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Lancaster's Luck #1

The Gilded Scarab

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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 London 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.

314 pages, ebook

First published February 15, 2015

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Anna Butler

16 books149 followers

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5 stars
202 (36%)
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217 (39%)
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107 (19%)
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21 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 145 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,890 followers
February 24, 2015
I liked this very much. The writing is terrific, the descriptions vivid. Great story set-up. Rafe, the narrator, is strongly characterised and immensely likeable and funny. Fabulous political machinations and a well done setting. Loved the concept of the Houses.

I do wish it had had a better development edit, because there are several plot points and threats that are set up and then defused, or left dangling. They promised lots of lovely extra conflict and excitement and I'd have really liked to see those played out.

A good, well-written story that I really liked, and more books in this world would be very welcome.
Profile Image for * A Reader Obsessed *.
2,107 reviews432 followers
July 3, 2019
4 Steampunk Stars!

Definitely understated but really, a great story that I found compelling and interesting.

The blurb truly says it all.

Picture a reimagining of Europe in 1899, full of political intrigue and where society is largely based on the many houses (major and minor) that influence status, as well as trade, government, and the royal crown. This story stars Rafe Lancaster, quasi outcast from his minor house of Stravaigor, eschewing rules and expectations, marching to the beat of his own drum. He’s lucky enough to have procured a military enlistment to be an aeronaut and has been blissfully detached from London for almost a decade doing what he does best, and that’s fly. However, a crash robs Rafe of his perfect sight, and he’s swiftly medically discharged, dumped right back in the thick of the political machinations he so purposely has avoided.

As Rafe reevaluates his life and licks his wounds, there’s a slow romantic development with another who has many facets and secrets, all of which makes things so much more complicated. Granted, this story took awhile to pick up speed, but it was still rich in world building, especially house “aristocracy” and how they live to gain favor and manipulate all, including Rafe, who has a few tricks up his sleeve to maintain his distance and come out ahead.

Overall, this was steampunk lite (and how I wish there were more MM out there with this particular setup) with the need to keep sexual proclivities a secret. It also had a nice slow burn, a good dash of action and suspense, and ultimately, a fulfilling sexy romance. Me reading the sequel is definitely on the horizon, and I hope this pans out to be more than just a two book series!
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 73 books2,498 followers
March 30, 2015
This is a great read - a fun steampunk setting for a Victorianesque tale of love and intrigue, with a great main character. Rafe is an aviator in the Imperium's Aero Corps whose injuries after a crash force him into medical retirement. Rafe is very self-sufficient and determined to live on his own terms, These include finding like-minded men at local molly-houses, despite the risk, and finding a new occupation that doesn't put him under the thumb of the leaders of his House.

On his first visit to an establishment after leaving the forces, Rafe meets Edward. A night together forges a connection between them, but Edward is leaving the country for months, and Rafe relegates him to the "if only" category, while rebuilding his life. In the process he then meets Daniel, another attractive man with some common interests. But Daniel is moody and clingy, and then Edward returns from abroad. Rafe's retirement becomes complicated, as it turns out that people are not always who they seem, and the Great Houses are deeper in his life than he realized. His personal goals, Imperial issues, class, intrigue, and money, intersect in an action-filled climax.

This story is heavy on action and plot, but there are also effective moments of understated emotion on Rafe's part. There is a small amount of nicely-heated sex and some well-drawn-out tension, and although the end is HEA, I would dearly love to read more about these two men and this interesting society.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,859 reviews85 followers
November 3, 2017
This was good...like really, really good...

While I really enjoy steampunk, I have to admit I'm kinda' picky about what I read. I've had this book for a while now and I kept doing that thing where I squirrel off to this and that but when I saw that a second book was being released I decided that it was time to buckle down and get it done and I am more than a little happy that I did.

'The Gilded Scarab' is my first time reading a book by this author and let me just say 'not only is this Ms. Butler's wheel house she is in the driver's seat' and before the end of the first chapter I was more than a little confused as to why I didn't read this sooner.

I was totally enamored with both the world building and the character development. The world building in this story was huge which can sometimes be an obstacle for me because I admit I can become bored in spite of the fact that world building especially in genres like scifi, fantasy or steampunk can be as crucial to the story as the characters and plot but Ms Butler has created a story here that perfectly mixes the development of plot, characters and world building both getting and keeping my attention no matter what the story focus was at the time.

