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Prosperity #5

There Will Be Phlogiston

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An instructive story in which vice receives its just reward.

Inspired by true and scandalous tales of the Gaslight aristocracy, we present the most moral and improving tale of Lady Rosamond Wolfram.

Weep, reader, for the plight of our heroine as she descends into piteous ruin in the clutches of the notorious Phlogiston Baron, Anstruther Jones. Witness the horrors of feminine rebellion when this headstrong young lady defies her father, breaks an advantageous engagement, and slips into depravity with a social inferior. Before the last page is turned, you will have seen our heroine molested by carnival folk, snubbed at a dance, and drawn into a sinful ménage a trois by an unrepentant sodomite, the wicked and licentious Lord Mercury.

Reader, take heed. No aspect of our unfortunate heroine’s life, adventures, or conduct is at all admirable, desirable, exciting, thrilling, glamorous, or filled with heady passion and gay romance.

150 pages, ebook

First published December 6, 2014

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About the author

Alexis Hall

51 books10.8k followers
Genrequeer writer of kissing books.

Please note: I don’t read / reply to DMs. If you would like to get in touch, the best way is via email which you can find in the contact section on my website <3

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5 stars
194 (33%)
4 stars
205 (35%)
3 stars
113 (19%)
2 stars
38 (6%)
1 star
23 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 125 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,121 followers
December 10, 2014
So this is:

- beautifully written
- free
- 40K words of free
- no, really, free
- featuring a really difficult heroine, who responds to being unloved by being unlovely, a horribly closeted aristocrat who can't accept who he is, and the totally irresistible poor boy turned phlogiston baron Anstruther Jones who gets them both out of their horribly constrained existences.
- part of the amazing Prosperity series, but not written in thieves cant if that was putting you off Prosperity, which it shouldn't
-menage, which is not my cup of tea but it really works. Ros and Arkady are both in love with Jones, but not attracted to one another, but very willing to share. Results are hot and sweet.

Genuinely terrific. If you're not sure about this series or haven't tried this author yet, run do not walk.
Profile Image for Mel.
648 reviews78 followers
June 21, 2016

The secret to happiness, she would say, sipping her tea delicately, is a generous-hearted, sexually amphibious man who desires you, and a confirmed sodomite who admires your hair.

The secret to happiness, I would say, is reading a free stand-alone novelette, set in the same universe as your favourite book of all times.
(Come to think of it, we can scratch the free, because I would pay a lot of money to read a story by Alexis.)

I could say a lot of things to try to convince you to read this book. I could address Prosperity, the steampunk story that sets the world for this book. I could talk about why you should read a book about a polyamourous relationship between a pansexual male, a hetero sexual woman and a gay man. I could tell you how Alexis conquers rules and boundaries.

But I simply don’t want to, because I don’t want to make this book—and my review—about politics or reasons, althouh there was much to say ;-)

I want to show you my love for another great book, for another awesomely written story, for such beautiful language, that it makes me melt.


Let’s meet the protagonists:

Lady Rosamond
She was thinking about Jones and how strange it was to be liked for being unlikeable. For all the things she wasn't supposed to be.
It made rather a nonsense of her entire life.
But, on the other hand, it felt so wickedly good, she could hardly resent it. And she wanted to be kissed again. For being Rosamond. By the uncouth, vulgar, horrible commoner who saw her.

Ros made me smile, a lot. She is a very contradictory character. Somehow naive and clueless, somehow so straight forward and rude. She’s confined but brave and defiant. Seeing her, grasping for love and a better life, was so very satisfying.

Lord Arcady Mercury
"I'm a man. I don't need to be seduced. I know what I want."
"Really?" Something—sharp as lightning—flickered over Jones's face. "Because I don't think you have a bleeding clue."

“There's so much I want to give you, so much I want to share with you. The truth is, I want you to be free, Arkady, but I can't make you.”

Arcady, trapped by societey, trapped by his own demands, full of shame and guilt for desiring men. It is always heart-breaking to see someone struggle so much wiht their identity, and it’s so much more rewarding to see them break free and permit themselves to finally just be and love for the first time.

Phlogiston Baron, Anstruther Jones
He danced well. Unexpectedly so for such an impertinently large man. With ease rather than with grace, but there was something just a little thrilling about the way he moved.

