**Copy provided by publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
GOODREADS SUMMARY: Taking place after Wicked as They Come, this original eBook features a mysterious lady and a reclusive mechanical genius who find love and danger in a traveling circus. An elusive woman arrives at Criminy’s doorstep with a steamer trunk, begging for a position in the caravan to perform her unique new act. She opens her trunk to reveal a menagerie of brilliantly colored butterflies. The woman, who calls herself Madam Morpho, is on the run from a dark past in London, where she was forced to leave her equipment behind and abscond with only her tiny performers. Playing a hunch, Criminy hires Madam Morpho on the spot. Taking her down to meet Mr. Murdoch, the reclusive talented engineer who keeps the carnival’s clockworks running, Criminy instructs them to work together to design and build a groundbreaking new circus for the butterflies. Amid the magical ambiance of the circus and the hint of danger from Madam Morpho’s pursuers, she and Mr. Murdoch soon find that their scientific collaboration has produced chemistry of a more romantic kind.
Is it possible to miss a world you’ve never visited? A world that actually doesn’t exist? This is what I asked myself after finishing Delilah S. Dawson’s The Mysterious Madam Morpho, a novella that takes place between books one and two in her Blud Series. You see, I loved the first book, Wicked As They Come. I loved the two main characters, Criminy Stain and Tish Everett. I loved the wholly original world that Dawson created with her unique Bludmen, the traveling caravan of misfits who somehow fit together, and the raging bloodsucking bunnies, badgers, and stags that terrorize the countryside. This is the world of Sang. And I missed it.
The Mysterious Madam Morpho takes place two years after the end of Wicked As They Come and opens with the said Madam Morpho seeking employment with Criminy’s caravan. Tish takes a glance at Madam Morpho’s future, whispers something in a skeptical Criminy’s ear, and Madam Morpho is immediately hired. It’s a great scene that reminded me of why I loved Criminy and Tish in the first book. They are…enchanting. And so begins the mystery of who Madam Morpho is and what she is trying to escape.
“Thank you, Mr Murdoch,” she said. “Truly, and please, call me Imogen.”
“You’re welcome, Imogen,” he said, pencil scratching across the paper. “And you can continue to call me Mr. Murdoch.”
As part of her caravan act, Madam Morpho needs the assistance of the equally mysterious Mr. Murdoch, the caravan’s clockworks creator. Madam Morpho trusts him immediately and they begin working very closely together to get her act up and running. They are both fueled by science and invention and they are both very lonely people, hiding their secrets, and keeping people at a distance.
I loved Madam Morpho – she’s intelligent and very blunt. She’s had a horrendous past but doesn’t let it get in the way of defining a new future for herself. She’s like the rare butterflies that make up her act – ready for a metamorphosis, but one of her own design. Murdoch is just as tortured as she is and with a tragic past of his own. Together they are combustible. The romance is very sexy and very, very sweet. This is one thing I’ve come to appreciate in Dawson’s writing. She hits the right note in terms of the sexy but there’s always something utterly sweet and romantic about the love scenes as well.
Dawson also creates a sense of tension as Madam Morpho’s past must inevitably collide with her present. There’s a beautiful scene where she’s finally able to perform her carnival act with the full knowledge that she’ll be discovered by those who are searching for her. There’s a wonderful juxtaposition of wonder and sadness as we witness something rare and beautiful while at the same time realizing that this is only a moment and that it won’t last.
And of course the world of Sang and the lives of the carnivalleros…dreamy, surreal, grotesque, macabre, adventurous, sweet, humorous, scary. Original. When I started this short novella, after a few pages, I thought to myself, “I missed you, Sang.” And I breathed a sigh of comfort as I settled into one of my favorite new places to be.
The Mysterious Madam Morpho is a wonderful short novella, a quick read filled with romance and some adventure (blud badgers anyone?), and while I think the two main characters may have connected a little too soon and a little too quickly, the story was still able to captivate me from beginning to end. Now, I just have to wait until April for my next fix, ahem, taste of Sang.