Rafe Lancaster is the main character and the focus of much of this story and he's awesome. Rafe became a fighter pilot in an effort to remove himself from his families influence and basically because flying is his passion. Unfortunately the resulting injury from an accident forces Rafe out of the Aero Corps and into making some life changes...one of which is his return to Londinium.

Rafe's return to the place of his birth also brings him under closer scrutiny from his house...houses are the social system that this society functions under and their influence over the individual members is both considerable and unwanted by Rafe.

When Rafe takes his maiden journey back into society he meets one Ned Winters. It's just suppose to be casual, no attachments, an evenings dalliance. But as their evening progresses each man realizes that they want more than one night and how much they enjoy each others company...unfortunately Ned is an Aegyptologist and about to leave for Aegypt for a few months separating him and Rafe before things can really even start between them. Rafe's efforts to reintegrate himself into society and rebuild his life goes from challenging to more than a little complicated as new people enter his life and old friends re-emerge.

With Ned gone Rafe throws himself into rebuilding his life and becomes the owner of a coffee house...how can you not love a man who appreciates coffee? Personally I'm not even going to try and honestly I just like Rafe. He's someone I'd sit down and have coffee with. With the successful launch of his coffee house Rafe again ventures out into society looking for company and finding an entanglement that may be a whole lot more than he'd bargained for...especially once Ned returns. Things begin to get more than a little bit complicated and interesting as Rafe and Ned are reunited and realize that one night months ago was only a small sample of what they could have and despite the obstacles both men want more.

I was so enchanted with this story it's twist, turns and complexities drew me in and kept me both interested and wanting more. This is neither a simple nor easy story it's filled with twist, turns and complexities as the story unfolds while this story contains two plots the first one being an over all arc that begins with this book but continues, the second plotline is contained within this book but still connected to the overall story arc and the growing relationship between Rafe and Ned.

As the first book in Anna Butler's series "Lancaster's Luck"...'The Gilded Scarab' undertakes a big task setting the scene for a series that's filled with a diverse group of characters, it's own unique settings, social structure and story lines that take the reader to a different place and time, but it's a task that's been accomplished and has left this reader wanting more so I'm definitely on board for whatever comes next at the Lancaster's Luck Coffee House...anyone care to join me for a little adventure and a cuppa'?
Profile Image for Ulysses Dietz.
Author 13 books618 followers
November 25, 2015
I try not to grant five stars to books, but I finally gave in as I finished Anna Butler’s “The Gilded Scarab.” This was such fun, so deeply romantic, and so richly written. I can imagine that people who have no liking for Dickens or Trollope might find it tough sledding, because Butler meticulously creates a parallel world to ours in late Victorian London, and embellishes it with details that are historically accurate, even as she envelops her narrative in a savory steampunk fantasy that throws everything just a little bit off.

The aged Queen Victoria still lives, and rules a vast Imperium Britannicum without benefit of Parliament. Instead, her aristocracy is divided into corporate “houses” bound by blood and money, each of them somewhere between the family houses of the “Dune” novels and the mafia clans of “The Godfather” books. While the houses rule the empire largely through business and financial manipulation, there is rather more assassination going on than is strictly comforting. Londinium is still mostly recognizable, but for the fact that horses and other pre-technological notions have been replaced by cold fusion, phlogiston and aether as power sources. A nod to H.G. Wells reminds us of the setting and the author’s mindfulness of precisely what she is doing.

The central character, through whose damaged eyes we see Butler’s fantasy world, is Rafe Lancaster, black sheep of a cadet branch of a minor house. Bereft of the aerofighter career that had made his name in the Queen’s army, Lancaster quietly returns to Londinium (indeed the original Roman name for that city) and tries to build a new life for himself. Soon after his return, he spends one night with a beautiful man in an elegant Covent Garden molly house – a discreet place for men seeking male companionship – and then finds a haven in a run-down coffee house by the Museum Britannicum. The action of the book is surprisingly small in focus, and all of it derives from these two moments in Lancaster’s rebuilt life.

Butler is as careful with language as she is with seemingly minor details. The names of the various houses smack of pre-modern England, suggesting their antiquity and their sources in the mists of history post-1066. This is a world where everyone speaks English, but in which street signs still use Latin. Butler gets the feel of the place and the time, right down to a visit to Garrard’s, the royal jewelers. This is not grandstanding; it roots the narrative in a kind of authenticity that makes the steampunk fantasy flow logically into the historical framework. There are times when the dialogue veers into more modern idiom, but the author is careful to maintain the tone of Sherlock Holmes (who does NOT appear anywhere here, because, after all, he was fictional) so as not to break the spell of her skillful world-building.