"I think you (Ros) belong to nobody but you, and that I'll want to kiss you until the day you die."
"Then why do you hesitate?"
"Because I think it could hurt me, love. Because I think I'd want more than your kisses."

“Well. No. I didn't expect to like you (Arcady). But you were beautiful, and so put together like you were this perfect gentlemen, but your eyes said nothing but 'love me'" Jones shrugged that shrug that Lord Mercury failed to train out of him. "So I did."

Jones, the hero, the man who dares all, who dares to love and want, who sees Ros and Arcady finally fly.

To witness how these three can find love and happiness together made me unbelievable happy, because it was just beautiful.

Now for the fun part. No. Actually, the whole book is fun, but let’s meet another very unique character, the
Carnivorous mechanical horse
Not effortless, this power, not graceful, or beautiful. She could feel it gathering, working, struggling almost. The grate and grind of metal. The clicking of an artificial heart. And, just then, it didn't seem like less, or imitation, or even limitation. It was triumph and freedom and hers.
She was Prometheus. And this was stolen fire.
Ever burning.


I hope my love for this amazing story shone through. I highly recommend it and if you still have any doubts… It’s free, what do you have to lose?


10 Reasons You Should Read There Will Be Phlogiston
from Alexis Hall's website


My other reviews from the Prosperityverse:

Prosperity (Prosperity, #1) by Alexis Hall see here

Genre: steampunk, romance
Tags: m/m/f
Rating: 5 stars, favourite 2016, favourite
Read count: 2
Profile Image for Karen Wellsbury.
822 reviews38 followers
December 10, 2014
Well, what a jolly romp.

As a rule I'm not a fan of menage, but I'm right fond of Alexis Hall, and the lovely people I read this with. I have to say it was lovely.

What I particularly liked was the 'feel' of Phlo, the Victorian northern industrial revolution backdrop, overlaid with the terrifically mannered social structure; where girls 'come out' for the season and the nouveau riche are looked down upon by the gentry. All very traditional so far.

Into this comes Jones, the epitome of the new rich, a man of immense character and capacity for love. Paying Arcady/ Lord Mercury to teach him how to enter society throws them together, and they ignite. Arcady, so resistant to his nature, so alone and so needful for love, fills part of Jones' desire to create a family. Through Jones, painfully and almost brokenly Arcady brings himself to face his fears and embrace the gift of love.

Ros is marvelous, my favorite character. Very young and innocent, with a wonderfully foul mouth. She also needs Jones to help her find herself, but where Arcady knows what he wants sexually (he may despise himself for it) Ros is only just starting to find out.
Ros is allowed to be 'strong' and Jones is seen to be 'weak' and Arcady wanting romantic gestures, but at no stage so they feel less female or male.

The sex is handled very well, reflecting the different stages in their relationships and personal growth.

And the mechanical horse, used to great effect.
Plus my new word, fundement.

If you were 'scared' by the use of cant in Prosperity (which you needn't be honestly) I would say read this first, its great.

You won't be disappointed.

I would happily have paid for this, even as much as 75p, AND it's a solid 5 star read.

Profile Image for ᴥ Irena ᴥ.
1,649 reviews213 followers
January 22, 2015
This story is full of love. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but that's the truth. And it is beautiful. Reading it made me feel good. It broke my heart too, but it was necessary.

You have this wonderful, huge, unapologetic rich commoner who has so much to give, you end up sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for that moment when he gets what he deserves. And he deserves a lot.

Then you have your lovely, beautiful, scared noble who has to learn a couple of things before the author lets him have what he deserves. And he deserves a lot.

And, finally, you have your wonderfully confused lady who should know better than to trade kisses with men beneath her station. She also has to learn a couple of things before the author allows her to have what she deserves. And after you read about her plan regarding such serious matters as 'configurations', you'll agree she deserves a lot too.

