Sophronia Temminnick is 14 and supposed to be concerning herself with becoming a lady, Sophronia however, would much rather concern herself with matters such as spying on house guests using her house’s dumbwaiter (it doesn’t end well). Sophronia’s mother decides the only thing to do with her is send her off to finishing school, Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. However, before she (and fellow new student Dimity) arrive at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s their carriage is attacked by flyaway men (like highway men, but they, you know, fly).
Upon arrival at her new (floating) finishing school Sophronia begins to realize she’ll be learning much more than just how to become a lady (although that is still part of the process). The school’s teachers include a vampire and a werewolf (who makes sure to keep his top hat on, no matter his form) and Sophronia quickly earns herself a nemesis in a far more accomplished student, Monique de Pelouse. In between learning how to curtsy properly, how to most effectively blush and flutter her eyelashes, and making sure to always have a handkerchief on her person (“not only a communication device, but it an also be dropped as a distraction, scented with various perfumes and noxious gases for discombobulation, used to wipe the forehead of a gentleman, or even bandage a wound, and of course, you may dab at the eyes or nose if it is still clean” (p124)), Sophronia is trying to figure out what Monique is up to and keep her mechanical dog Bumbersnoot fed a steady diet of coal.
Etiquette & Espionage is a fun steampunk story that isn’t too heavy handed with the steampunk. Sophronia gets stuff done and without much waffling on weather she should or not, such as scale balconies on the airship to get coal for her mechanimal, she just does it (which is quite refreshing). It’s not your typical beach read, but this book could definitely serve as an entertaining summer read.