In the end, this is a romance. It is about Rafe Lancaster’s discovery of love in a way he never anticipated, in a world he is trying to re-learn. There is a very Victorian approach to love here, very old-fashioned and genteel – even in the context of molly houses and illegal homosexuality. And yet, through it all, Anna Butler gives her readers a very modern vision: a world where love will find a way and change a man’s life.

Profile Image for M.
851 reviews102 followers
April 21, 2021
I really liked this book. It was a fun steampunk caper about proper coffee set against an interesting alternative-universe Edwardian London. I liked it for the writing, sure, but also because it reminded me of one of my favourite places in Cape Town:


Truth Coffee. Super cool steampunk roastery. (A bit touristy now, but still worth the visit)

Anyway, it's an entertaining, sexy novel with a likeable protagonist and a satisfying ending. Give it a go if you're into that kind of thing.
Profile Image for fleurette.
1,328 reviews110 followers
February 1, 2020
A pretty good story, with the main character as the strongest point.

Rafe Lancaster is an interesting and fully formed character. I expected him to be a little bit more of a tortured hero, but he is not. Which doesn't bother me after all. The whole story is basically focused on him. We watch him from the moment he leaves the air force as a result of an accident that damaged his eyesight. Rafe is a hero who basically creates the whole story, since the other threads are not outstandingly developed.

It's a pity. Because this story has a lot of potential. The world created by the author is interesting although maybe not exceptionally different from the others we know in this genre. At times it seems to me a bit unfinished. But maybe that's just me. I think it looks somewhat hasty, perfunctory, not entirely connected to the plot. I recently read Witchmark and it amazed me how the world created by the author shaped the plot. That's what I lacked here. This story could have happened just as well in a completely different world with completely different laws. In fact, it might not even be steampunk world. This is an missed opportunity in my opinion.

I'm also a bit disappointed with the story. I didn't feel it at all when I read this book, which is great. But now that I finished it, I realize that there are basically no well-developed threads here. The suspense thread is actually rather small. The love thread is also not so extensive or full of events. Politics between the Houses does not take up much space either. I repeat, when you read a book it does not bother you, but after I can not tell what exactly this book was about. The main plot is Rafe's life after leaving the air force. It's his story. I was really counting on more, especially on some suspense, perhaps even related to the political intrigue. And although at the end we have a suggestion that there may be something more in all this, for me it is a bit too little too late.

This does not mean that I did not like the book. On the contrary, it's a well-written story that I definitely recommend. I am also adding the next book to my TBR list. It looks like we can see some political intrigue in it, finally.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,372 reviews121 followers
May 25, 2021
A rare full five stars. I might have had a couple of tiny niggles, but you’ll never know of them. One of the best books I’ve read in this genre. RTC
Profile Image for Chris, the Dalek King.
1,167 reviews146 followers
October 11, 2017
I really hope that this gets a sequel one day because I really loved it. The is an AU steampunk story that is set in an England that does not have a parliamentary monarchy, but an oligarchical monarchy (there is not a democracy with MPs and Prime Ministers, instead it is really run by a collection of Powerful Houses that control both the economy and the government in most aspects). It was a fascinating mixture of Victorian setting and morals, with modern technologies like datapads and burglar alarms. Instead of things being run by electricity they are run on aether and steam. And despite how weird a mixture, this book really worked. All the various aspects where mixed together perfectly so that you don't even notice that you are totally accepting that wireless communicators work in Victorian Londinium (London).

I found this story so much fun to read and despite the fact that the romance was a bit of a slow burn (after the initial meeting, that is) I didn't mind at all. The characters and setting really bring this story to life and I enjoyed every minute I was reading it.
Profile Image for Eugenia.
1,586 reviews230 followers
June 25, 2019
Utterly divine! This steampunk mystery-romance had me enthralled not only by its intriguing plot, but by it's complex and imperfect characters, fantastic world-building, and above par writing!

At the beginning I didn't much care for our MC, Rafe Lancaster. He was a conceited, proud, tactical, and irreverent pilot. Of course, his devil-may-care attitude was also extremely attractive. Unable to fly due to a head and eye injury in the war, he now finds himself back home in Londinuim with little money or prospects unless he kowtows to his House.

Our other MC, Ned Winters is very distrustful of strangers and especially Rafe when he meets him in Rafe's newly purchased coffeehouse.

