Places a Well-Bred Young Victorian Woman Would Never Admit to Visiting
(At least publicly)
by Colleen Gleason
As I began to create the alternate Victorian London world for my Stoker & Holmes steampunk series, I had a lot of fun thinking about the trouble my two protagonists could get into while on their mission of solving mysteries and catching criminals…and the disreputable places they could go.
Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) and Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram, and descendant of Victoria Gardella) are proper young women who wouldn’t be caught dead displaying an ankle or going out without gloves and a hat…and they certainly wouldn’t be caught in Places of a Certain Reputation, I’m sure.
But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?)…if they were going to help Irene Adler solve crimes and put criminals behind bars, surely they would find themselves in some seedier locales during the course of their adventures. And so I had a little bit of fun deciding on some places they could visit that would give The Clockwork Scarab a little bit of an edgier, grittier feel.
Fenman’s End: a dingy, dark pub in the stews of Whitechapel (yes, where Jack the Ripper was believed to have selected his victims and otherwise lurked about. No self-respecting young woman would make her way to the dangerous, poverty-stricken Seven Dials part of town, and she certainly wouldn’t step food in an establishment like a public house that caters to pickpockets, prostitutes, and a questionable thief known as Pix. But Evaline finds herself surprisingly at home when she visits this establishment—and she even settles in for a bit of a challenge when she agrees to arm wrestle the pub champion…
The Thames Tunnel: A real tunnel that stretches beneath the Thames, originally it was designed in 1825 with the idea of transporting cargo “across” (ie, beneath) the river, which was congested by ships and other vessels. But the tunnel flooded so many times during its construction that that idea was scrapped. Instead, M. Brunel, the engineer, proposed instead that it should be turned into an underground shopping arcade, which opened in 1843. The American author Nathaniel Hawthorne visited it and described the tunnel as “an arched corridor of apparently interminable length … all along the extent of this corridor, in little alcoves, there are stalls or shops, kept principally by women.”
However, by the time Stoker and Holmes visit this tunnel, it’s long been abandoned by society. It’s 1889, and instead of shopping stalls and well-dressed women, the subterranean arcade harbors thieves, pickpockets…and a secret society run by a villainous entity called The Ankh.
Opium Dens: It goes without saying that, even though Mina’s distinguished Uncle Sherlock has been known to visit an opium den (see The Man with the Twisted Lip), she and her crime-solving companion would be expected to stay far away from such places. However, despite the obvious, Mina and Evaline find themselves unwittingly inhaling the sweet, cloying smoke smoldering in small trays as they race against time to save the life of a young society woman.
However, more startling than even the hallucinatory drug, is the attire of the young men who are acting as servants in the den…Mina and Evaline will never be the same after what they see in the opium den!
My two young women also visit some less eyebrow-raising places in The Clockwork Scarab (a ball, the British Museum, and even Scotland Yard), but readers will get to go with them to even more exciting places in their second adventure The Spiritglass Charade (out TODAY!)–when Evaline finds herself darkening the door of The Pickled Nurse!
***To celebrate the release of The Spiritglass Charade: A Stoker & Holmes Book, I will be giving away e-copies of The Spiritglass Charade and The Rest Falls Away, the first book in my almost-steampunk historical vampire hunter series The Gardella Vampire Hunter series…plus a $25 Etsy giftcard so you can buy something fabulously steampunk!***
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