Normally, I’m not particularly interested in novels with romantic elements, yet somehow, this debut novel by Lev AC Rosen appealed to me from the first moment I picked it up. It helps, of course, that it has a handsome cover. I received an advance copy a while ago, amused by the description on the back. Immediately I envisioned a novel full of Victorian intrigue and romance, populated by a menagerie of mad scientists and rogues. I wasn’t disappointed.
The story begins with a young woman by the name of Violet Adams who wishes to attend a prestigious male-only science academy. So, she hatches a plot to apply as her brother Ashton, and then impersonate him through the school year. As improbably as it is, the plot is successful, yet full of unforeseen complications. Violet and the headmaster find themselves becoming attracted to one another, even though she is disguised as a boy. Meanwhile, the headmaster’s adopted daughter is smitten with Violet’s disguised personae as Ashton. Then more love triangles form and the blackmailing begins.
I’m not a fan of stories where the characters are continually punished by the narrative, and Lev has crafted a delightfully convoluted and melodramatic story that somehow never devolves into a train wreck. The cast of characters are drawn from the familiar tropes of the Victorian comedy of manners, and though many of them are fairly sketchy in their characterization, I still found a fine catharsis for the central characters. The romantic plots are storybook in their structure, but again, it is the genuine nature of their emotions that lends them authenticity.
Normally I like a bit more grit to my stories than this, but All Men of Genius is a lovely book that left me quite happy. Lev has written a sweet, upbeat novel that feels far more original than the common ingredients would imply. Check it out if you’re looking for something light and entertaining, yet wonderfully crafted. Trust me, it’s good.