I won't go into much more detail--there are several stellar reviews that properly do this book justice. Suffice it to say, that I loved this book. I am a fan of steampunk, and mystery, but above all I am a fan of excellent writing and, for me, this book had it all.
Profile Image for Georgie-who-is-Sarah-Drew.
1,069 reviews124 followers
November 11, 2020
Great fun. Imaginative steam-punky politics and an MC who's actually got a real character. Throw in a decent-ish romance and the coffee-shop competence porn I didn't know I needed, and you've got a very very acceptable yarn. The plot's a bit unhinged, but did I mind? Nope, I was off finding books 2 & 3.

Edited, to add the best line in the book:
"Best avoid the liver and onions, sir. The missus is a godsend in many ways, but she don't understand offal. Not the way offal should be understood, if you follow me."
Profile Image for Amy Durreson.
Author 34 books360 followers
January 8, 2017
Oh, that was fun. Great steampunk adventure. Our hero is a dashing aeronaut, forced to retire after an accident. Trying to make a fresh start, he takes over a coffee shop near the British museum, gets embroiled with one Aegyptologist (and falls for another), and ends up tangled up in shady political goings-on. A high note to start the year on. Recommended. :)
Profile Image for Simaris.
65 reviews35 followers
April 7, 2022
mijn eerste 1-ster review van het jaar, here we goooo…!! ik heb nog nooit zo’n trainwreck gezien lol

ah wat een teleurstelling, ik had zo veel hoop maar hélaaaaasss. ken je dat gevoel dat je zo enthousiast bent over een boek zelf nog voordat je erin begint en dan na 2 hoofdstukken wil je het liefst je reet ermee afvegen…?? ja dat dus. alsof iemand me in zn busje heeft getrokken met de belofte op een leuk vermakelijk boekje met world building en steampunk dingetjes en een leuk stukje m/m romance dat toch niet te dominant is, nou ik was dus 100% in de val gelokt, oml wat een failure

oké dus om wel even positief te beginnen: ik vond de 1e zin tof, maar daarna ging t allemaal héél rap bergafwaarts. dus het hoofdpersonage dat, idk, toch echt de held van Het Verhaal moet zijn (toch…?? TÓCH…??!!) is eigenlijk gewoon best een irritante s.o.b. die totaal, maar dan ook echt TOTÁÁL niks aan t verhaal toevoegde. ik weet eigenlijk nog steeds niet wie ik meer haat, hem of de antagonist van t hele zooitje en dat zegt wel wat.
oh en de arc waar hij doorheen ging was eigenlijk best wel heel onlogisch en oppervlakkig en oml zelfs mijn theepot heeft meer persoonlijkheid. oh man wat een inconsistente zak aardappelen. misschíen had hier ff een proeflezer overheen gemoeten. eerst is ie nog claustrofobisch a.f. als ie zelfs maar aan een vaste relatie denkt, en dan aan t einde wil ie alleen nog maar de love interest voor de rest van zn leven. en ja i know, dat is ontwikkeling en zo bla bla, maar doe het dan goed. zorg dat het logisch is en niet te snel gaat; dit was een snelweg en ik wil gewoon een hobbelig rotpaadje waar je reet zeer van gaat doen. mensen houden niet van verandering, i tell you, en dit alles kwam gewoon nogal als een 180 degree turn uit de lucht vallen. nou ja.

o ja ik noemde net Het Verhaal, maar dat was er eeeigenlijk ook niet eens. of nou ja misschien gebeurde er wel iets, maar dat werd gewoon in de laatste 2 hoofdstukken gepropt en er was totaal geen goede aanloop naar, als die er al was. anyway, om even samen te vatten, dit gebeurde er zo ongeveer;
1 waarom doen we geen flashback van 3 hoofdstukken lang, wie the fuck heeft de auteur verteld dat dit een goed idee was
2 een heleboel random crap in het midden waaronder 3 sex scènes die absOLUUT NIET fade to black waren, y’all als ik porno wil lezen dan zoek ik daar op internet wel naar, thanx
3 en in die laatste paar hoofdstukken had de auteur zoiets van ‘OH KUT ik ben m’n vuurwerk & sparkles vergeten’ en probeert de hoofdpersoon alsnog de wereld te redden of zoiets, idk, ik zat toen allang niet meer op te letten
4 als bonus, laten we nog een sex scène toevoegen want die hadden we nog niet genoeg

en dan heb ik het meest irrelevante gedeelte nog niet eens gehad, want wtf doen die ‘Houses’ daar nou eigenlijk, is dit een harry potter fanfic of zo…??? ik heb die hele serie nooit gelezen #sorrynotsorry maar ik weet nog net dat er zoiets als Huizen bestaat daar. als dit een poging was om dat na te apen is het in elk geval geen goeie poging geweest. als je dan toch zoiets als een secondary bad guy erin wilt doen maak ze dan relevant en zorg dat ze fucking eng en onheilspellend zijn en dat ze (hear me out) iets toEVOEGEN, just sayin’