Considering that this story is set in Prosperity world, there is this unfortunate lack of steampunkish things, but these three and a carnivorous mechanical horse make up for it. Sort of.
Go read it.
Profile Image for Nemo ☠️ (pagesandprozac).
865 reviews397 followers
June 16, 2021
i read this as a respite from my ultra-dark reads thinking it would be a fun diversion buT THEN THIS MADE ME CRY

but, as is usual for the author, this has a happy ending, so i actually am fine, even if tears are cascading down my face.

absolutely exquisite characters, deliciously flawed and at times, unlikeable, but with an excellent character arc - which is no mean feat in a novella.

i'm nearly at the end of the Prosperity series now, which is pretty devastating, because i'm obsessed with this world and its characters.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,513 followers
June 1, 2015
This is a lovely and free entry in the series. Just be aware that the Riptide edition I had was half story, but fully half at the end was excerpts from other stories in the series (most of which come before this). That foreknowledge will avoid the moment of deep disappointment as you hit the end of the actual story, with half the volume yet to go.

This is about three main characters, in a menage of sorts - first, our heroine, Lady Rosamond Wolfram, whose practical nature and inquiring spirit are poorly suited to a Regency-esque life of balls, manners and proper marriages. Then there is Lord Mercury, a closeted gay man whose closet is falling apart and whose pain was the deepest heart of the story. And the notorious Phlogiston Baron, Anstruther Jones, wealthy, eccentric, earthy, kind, unhampered by the trivialities of polite society, and a rock that both the others might cling to, if only...

I enjoyed this book in the series a lot (and it probably could be read as a stand-alone, since the other characters and settings appear only as brief mentions.) The language is as accessible as almost any Regency romance, free of thieves' cant, the setting fun but not heavily steampunk (in fact, slightly more conventional than I'd have preferred) and it's a warm, wonderful read.
Profile Image for Vanessa North.
Author 44 books510 followers
December 8, 2014
Another lovely read from Alexis Hall. Thank you, Alexis, for going against the grain and writing an M/M/F. I really enjoyed this triad, and the relationship they formed, and how each character found what they needed in the others. also the mechanical horse was pretty cool. :)

Profile Image for Ellie.
815 reviews165 followers
December 30, 2014
Buddy read with Kat as soon as we get our greedy hands on this one :)

Review mostly likely to come tomorrow.

Hmm, it's seems tomorrow was a long time ago. I somehow forgot the write my review of this.

I'm not a big fan of menage stories, especially in contemporary romance mostly beacuse I'm not convinced how they would work in real life.
I read this one because it's by Alexis Hall and because many things that bother me in contemporary romance work really well in a paranormal/stemapunk setting.

It's a beautifully written story of love and acceptance fitting perfectly in the world of Prosperity.

I loved the relationship between Arkady and Jones. There was a strong contrast between denial and shame and honesty and openness. Arkady was not easy to like all the time but he did grow up to be a better person towards the end.

Jones was kind of perfect from the start - so real and genuine in his emotions as opposed to the petty and fake world of the Gaslight artisicrasy.

Ros was an interesting character - quite young, yet strong and determinate. She had such a strong desire to live, to be happy, to experience things despite her stifling upbringing and background.

The menage was well done and I believed in the feelings of the characters for one another. Still, I wonder why Jones went after Ros when he had already found Arkady. I'm a one-man kind of girl myself and can't really understand the need to go looking for more/another person (be it a man or a woman) when you are already with someone else. But that's just between me and menage stories :)

Overall, I'm certain fans of Prosperity will enjoy this very much. If you haven't yet tried this series, this FREE short story is the perfect opportunity to check out the world of Prosperity and see if it appleas to you.

Profile Image for Blandrea.
139 reviews3 followers
February 8, 2023
So this is like a secret little gem hidden in the back catalogue. If you want to sound like the "before it was cool" people, reference this book.

But seriously, the BEST part about Hall's writing is how UNformulaic it is... the diversity of couples, the constellations of relationships, the valuing of platonic relationships as equal to romantic, and the lack of labelling of people or identities.
Profile Image for Maya.
282 reviews69 followers
January 11, 2015

I had so much fun reading this.

Yes, there are heartbreaking moments as this is the story of three people in search of love in what seems to be an impossible situation, but, as usual, Alexis Hall managed to insert clever humour when most needed.

A lot of challenges for the three characters - fear and shame to overcome, society expectations to throw away, violence ... I won’t forget many of the scenes for a long time. Especially the one in the circus – it was breathtaking.

I loved Jones and Lord Mercury but I must admit it was Ros who stole my heart – what a brave young lady.

Can’t wait to read the Liberty Stories.

