Sit down, have a cup of tea and some scones. Today we celebrate the release of Ether & Elephants, Cindy Spencer Pape’s newest addition to the award-winning Gaslight Chronicles.
Cindy here. It’s great to be here at Coffee Time Steampunk again! I’ll take a scone with lemon curd and clotted cream. And hat Darjeeling looks lovely, so don’t mind if I do. Black please, no sugars.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing the Gaslight Chronicles for more than 4 years now. I’ve come to feel that the Hadrian and MacKay families are as real as my own. The series is now on either ending or on an extended hiatus, so I already miss them.
As a writer, it’s easy to forget how much help we get from odd little details someone else says without thinking. When I started Steam & Sorcery, the first book of the Chronicles, I struggled with the name of my organization. The League of something or other? The Ministry? (nods to the delightful Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris) How about some kind of Corps? They were a semi-secret group in the employ of the Crown, gifted with inherited magickal powers and trained from childhood to hunt vampyres (which are nasty, smelly, Nosferatu kinds of things in my books) and other supernatural horrors. I was grousing about it to my husband one evening, sitting on our deck with a Diet Coke in my hand.
“Why not the Order of the Roundtable?” he said, then promptly went back to playing Angry Birds on his phone.
I sat, stunned. It would work. In my world the Knights never went away—their descendents just went underground, so to speak. The main group of fighters are mostly baronets, from very old families. That worked. I’d used the names MacKay (son of Kay—duh), Devere (a derivation of Bedivere?) and Lake. (Come on—they had to be descended from Lancelot.) I’d set myself up perfectly without even knowing it. I quickly added Lord Drood, the primary sorcerer of the group, whose ancestor was Merlin. But I was oddly attached to the name Merrick Hadrian for my first hero. Well that was a quick fix. Hadrian’s Wall and the Arthurian legends may well mesh in time. So a daughter of a knight err…hooked up with the Roman Emperor. And named her son Hadrian. That’s how the Order came to be.
In that very first book, Merrick adopts a group of street children who also have supernatural abilities. Tom Devere turns out to be a baronet (and a Knight) in his own right, so Merrick merely fosters him. Eleanor, or Nell, sees ghosts. It’s obvious even as children that these two were meant for one another. Youthful mistakes seem to have destroyed that possibility, but in Ether and Elephants, they finally get their chance.
Blurb: A Gaslight Chronicles Novel
Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian have loved each other most of their lives—but sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.
Their chance at happiness was ruined by Tom’s hasty marriage to someone else. Heartbroken, Nell left home, finding a new life as a teacher at a school for the blind. But when one of her supernaturally gifted students, Charlie, is kidnapped, Tom reappears and her worlds collide.
Tom claims he hasn’t seen his wife since the day of their marriage…yet he fears the missing student could be his son.
The deeper they dig, the more Tom and Nell discover: a deadly alchemist, more missing gifted children and long-suppressed feelings neither of them is ready for. A race on airship across England and India may lead them to answers—including a second chance at love—but only if all of British Society isn’t destroyed first.
(The Gaslight Chronicles are) possibly the ultimate in steampunk romance!—Library Journal
An excerpt from Ether & Elephants: (p 12-13)
“Tom, would you mind wrapping the photographs?” Nell said. “You’ll find a box of tissue at the bottom of the wardrobe.”
Obediently, he folded tissue paper around the dozen or so family portraits that littered her plain wooden dresser. The images included him, along with their brothers, sisters, parents, brother-in-law and four-month-old nephew. Family. It’s what they were and always would be. It was too bad Tom’s heart—and certain other parts of him—couldn’t quite seem to grasp that concept.
Once the trunk was mostly loaded, Merrick said his goodbyes and left them, but not before reminding Tom that Nell was his to protect. Tom wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “With my life, sir.”
Merrick cuffed Tom on the shoulder. “Try to keep that intact, as well. Remember I have to answer to your mother.” Then he was gone, removing the only buffer between Nell and Tom.
Tom picked up the tiny china jewel box he’d given Nell for her eighteenth birthday. He hadn’t known she’d even kept it, and something pricked at the back of his eyes as he wrapped it in tissue and placed it carefully on the top tray of the trunk. The dainty porcelain rose on the lid was as delicate as Nell and just as easily broken. He couldn’t be responsible for hurting her again, but something in him still lashed out. “You can go home, if you want. In fact, you should. I’ll find the blasted boy. It’s what I do, remember?” Tom folded a quilt and added it to the trunk. The idea of spending extended time with Nell was like rubbing lemon juice in a wound.
