My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Viridis is actually two tales woven together. In the first, Inspector William Thomas, a hard-bitten yet soft-hearted Scotland Yard Inspector, works to solve a high profile murder case. In the second, Lady Phoebe Hughes, the industrious and independent inventor of the titular elixir must decide how much of that hard won independence she is willing to give up to be with the man she loves. These two stories come become entwined with one another in a logical and satisfying manner. Unfortunately, for this reviewer, neither story seemed to reach their full potential. The mystery surrounding the murder unwound at a leisurely pace without any real sense of urgency. The romance between Lady Hughes and Mr. Seth Elliot, while certainly punctuated with fluttering hearts and passionate embraces, lacked a certain tension.
Ms. Taylor deserves due praise for the vividness of her writing and the natural feel of her dialog. The scenery was crisp and engaging. The intimate scenes between Phoebe and Seth were explicit and erotic without being excessively prurient. The scene wherein Phoebe (view spoiler) was powerful and disturbing. She bills Viridis as a steampunk romance and has certainly laced her world with the requisite trappings. There are airships and improbable contraptions, Victorian-esque sensibilities and attitudes, and a certain glossing over of some of the harsh realities of the era. The tale is peppered with a sense of impending revolution in the name of an ill defined underground movement known as The Cause (with which all the major characters are sympathetic, of course). It all makes for a setting that definitely feels steampunk.
The “punk” half of the equation, however, seems a bit subdued. Most importantly in the person of Lady Phoebe. She starts out the book as a seemingly strong, independent, intelligent and enterprising woman. However, all the men in her life treat her as a frail flower and go to great lengths to shelter and protect her. They were forever telling her to stay at home and let the men take care of things. Their efforts to do so wind up putting her in an even more desperate situation. When she did finally attempt to take matters into her own hands the only method she can come up with entirely ignored all her supposed enlightened qualities and relied solely upon her femininity. There was no finesse, no clever ploy, simply “I have no other choice.” In the end she becomes the fainting woman in distress that everyone else insisted she was all along.