Profile Image for Sofia.
1,144 reviews194 followers
January 22, 2015

3.5 stars

When I received this story, I got curious and decide just to read the first page even though I have not yet read Prosperity and then I read some more and then I continued.

The mixture of steampunk and historical romance works plus the characters are marvellously drawn - I wanted to laugh and I wanted to cry because the writing is easy and some situations may be funny but underneath there is truths most of us will recognise. It is light and deep at the same time.

I enjoyed the first three quarters of the book better than the last bit. The last bit took me places I find hard to believe, a utopia I was unable to follow.

But the characters in this story grabbed a hold of my imagination and are not easy to let go, so I’m just going to tweak the story a bit in my imagination for my own personal satisfaction.
Profile Image for Izzy.
Author 2 books40 followers
December 9, 2014
For those already acquainted with Alexis Hall's steampunk novel, 'Prosperity' I apologise for going over facts you are already aware of. However, I wish to encourage others to enjoy the pleasure of the steampunk world of Gaslight.

This pseudo Victorian, Northern English town is founded on the money from mining the mysterious energy source Phlogiston, which is mined in the clouds aboard flying ships, and is the setting for 'There will be Phlogiston'. It is a world of manners, social conformity and repression. It is also a world of dissatisfaction where one's own needs and desires are secondary to progression through the ranks of society.

In this world we meet 'Lady Rosamond', daughter of aristocracy and half sister to a brother she thinks weird, who is missing, and searched for endlessly by her Father. Her Mother is also absent much of the time in the grip of laudanum addiction. Rosamond longs for the attention of her Father, but never seems to be enough for him. She conforms with her parents' wishes and attends endless balls and parties etc. as a débutante.

She has the same aim as all the other débutantes, which is to marry a Duke or an Earl, but definitely well. Her world is changed forever when she meets Anstruther Jones who fits into none of these categories. What he is though is...

"Likerous." Rosamond had to concede: whatever, it meant, it sounded filthy. And it suited Jones right down to the ground.

Anstruther Jones is a Phlogiston Baron, a self made man and as such beneath nice society. However, he has been taken under the wing of Lord Mercury, who is in love with Jones. Lord Mercury is the last in the line of old aristocracy and feels the weight of duty and society's rules most of all. Being gay he would not be accepted at all, and he believes if he doesn't have his good name and society he has nothing left.

These three characters are all ruled and repressed by society. One for being a woman, one for being working class and one for being gay. Together they learn how to be happy and how to throw off the shackles of societal norms.

This is a long enough novella to develop great characters, wonderful world building and an interesting plot. There are Pygmalion / My Fair Lady references and enough intertexuality to make me grin,

...but the raihn in Spaihn stubbornly rehned on the plehn, and attempts to educate the man's tastes were similarly unsuccessful.

and Lord Mercury refers to Jones as

His unshapeable Galatea. A sordid fantasy for endless solitary nights.

As much as we see Lord Mercury trying to teach Anstruther Jones to fit into nice society, and would therefore construe the Pygmalion references to refer to these two, Jones likewise moulds Lord Mercury who,

...had grown tired of laying increasingly elaborate façades over broken things.

The two of them eventually teach, and also mould Rosamond. There were so many really beautiful quotes I wanted to use, but that would make this review longer than the story itself. I have to include two more, one because it just resonated with me and one because it is just so 'right'.

And Jones laughed and said it again - 'I love you' - so she tucked the words into some pocket of her heart to take out and look at...later

And this next line...

"Love, I've lived too long in this world to believe my masculinity lives in my arse."

This does end up with a ménage relationship, which would be referenced as M/M/F, but please do not let that put you off this story. I haven't read a m/f romance for years, but this was three people who needed each other and the sex scenes are subtle and exactly right. The last scene is the coming together (so to speak), but it is really a male sex scene viewed by Rosamond in close proximity, and extremely erotic. The scene is also gentle, tender and almost poetic. Plus, any virginal woman who, after witnessing sex acts between two men, exclaims...

"Oh my," said Rosamond, "sodomy is magnificent."

is OK in my book!
Profile Image for Adam.
610 reviews309 followers
November 4, 2016
I can't remember when I last read a romance with a female love interest. And, if I'm not mistaken, this is my first MMF. I liked it a lot!


