Author: Ariel Tachna
Cover artist: Anne Cain
Amazon Buy link: The Inventor’s Companion
Length: 350 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: I was enchanted by this old-fashioned romance between an inventor and his companion set in a steampunk setting
Gabriel Blackstone’s world is divided quite clearly into castes: everyone knows their place and abides by it. As an inventor in the merchant caste, his life is predictable in its routine until the night his best friends and assistants, Caleb and Andrew, purchase the time—and body—of a companion for his birthday. As an activist in the Caste Equality movement, everything Gabriel believes in tells him to refuse the gift, but then he meets Lucio. The beautiful and alluring companion is far more than the vapid courtesan he’d expected, and he can’t get the man out of his mind.
After that night, Gabriel tells himself to forget about Lucio, but a chance meeting at a ball makes it clear neither of them is willing to ignore the compelling chemistry between them. It will take all their combined trust and cunning, plus the help of a wily aristocrat and a plucky political activist, to overcome the challenges of infidelity, abuse, and social stigma that lay along their road; however, Gabriel knows it will all be worth it if at the end of the day he can call Lucio his own.
If I had to think of one word which would summarize my impression of this story, I think I would pick “enchanting.” I was enchanted by the easy flow of the writing, and by the slow and captivating developments in Gabriel and Lucio’s love story. I was captivated with the story from the very beginning, when inventor Gabriel Blackstone is given a gift of a companion, Lucio, for the evening by his friends and assistants Caleb and Andrew. The world-building is lovely and we keep learning about this world more and more as the action unfolds. The time period is reminiscent of 19th-Century England, however people are divided into several specific casts; if one belongs to the specific cast, his choices for career are limited by a tattoo on his arm. Companions are in essence pleasure slaves, but well-educated and well-bred by their handlers to entertain aristocrats and anybody who can pay for them.
At their first meeting Gabriel leaves a lasting impression on Lucio. I am not a big fan of Insta!Love stories, however I think of this one more as Insta!Attraction. It is simply that they could not forget each other, and it made total sense to me that Lucio would be attracted to the first person in his life who treated him as a fellow human being as opposed to a commodity whose body they bought for the evening.
Gabriel is an honest hard working man, really and truly passionate about his inventions, and by showing us in more detail what Gabriel and his two friends/assistants are working on, the author builds on the steampunk setting without much of an info dump. I really loved hearing about mechanical fans, the dog, and the project which was nearest and dearest to Gabriel’s heart — a flying chair. Gabriel struggling to reconcile his love for Lucio and his dislike of Lucio’s profession was endearing. I may have mentioned before that I rarely find perfect characters attractive, but for the second time recently I see that an author totally sold me on it. Besides his irrational jealousy of Lucio’s profession, Gabriel basically has no flaws and to my surprise I was fine with it.
Lucio was such an easy to like man, who despite being a most sought-after companion, wanted one thing first and foremost — being loved for who he is and being able to have sex with the person he would choose instead of whom his handlers will force upon him. I really liked how we get to see more and more of Lucio and get to know and see more of him than what Gabriel sees at their first meeting — the most beautiful man he had ever seen. We see his passion, his resourcefulness to try to obtain what he really wants, when he can see some hope at the end of the tunnel that achieving his dream could be possible after all. My heart was breaking for Lucio and for his friend Cressida when we get to witness how hard their life can be if for one reason or another they displease their trainers and/or their clients, and I was so happy when they got their well-deserved happy ending.
Lastly, I had a strange feeling reading this story. While I did not notice any particular new concepts in it or exploration of new and daring subjects, I found it to be a very sweet and romantic variation on Pretty Woman (only in a sense of Lucio’s profession), but this writer’s talent just captivated me. I was transported in this world, which came alive for me. I was rooting for Gabriel and Lucio to succeed in getting what they wanted the most, and I was hoping that political reformers would succeed in making this society a better place.
I have read it in one sitting despite the story being quite long and highly recommend it if you are looking for old fashioned romance at its best.