(ik ben bijna klaar met ranten ik zweer het)

over geloofwaardigheid gesproken, dit zou toch een steampunk zijn…??!! dat was juist wat me in het busje lokte, dammit!! het enige wat een beetje steampunkish was, waren die (totaal overbodige) airships in die ene (net zo overbodige) flashback, de rest… hmm, hoe ga ik dit vriendelijk zeggen… lasers?? oortjes en digitale comm systemen?? vingerafdruk scanners??!! oh hoe steampunk is dat :D *sad noises*

oké laatste puntje dan, want mn bloeddruk is serieus niet gezond meer. ik ben oprecht de tel kwijtgeraakt met hoe vaak ik met mn ogen rolde en ik denk echt dat mn buren dat op een gegeven moment gingen horen. ik zou bijna de e-reader tegen de muur hebben gegooid maar da’s zo zonde van mn kobo, dus dat heb ik maar niet gedaan. maar oml de neiging was GROOT. de schrijfstijl was saai, wel heel simpel af en toe, absOLUUT niet grappig (behalve die ene eerste zin) en de afsluitingen van hoofdstukken was zo repetitief dat ik spontaan in janken wilde uitbarsten na de 4e herhaling :D

maar er is nog wel een silver lining. nu is mijn standaard weer verlaagd voor mijn volgende boek, dus die kan onmogelijk tegenvallen hierna, halleluja…!! tis een beetje sad dat het zo moet, maar ja… zo gaan die dingen, weet je… dat is het leven nu eenmaal, i guess. misschien ben ik gewoon een beetje veeleisend, idk, maar t maakt me wel een beetje triest

anyway thanx dat je naar mijn ted talk kwam. please neem mijn lijden in acht en lees dit niet. ik ga een dokter zoeken voor mn onvermijdelijke aneurysma

(trouwens ik bedenk me net, zaten er eigenlijk wel vrouwen in dit verhaal..??)
Profile Image for Sarah Madison.
Author 525 books290 followers
February 16, 2015
I've been waiting for this book to be released so I could come here and tell everyone what a marvelous story it is! This is the part where I tell you that Anna is in my critique group, and I've been privileged to watch this tale unfold from the beginning, however, this isn't a case of 'omg, I have to say something nice about a friend's book!'. No, this a situation where you read something that is so good, it makes you weep with despair because you know you'll never write anything a tenth as fantastic!

Steampunk, political intrigue, coffee houses, lovers separated by duty, Egyptology--and best of all, Rafe Lancaster, a rakish pilot trying to make his way in the world when he receives a medical discharge from the military--and the only life that gave him the freedom to live on his own terms. Accepting aid from his family would make him beholden to them--and in a time where oligarchies and powerful Guild Houses rule, it's the equivalent of being part of a mob family to a certain extent--something Rafe wants no part of. He may not have a choice, however...

The world-building is phenomenal, the story is gripping, but it is the characters that will make you fall in love. Don't take my word for it--read it for yourself! Trust me, everyone will be talking about their new favorite book boyfriend--Rafe!

Profile Image for Erica.
1,491 reviews27 followers
October 17, 2022
2022 Re-Read:

This book is amazing. The audio performance is amazing. If the rest of the series doesn't make it to audio I will be forever heartbroken.

2017 Re-Read:

This book made me think I loved Steampunk. But I've read other Steampunk stories since then and so I've had to decide that it's just Anna Butler's Steampunk that I love.
Profile Image for Caz.
2,645 reviews1,002 followers
December 7, 2022
I've given this an A for narration and a B+ for content at AudioGals, so 4.5 stars rounded up.

Sad to say, but Anna Butler’s name wasn’t even on my radar when I saw The Gilded Scarab crop up at Audible, but Gary Furlong’s name on the cover together with a quick peek at the reviews on Goodreads convinced me to take a punt – and I’m glad I did. It’s the first book in a trilogy with a steampunk-y vibe set in an AU Victorian era and it’s full of excellent period detail (many of the historical events of the time are referenced), strong worldbuilding, and boasts a fully three-dimensional and thoroughly engaging lead character.

