Carriger’s ‘Timeless’ makes Thorne Smith timeless, too

Strip away its steampunk spectacle and alternate history, and Gail Carriger’s tidy five-novel Parasol Protectorate series about polite sensitivities amid utter chaos is almost as retro-rooted in its charms as its 1890s London setting. That’s because its finale, Timeless, and four predecessors play like some earlier witty comedies of manners among a polite set beset by supernaturalism.
I’m speaking of1930s novels by Thorne Smith, whose ghost-haunted Topper became a popular 1937 screwball comedy starring Cary Grant.

Today, Smith’s Topper has morphed into Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti, a parasol-wielding upper crust Londoner who falls in with a sexy werewolf in a stew of romantic-adventure plots broiling with vampires, “preternaturals” (you’ll learn all this), acceptance of such  creatures in British society (the alternate history part) and, not to forget, the appallingly poor-taste hats worn by Alexia’s clueless BFF, Ivy — whose role twists and turns quite a bit in Timeless.

So cozy up and enjoy Alexia’s modern assertiveness as a Victorian age woman, from her smoldering passions to her spunky retorts to affronts flung by smug sisters and thirsty vampires.

Oh yes.  Alexia is a far more fiery — yet politely mannered — heroine than a certain swan in another fanged fantasy.

And she knows how to wear a proper hat.

— Bruce Westbrook



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