I bought Soulless after coming across recommendations on a comment thread on Ursula Vernon’s Livejournal. Probably I should have paid more attention, but, oh, well. Let’s look at the blurb:
Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations.
First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse, apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire – and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia is responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s High Society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
That blurb made me expect a mystery with a bit of romance thrown in. However, it’s at least half romance, including sex, and the mystery bits didn’t seem handled very well.
I get the kind of mystery where the reader is supposed to know more than the protagonists trying to figure things out, because some scenes are not from the protagonists’ perspective, and I get the kind of mystery where vague hints are dropped that the reader might figure out things faster than the protagonists.
In this book, there was a hint early on not only dropped, but highlighted with red flashing lights and a klaxon, so I was left with the impression that the supposed investigators were remarkably dense never considering something in that direction.
That leads to my main beef with the book: The plot is utterly predictable. The only suprises are of the kind “man with a gun enters the room”, metaphorically speaking; nobody turns out to be anything other than they seem.
What I like best about this book is the worldbuilding. It’s an alternative history in which the Renaissance was triggered by immortals (vampires, werewolves and ghosts) giving up their “masquerade”, and by the time of the book they are accepted sub-societies that people who survive the initiating bite get congratulated on joining, at least in Britain.
Another interesting bit were the mindgames Alexia was playing with herself at some point regarding her relationship (or not) with Lord Maccon.
As to the writing style, I think the author was mostly going for an amusing tone. There were a handful of places where the words themselves threw me right out of the story (most bizarre example: referring to penis-in-vagina intercourse as “he impaled himself”).
There were at least that many lines that struck me as particularly funny and/or clever, though, so over all not too bad.
For me it was OK to read fluff, but nothing that makes me want to buy following books. I suspect someone who has more interest in romance and sex might get more out of it than I did.