In this world, the Britannic Imperium is ruled, under the monarch, by eight Convocation Houses which hold all the political power. They divide government departments between them and staff them with members of their own Houses or of the Minor Houses allied to them. Captain Rafe Lancaster is a minor scion of one of those Minor Houses, who, instead of becoming an equally minor government official, decided to join the Aero Corps, much to the annoyance of his family. He’s become one of the Corps’ best – if not THE best – aeronauts; he’s well-liked and a bit of a dare-devil (sometimes a troublemaker) but when push comes to shove, he’s the man for whatever job the Corps wants to throw at him. When the book opens, he’s fighting in South Africa (in the equivalent of what we know as the Boer War) when the famous ‘Lancaster’s Luck’ finally runs out, and his aerofighter is shot down while on a mission. Rafe survives the crash with mostly cuts and bruises, but the head injury he sustains damages his optic nerve which means his vision is no longer fit for military service, and he is medically discharged.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.
Profile Image for Annezo.
249 reviews4 followers
May 19, 2020
I got this first volume of the series when it was free on KU. I read it, then left it sitting on my e-reader for a couple of weeks, thinking about the story and the characters. After that, I gave up :) and bought it, and the sequels.

A delightful, steampunk version of Victorian England where the Commons and Parliament are replaced with a series of Houses that run and control almost everything. As you might imagine, House politics are brutal.

Rafe isn't interested in being a pawn in House politics so when he's invalided out of the RAF, he ends up buying a coffeehouse.

And he meets a man. Edward. Sadly, after their one glorious night together, Edward confesses that he's about to leave England for several months, but Rafe has secret hopes that they can reconnect once they're both back in London.

After that, things get complicated. House politics have to be dealt with, jealous lovers have to be placated (or dumped), and envious business rivals have to be thwarted.

Good writing, a variety of interesting characters, novel world-building, an all-around good read.

The most enjoyable new series I've read in a while. I hope Anna Butler has more adventures in store for these characters!
Profile Image for Elin.
Author 19 books190 followers
February 21, 2015
Exactly my type of book. This one pushed all my buttons for all kinds of reasons, so it's my recommendation for the week.

I adore the whole steampunk vibe with shades of Rider Haggard stiff-upper-lippery, men of enormous personal bravery and magnificent whiskers and clothing with buttons and laces enough to slow the between the sheets action down to a delicate pavane before the frantic scramble of consummation. There are manners, there is politeness, there is what should be done and the heroes dance between the expectations of society, each other and necessity to try to achieve happiness.

More here
Profile Image for Marge.
913 reviews4 followers
October 31, 2017
I really liked this tale of Rafe Lancaster finding a new place for himself back in Londinium after he was invalided out of the Service following an accident which damaged his sight. This is a long book, which was wonderful because we get to see Rafe relearning how to live in the civilian world, finding new friends, a new career, and dealing with the various family members who have little use for him unless he can advance their interests. The writing flowed very smoothly and I found the initial setup interesting and fun, I think because of Rafe's ironic and somewhat humorous take on much of what was going on. As for his change in circumstances? Well, that never bothered Rafe at all, and the watering of his eyes occasionally--that was just a bit of dust in them, or a reaction to his new glasses, or the lighting...or something. *grin*

I am not very fond of the steampunk genre, but this book seemed more like an alternate universe to our own and I liked it immensely. Much of the new or altered technology needed little explanation, and most explanation was done quickly and seamlessly, with no unnecessary fanfare. The House system of families was probably the most different from our world. I didn't bother to puzzle over it too much, and I felt I understood what I needed to know to fully enjoy the story.

It does take a while to get into the romance in the book, though sex was on the table fairly early on. In many books I would probably have been impatient to get to "the good stuff," but I really enjoyed seeing Rafe's relationships with all the secondary characters. We get some foreshadowing that romance is in the air for our hero, but from his POV he doesn't really believe in "love" but rather the enjoyment of a companion and a friendly relationship. I eagerly anticipated his dilemma as he realized he was actually falling in love and tried to tell himself that it wasn't really so.

Minor spoiler:

This is such a well-developed world and I liked so many of the characters that I really do hope we see more books following this one. There was a bit of setup so we get an idea that Rafe could be involved in some dangerous and covert operations in the future. And I would love to see more of Rafe and Ned together, since dealing with the outside world will have to mean their relationship will not be an easy one. I really look forward to additional stories about them.
Profile Image for Tex Reader.
465 reviews20 followers
June 4, 2021
2.5 - Nice Historical Rom, but Steampunk Only In Its Adjectives.

