the tip of a needle…
The Steampunk Detectives, Book 1
Magic existed at the fringes until Prince Albert discovered he was a mage. Now he and others like him are leading a revolution in steam technology that’s held tight in the grip of the upper classes.
A man of half-Indian heritage, rejected by his upper-crust, mage-gifted family, Gregor Sherringford lives in working-class London, investigating cases involving magic among the lower classes. But he’s never met a client quite like spirited, stubborn Joan Krieger.
Joan’s dream was to lead a fashion revolution designing women’s clothing suited to the new technology. But when her richest client mysteriously dies outside her shop, it deals a mortal blow to her dreams.
She hopes the handsome, enigmatic detective can prove the death a magical murder. She never expected a dark plot would be woven right into the fabric of her family. Or that cracking the case will mean merging gifts, minds—and hearts—with the one man who could be her partner in every way. If they survive the release of a soul-binding curse.