Review: Poison and Mercy by EC Elvedeane

Reviewed by Ronelle

It’s 1885 and NOT the London we’d expect to find. Clouds of acidic fog fill the air and body-melting rain could fall at any time, while the Thames is perpetually aflame. Anyone who sets foot outdoors without the proper protective gear is either mad or suicidal. To make matters worse, the world at large is restless: nothing has been seen or heard from within the borders of Germany for several years, the Mediterranean is plagued by the pirate airships of the Corsair Queens, and foreign plots to take control of the British Empire abound.

It will take a particular type of woman to save the day. Or rather, pair of women.

Enter Poison and Mercy d’Avalon, orphans raised by a man with a bent for poisons and a hand in entirely too many pies. These adventuresses dabble in extortion, assassination, and every other vice imaginable (some more steamy and illicit than others). Hired to eliminate a blackmail threat to a Very Important Person, they think it will be a simple—and profitable—task…but it isn’t long before simple becomes complicated.

***

I’ve grown to love anything that combines sex and steampunk, and Poison and Mercy certainly fit the bill. However, this is not an adventure I would give to any ‘girl’ I know. It is, in fact, entirely for mature adults (hence the categorization as erotica on Amazon). Poison and Mercy aren’t ‘girls’, either—they’re grown-ass women. So that part of the title is both superfluous and misleading. Not a big deal for me, but I figured I’d toss the warning out there, just in case.

While I found the story took awhile to get off the ground—there’s a lot of world-building, scene-setting, and backstory going on—I was intrigued enough by the characters of Poison and Mercy that I didn’t mind the lack of plot advancement, much. These two ladies approach life in very different ways and from extremes of the propriety spectrum, which makes them quite the combination. They’re also some of the most unique characters I’ve come across and their genesis is fascination (at least Poison’s is). I will say this, though: their relationship walked a fine line for me. Anything that could even remotely be construed as incest is a line I won’t cross—I have enough siblings, half-siblings, and step-siblings of both genders to make it a major “ew”—and I admittedly hesitated when it became clear that Poison and Mercy, um, give each other a hand. However, since they were adopted from separate orphanages and only raised together in the same house, I decided I could handle it. (If not, I’d have to quit reading The Dresden Files, which I refuse to give up.) This could potential be a problem for some readers, which is the only reason I even mention it.

I had one major issue with this story, and that was the writing style. I get that the author was trying to capture the prim-and-proper, sometimes overdone, atmosphere of the Victorian era, but they went a little overboard. Sentences tended to be rather long, meandering, and flowery and by the time I’d reached the end, I’d forgotten where it started. Example: “If he thinks their names uncommon, he does not betray it, and it is a well-known fact that any persons who spend much time with Mr. Harris soon find themselves in the company of actresses of a particular type and other performing females who find it convenient to employ a number of different identities as they go about their various nocturnal activities.” This story is full of lines like that and it led to my attention wandering rather badly at times. Don’t get me wrong, the author certainly conveys the information we need as readers and sets a great atmosphere, but did it REALLY need to be such a mouthful?

As for editing, I stumbled across minor typos—missing articles and possessives—but nothing pervasive or deal-breaking. Another round of editing would not have been amiss, though.

Bottom line: This was fun and interesting, with just the right amount of spice-to-plot balance to make it a great read. I’d recommend Poison and Mercy to anyone who enjoyed Grace Draven’s Gaslight Hades but prefers a little more heat.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon

Poison and Mercy: A Girls’ Adventure
by E.C. Elvedeane
Release Date: November 28, 2017
Publisher: Strange Fictions Press

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