This was not quite what I expected, but still an enjoyable steampunk-lite, rich kid gets independent semi-rich kid romance.

I liked the time period that Anna Butler put me in (1899), and what little there was of it, the steampunk and archeology. The first person worked well, as the MC narrated how he got from there to here, sprinkled with a good sense of humor. I got into the his Boer War experience as an aerofighter pilot, and then the Londinium coffeehouse, its look and its regular customers. I appreciated that Butler retained one aspect of the times, for gays "a period of keeping their heads well below the parapet," even referencing the Cleveland Street scandal and Oscar Wilde trial. And I appreciated the little details that put a smile on my face - like his drinking a scotch and soda as I do.

But there were disappointments, a main one, since I've read a lot of steampunk lately, was that this was steampunk-lite. A good AU was created, but it lacked much SP imagination. The rule of the Houses was a nice creation, but that is not SP, just AU, like Londinium. Mainly the SP consisted of just putting a mechanical sounding adjective in front of a more modern device without much about its workings. Just a few examples early on: aerofighter (just a couple decades before their real time), autocar, autohansom (cab), analytical engine (calculator), datareader (e-reader), datascope (laptop), Marconi (radio/receiver), kinetoscope camera (surveillance camera), photon globe (streetlight), and again, no explanation beyond just mentioning cold fusion powering a slow-drip coffee machine and guns. That's wordsmithing, not SP; items, but without any substance.

Another disappointment was that, for some reason, I was expecting more of an Egyptian or archeological adventure (probably mixed it up with book 2). Having cut my teeth on Indiana Jones adventures, my appetite was whet. Unfortunately, once it moved from the Boer War in the beginning, I never got away from Londinium. And as for the adventure, the plot was good enough, but I could see the villains a mile away. Still, it did have some good House intrigue and action scenes.

Same with the romance, I enjoyed it, but ... even for a "romance" this was a little too unrealistic about how two men are romantic, including the sex. The latter took a while too long, even for a slow burn, a little too convenient for the story at the end, and wasn't all that steamy. In those instances, the fantastical was jarring enough to take me out of the romance itself.

With all that, I still enjoyed the read, it just wasn't all I had hoped it would be.
Profile Image for Karen.
205 reviews12 followers
July 4, 2020
An interesting reading experience for me. I was impatient with this steampunk/a-u British Empire story's pace for quite awhile, then found myself on board. I didn't take to Rafe right away, but his self-deprecating humor and internal monologue revealing a strong moral compass gradually won me over. This feels like a longish story and takes awhile to focus on the nice bit of intrigue woven into it. I suspect the dangling threads and loose plot points noted by other readers may be there to leave room for a sequel or series. One can only hope.
16 reviews
May 16, 2017
An Awful Disappointment
I picked up this book after breezily reading the plot summary and thought: "steampunk and Egyptology! How could it go wrong?" And the truth is, I still don't have an answer to that. This is one of those books that pretend to be something they are not. In this case the book pretends it has a plot, and that said plot has something to do with scarabs and steampunk. But, steampunk is a bit more than just giving modern tech a new and weirdly spelled name and saying "this all happens in a Victorian setting". And what little part the scarab played, was spoiled by the book's title. It would have been more apt to name the book "the gilded coffeehouse" (coffee and discussions of it plays a big part of the book).
I can't even say that this is a bad romantic/erotic novel that uses a steampunk façade to make it more memorable (or more likely - to lure unsuspecting readers, like me) nor can I pinpoint it to any other genres or shelves (other than LGBT, of course) because this book is really just about an annoying smug guy (that the readers are supposed to find super charming) who loses his beloved job, goes back to London, mopes a lot, then becomes the owner of a coffeehouse – which makes him go on and on enthusiastically and tediously about coffee.
The hero, Rafe, is the only (sort of) developed character in the book. We simply don't get enough of the others to make anything of them, especially since his narration colors everything. The world building is lazy – we keep hearing about the houses and how horrible Rafe thinks they are (which doesn't stop him from taking money from his house, and then complain that – shockingly - they expect things in return), but why do they exist? What purpose do they serve, that in this reality the houses came to be? How come the tech in this world is so different than the one in ours, but the history isn't?
There is hardly any plot, but the little there is gets crammed in the end of the book – it's like someone realized the book is about to end without anything actually happening in it and desperately and over enthusiastically tried to over- compensate. Sadly, that person didn't think "plot" needs to makes sense.
The book is a huge disappointment on every level and I have no idea why it got such good grades and good reviews here.

