When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.
Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.
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He drew a breath so shaky I heard it from where I stood beside the bed. And another. He turned his head toward me at last, and the firelight sprang up to light the side of his face, limning his cheekbone in red-gold, sliding its way across the side of his neck and pooling shadows in the hollow of his throat, slipping more shadows under his cheekbones and edging the line of his jaw.
The firelight loved Edward Fairfax, breathed living gold into him.
The breath caught in my throat. He was beautiful in this light. Very beautiful.READ MORE
“I said I’d been away a long time, just as you had,” he said. “The commitments I had… well, they involved other people and promises made that I couldn’t break. It has been a very long time since I was free to be with someone like you, Rafe. And although I’ve been back to Margrethe’s three or four times recently, I haven’t allowed things to go this far.” Edward’s smile, the little crooked turning-up of his mouth, was pained. “I think I’m a little nervous.”
I could understand that. My hands were trembly, and I had to keep working my mouth to moisten it, it was so dry. I may even have been a little nervous myself. Odd, though, how his honesty, the lack of polite evasion, prompted the same in me. “It’s been a while for me too. Not because I was ever lucky enough to find one person the way you did, if I understand what you say about commitment—the Lancaster luck doesn’t run that way. But still, the life I had, the Aero Corps… I couldn’t risk it. So it’s been a long time.” I managed a grin. “At least, a long time since it wasn’t furtive and quick and in the dark, as if it were shameful. Nothing as open as this. But what I remember of it, it’s a pleasure I would really like to taste with you.”
He nodded, and this time his smile looked real. “I would be very glad to retaste it with you, Rafe.”
I took a step toward him. He pulled his hand out of his pocket and held it out to me.
I sought for something to say as I took it. His palm was warm and dry, and his fingers curled around mine. “Do you like kissing?”
This time I got the full smile, bright and dazzling and lighting up his whole face. “I do.”
“Not all men allow it.” I made a gesture with my free hand. “There’s a spot there I’d rather like to kiss.”
The particular kissable spot was under his chin, half-hid in flickering shadow, half-lit by the firelight. I laughed when my lips settled against the skin of his throat, and he laughed with me; I felt it thrumming in his throat. I raised both hands and held his face, tilting it away from the fire. His eyes were shadowed. I used my fingertips first, following the light down the side of his jaw, tracing the line of his neck and smoothing into the warm hollow at the base of his throat. The little bones cradling it were hard under my fingers, harder still under my tongue. The hollow of his throat tasted of salt.
Edward sighed, his hands fell onto my shoulders and squeezed, his head tilted back to let me do my worst. It would be all right. We’d find our way back to our old lives together.
The next kiss wasn’t gentle. It set the world ablaze.COLLAPSE
Joyfully Jay on Joyfully Jay wrote:
"Butler's newest book is a marvelously creative alternative history that perfectly captures the spirit of exploration and derring-do that is at the heart of the best Victorian adventure novels, and delights in the steampunk devices and imaginative potential. Best of all she balances this utterly engrossing premise with a moving romance that develops slowly, tenderly building into a love that is lushly romantic and liberating for both heroes. The narrator's arch observations are a treat, but it is his journey of self-discovery that will keep readers' interest at fever pitch from the first cup of coffee to the final, wonderfully fulfilling scene."
2015: Steampunk nominee in the RT Reviewers Choice Best Book Awards.
Long and Short Reviews on Long and Short Reviews wrote:
"... A book like this hinges on the world building, and oh my god, the world crafted here his phenomenal. This is steampunk at its best, a world lovingly crafted and vividly presented so that all the little nuances are instantly understandable. I was transported to another time and place, immersed so fully in the world I half expected to look up and see aeroships flying overhead and autocars outside. For that alone, this book is absolutely worth reading. But fortunately, it doesn’t stop there and we have amazing and consistent characters to bring the world completely to life....
In addition to Rafe, Butler has given us a great many other endearing and well-drawn characters. Each person was so individual, so perfectly developed, that I felt like I was getting to know them right along with Rafe. He makes a small bevy of friends, each one integral to the plot and his journey. There was no one superfluous or extra. From Mr. Pearse and Hugh Peters, to cousin Agnes and the baker next door Will, to many more, every member of Rafe’s circle had a part to play, and played it well. It’s not often that I pick up a book where every secondary character is so important and so well done. It made this story so fleshed out and believable.
Guys, do yourself a favor and run out to buy The Gilded Scarab. An amazing world, fantastic writing, an interesting plot, and engaging characters, it worked for me on every level, and I highly recommend it to you."
"...A part of this story reads like steampunk Starbucks coffee wars. Amazing stuff, really. I loved every bit of this tale. Though it starts kind of slow, the length of this piece gives time and space for each character to develop into three-dimensional people.
...This complex steampunk world is given to us through Rafe’s eyes, via his first person sarcastic British wit and dry British humor.... Rafe is a wonderful character, a member of a Minor House and overjoyed at having nothing to do with them and their schemes. He’s smart though a bit slothful, loving though professing to care only for sex, and able to form natural, lasting friendships even though he’s suspicious of people’s motives and ties to the Houses. In short, Rafe is a complex individual, realistic and relatable.
... I give this superbly woven tale top marks and my highest recommendations to anyone who likes a slow-build M/M romance filled with suspense and intrigue, even if you’re not a fan of steampunk or historicals.... I am honestly impressed with the level of detail, characterization, plot developments, and the writing that matches the subtleties of the created world with its uses of slang and steampunk parlance. I absolutely recommend this to everyone, regardless of your preferred genre."