Review: The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Reasons for Inclusion: Rosetta’s family is Jewish, and all the main characters are queer.

Publisher’s Summary: Billiwack, California, 1884. When translator Rosetta Stein comes across her rival, Bartholomew Vincent, under attack by weird, raven-headed man-beasts behind the infamous Puckered Rosebud Gentleman’s Club, she senses opportunity. She rescues him in exchange for a crack at the commission he stole from under her nose—a strangely inscribed artifact found by Big Sur bigwig George Taylor Granville in the Santa Lucia mountains. Misfortune has stalked Vincent from the moment he took on the project, and he’s only too happy to share it. In the meantime, a lady marshal has come to Billiwack, investigating rumors of strange, unlicensed weapons, and she can’t seem to decide if she’d rather kiss Rosetta or arrest her. And Vincent is suffering romantic complications of his own, in the forms of Rosetta’s charming layabout brother, and an amorous professor who won’t take God, no! for an answer.

My Review: 

(4.5/5 stars)

This one was really good! Steampunk weapons, a lady Marshal, supernatural rituals, and a cast full of gay. The settings- dank lamplit alleys, warm libraries full of books and experiments, stormy streets, felt as much alive as the characters. The conversations moved the plot and the action never got tedious.

Rosetta Stein (punny name) caught me from the beginning, where she put herself in danger to rescue her rival. She’s fought for a long time for her place in academia, because as a gay Jewish woman the conservative heads of the school are always looking to push her down.

The rest of the characters were interesting and entertaining, especially Erin St George, the tall and imposing government marshal Rosetta finds herself pitted against.

I felt that maybe there could have been more tension before the antagonists (Vincent, St George) became allies, but for the length of the story what happened worked.

(ARC received from Netgalley)

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