Profile Image for Vivian ♪(┌・。・)┌		.
628 reviews63 followers
February 4, 2016
All my friends (ie two) have suddenly reappeared on GR and so, in honour of the sudden onslaught of nostalgia, I decided to write a review.

And then I realised that I forgot how to write reviews.

And so I'm going to (weakly) dot point the shit out of this:

# overall a wonderfully well written steampunk romance that unfortunately suffers some interesting ... pacing and development issues let's say. It lingers too much in the beginning... speeds up for a little... and falters when they literally introduced the love interest, AND THEN DECIDED TO SEND HIM TO EGYPT FOR HALF THE BOOK (what were you thinking?)

# fresh and intriguing world building, especially in terms of the socio-political nuances --> political power plays, the society created etc.

#strong characterisation with endearing and well-fleshed out characters

# A+ romance... when it was present (again- development + pacing issues). In a weird roundabout sort of way, the absence of the love interest almost made the book stand out in some aspects... there was a sense of growing anticipation, and we allowed to watch the development of the main character without the focal point of romance. The balance of character development and romance was lovely, but maybe could have been achieved in a more satisfactory manner.

All in all, a lovely read that could have perhaps used some extra editing. Whatever. I'm still gagging for a re-read so I guess her job is done.

God reviewing is hard. I'm going to go in hiding again, after this.
I recommend for a light yet hearty read.
Profile Image for Katharina.
631 reviews26 followers
February 15, 2016
This book was such a joy to read.

It was well, very well written, the language perfect for the time and place the story was set in.
Although it's decidedly unhurried on every front - the development, the romance (which actually doesn't play such a big role, just one more happy component), the world building, the politics, Rafe's development - I've had so much fun to simply read this that I didn't find myself impatient at all, something very rare these days. I just wanted to read on and on. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. Most of all though, I fell in love with Rafe. With his voice, with his straight-forward honesty, and with his mentality to just take on life whatever it may bring. With his propensity to mourn his losses, but then to go out again, and just start on over. Rafe was fantastic.

Yes, there are some plot strings very much unfinished - or just let loose at some point it seems. But I read that the author plans to write a sequel to get these taken care of, so I'll just hope for that. I really hope for that. Because this world? I plan to revisit it as often as I'm allowed to!

Profile Image for Alison.
752 reviews30 followers
July 18, 2016
I really liked this. It's a steampunk adventure romance and it's very good. The writing is lovely and detailed and the characters are really engaging. The setting is a neat AU Victorian London with many steampunk elements and the world-building is wonderful. I enjoyed the slower pace of the story and it's mostly about Rafe finding his way in a new life after being invalided out of the military after long service, and then he falls in love and his life is considerably more difficult. This story is full of political intrigue and nefarious plots and good coffee and Aegyptology and heroic derring-do. There are a few loose threads left at the end and I would love to read more about this world. This is a fun story and I really enjoyed reading it. I am looking forward to reading more by this author.
Profile Image for Hemmel M..
529 reviews28 followers
October 10, 2022
I pause at 30 % and maybe will finish it later. I disliked how the first 20% is walking through London and just observing. There are some occurrences after that, but nothing that made me want to know what would happen next.
For a person not liking world building, this novel had just enough to be enjoyable.


I took it up again and read until 45%. I still think it is a tedious experience. We get hints upon hints upon hints and nothing follows through. We know the first lover will become his true love. We know his House will manoeuvre him in a position he does not want. We know he will buy the coffee house. We know his second lover wil leave. We know there is something undisclosed about the purchased building. And we can suspect he knows the ex of his second lover.
I am sick of waiting for predictable plotlines to unfold.
Profile Image for Colette.
621 reviews15 followers
February 19, 2015
4.5 - fantastic steampunk romance adventure. Loved the world building and the political structure do the Houses. Great mix of science fiction and fantasy. I loved it. I hope there will be more stories set in this world
Profile Image for Gerbera_Reads.
1,406 reviews128 followers
February 25, 2022
I loved it despite couple of small pet peeves. The humor was absolutely marvelous. The writing style was just smooth and the story flowing. Despite mostly steady pace the story sucked me in, I just couldn't stop reading till I finished. I enjoyed it immensely.
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