“This is my problem, Tom. If you’re going to be a prat about it, maybe you should go home.” Nell whirled on him. “You can stop your high and mighty airs anytime.”
“I’m high and mighty? Forgive me for not rolling around in sackcloth and ashes.” He gestured to her plain gown. “Perfect, self-sacrificing, noble Nell. Everyone’s darling. Everything I do is wrong in your eyes.” He knew, even as he said it, that he was being petty, but after so much time, his temper had finally snapped “Your so-called vocation for teaching is nothing but a hair shirt, worn for my benefit. You might as well have become a nun and announced to the world that it’s all because of me. I made a mistake when I was a green lad. Most of us do, except for the perfect Miss Nell. I’ve done everything I can to fix things, but I can’t change the past. You’ve been rubbing my nose in my one mistake for years. Aren’t you done with it yet?”
Nell gaped. “Is that what you think? That I came here to, as you call it, rub your nose in it? You self-centered beast. I came to Glenbury because I wanted to do something with my life. I may not be as strong as the rest of you, but I’m not entirely useless. As it turns out, I’m a damned good teacher. It is a calling, just like fighting is for you or building things is Wink’s. I love what I do. Did. And now, you and Papa have come in like a steam train and taken that away from me.” She slammed the lid on her trunk. “Bollocks.”
Tom grimaced at the ceiling and tried for a mollifying tone. Had he thought earlier that he appreciated her new boldness? Now that it was focused at him, he wasn’t so sure. She was wrong, of course. He’d never thought her useless, he just didn’t like seeing her work for that harridan, and they both knew that hunting monsters wasn’t in her nature. “I’m sure you were a wonderful teacher. You’ll find another job, if that’s what you want. But coming along on a mission? Not at all your thing, old girl.”
“Well I am. So there.” She tucked a small coin purse from her dresser into the pocket of her skirt. “And you have no say in the matter, so stop being cross.”
“I’m not cross, I’m concerned.” Well, truthfully, he was both. “Just promise to be careful. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have.”
“I’m always careful.” She looked across at him as she closed the latch on her carpetbag. Her silver mechanical songbird was the last personal possession in the room, and she patted her shoulder, instructing Lark to flutter from his perch on the windowsill and settle on her shoulder. “So what do you think? Shall we split up and check the local villages?”
“I suppose.” Tom’s conscience struck so hard it almost felt as if he’d taken an actual blow to the skull. “But I have a suspicion about where we’ll end up.”
Nell raised one eyebrow. “Oh?”
Tom shoved his hands through his hair, not caring if it stood straight up like a lunatic’s. “Cambridge.” He dragged in a deep breath. “I think…that is…it’s possible…” He flopped down on the bed and rested his chin on his hands. “Don’t hate me, Nelly.”
Nell sat on the room’s only chair. “I couldn’t if I tried, Tommy. You know that. But this isn’t about us. It’s about Charlie.”
Of course it was about the boy. Nell would walk through fire for a child, any child. Like
it or not, though, their relationship hovered over everything. Just as he would always love her, she cared for him, despite his betrayal. Now he was going to make things even worse.
“Barrowclough,” he said hoarsely, “is a very rare name. Almost extinct, in fact.”
“You know this how?” Nell gazed into his eyes without blinking. “Is this an Order matter?”
Tom held her gaze, accepting all the blame he deserved. “No. It’s my matter. You know I’ve been searching for years to find my—” his tongue stumbled over the words “—my…wife. Charles Barrowclough was the name her father wrote on the marriage license as a witness.”
Book 1: Steam & Sorcery, is also available in paperback from Amazon.com
While the series is either ended or on a break after this book, do look for Raising Stakes, a new vampire-hunter steampunk novella coming out in November as part of a multi-author ebook boxed set titled Here be Magic.
All you have to do is leave a comment below. Sunday, August 16, I’ll draw a random winner. Please leave me a way to contact you in the comment!
Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 19 novels and more than 40 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons, granddaughter, and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.
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