First off, I have to say, even if I wasn’t interested in steampunk, the cover would have caught my eye, because… wow… What a cover. It really reflects the story too.
This is a Steampunked and fictionalized story based on the life of Caroline Herschel. Following quite is straight from the author.
“The Lady Astronomer is inspired by the life of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848). She suffered from both Smallpox and Typhus, was a milliner, soprano, her brother William’s Assistant – he discovered Uranus, then known as George’s Star for the King who funded the build of the ‘Great Forty-Foot’ telescope – and most importantly, perhaps, became the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet. Not to mention the first woman in the UK to receive a working wage, from the King if you don’t mind.”
Lucretia’s life as an astronomer is quickly turned on its head by her eldest brother when he is commanded by the king to build the grandest telescope in the land. Her nights spent on rooftops gazing at the stars are replaced by adventure as the family move to be nearer the king. In a race to build the Forty-foot telescope on time, misfortunes take their toll. The lady astronomer finds court life to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Can she find the strength inside to overcome the obstacles threatening her destiny? Only the stars will tell.
The Lady Astronomer is a fast read that’s hard to put down, so you’ll want to make sure you have an afternoon or two to devote to it. The main character, Lucretia, is quirky and fun to relate too, and her animal friends add interesting depth to the story and her character. She is an astronomer who pays the bills by making outrageous hats for the “fashionable” ladies. She lives with her brothers, one of whom named a planet after the king. This naming sets off a string of events that changes their lives. The king is apparently quite taken with having a planet named after him and chooses to move the family, pets and all, closer to him so they can build the “forty footer” – the largest telescope created. Many mishaps delay construction, some of them humorous and some of them much more serious. Along the way Lucretia finds out who her friends really are, and a potential love, faces tragedy and comes through it all with her wit and humor intact.
I really enjoyed this story. I always enjoy reading about strong women in history and adding in the steampunk gadgets, balloon rides, excellent characterization, slightly over the top but believable situations, and good fun humor, and I was really turning the pages. I did think it a bit odd that the characters referred to other characters as Mr. W, Mrs. W, etc instead of using real last names, but there may have been a cultural context I missed. I highly recommend this if you enjoy fast paced steampunk stories.