The book is told from the POVs of three well-rounded and equally interesting characters:
Anstruther Jones, the Plogiston Baron
Lady Rosamond Wolfram
and Arcadius, Lord Mercury

I'd say this is a tale of two romances and a friendship, not a bisexual romance.

Romance #1 - Jones and Arkady

Before Rosamond enters the picture, Jones and Arkady go from associates, to friends, to lovers. With Jones in his life, Arkady is no longer the lonely and sad man he had been for years. Jones, who clawed his way out of the gutter, doesn't care about society's rules, and goes after what he wants. But Arkady is full of shame, and can't give Jones his heart. They reach a point where one of them will have to give in.

Romance #2 - Jones and Rosamond

Jones first met Rosamond at a ball, where she made her contempt for him very clear. After running into each other again, they slowly develop feelings for one another. Their romance was more a traditional Regency story of the rake and the virgin lady. Ros thought she had everything she wanted in her glittering world, but Jones makes her question whether she's really happy. In the end, she has to choose between Jones or society's expectations.

The friendship - Arkady and Rosamond

Arkady and Ros come together because they both want Jones, and they want Jones to be happy. And what Jones needs to be happy is Ros and Arkady. Arkady isn't bisexual, and Ros isn't attracted to Arkady, but it doesn't take them long to become close friends. Was this friendship entirely believable and realistic? Not really. But then this book has a half-mechanical/half-flesh horse in it, so I'm willing to overlook what's realistic.

Overall, this is a very well-written and entertaining read, with a sweet HEA. If you're looking for a steampunk fix, give this free read a try!
Profile Image for ♣ Irish Smurfétté ♣.
711 reviews151 followers
December 9, 2014
BJ and I did a buddy review - five fookin' stars from both of us on Prism Book Alliance, YO

Here be my half o the equation:

Lord Mercury – Arkady if you’re Jones, apparently – doesn’t seem to have any effective defenses against said Jones and his unrelenting natural state of self-acceptance, and everything else Jones has that the Lord wishes he could be, and share.

I had the feeling of dancing, gliding along as I encountered and welcomed Hall’s words. He’s got this way of saying something extremely direct, nakedly direct, that is the very definition of a smirk with a kiss and some truth tossed in for necessary measure.

Lord Mercury had rather been hoping for spontaneous demise…

… he wished to burst into flame and disappear thanks to his embarrassment. I read that line four times.

Sadness and beauty, wanton need and breathy hope, undeniable truth and inevitable change - and I had only just come to the end of chapter one.

And now, may I present, Lady Rosamond. A subversive yet increasingly bold talker of truth:

Men were so fortunate. They could do that sort of thing, and everyone admired them for it. A grumpy-looking woman, however, was inelegant and inappropriate, and nobody would want to marry her.

Yes! Tell it, sister, tell it. So many rules and baseless expectations, and time wasted on meaningless cultural demands. Ok, ahem, moving on (or I’ll be here all day), but keep preaching, sister.

I’m resisting the ridiculously strong urge to give you quote after quote… after quote. Really. It’s bad. Hall’s relationship with language is fiercely mutual, confidently showing off what this level of partnership can create, can give to all of us.

This spangling, restless joy that made her bold and rough and eager.

I mean, c’mon! It’s like he sauntered into my life, my heart, and said, ‘yep, I’m using that’ and he plucked me right out from under… me.

The greatest and most rewarding feeling, sometimes labeled as power, results from pleasing someone, experiencing their pleasure because of you, in you, from you. Couple that with freedom of the heart and you have Anstruther Jones. I still can’t decide if I want to be him or Rosamond.

All of these characters are bucking the norms of their society and, if not yet accepting it, acknowledging it and living it. Explorations of sexuality and relationships, the effects of gender history and how this can all force us into narrower and narrower spaces, this story is a beautiful way of making sure we go the way of expansion, not exclusion.

Rosamond, I am utterly, truthfully and completely in love with you. It feels a bit like self-praise because I see so much of how I feel about so many things all wrapped up in you. May we be friends? I feel that we must. Your words and perceptions and actions, they’re like looking back at my own spider web of roads taken and not.

Maybe it was because she was strange and unnatural, too.

Aren’t we all? Which then leads to this undeniable conclusion: we’re all strange and none of us deserve marginalization, to be cast off under the lying guise of it’s too much work to do otherwise, too difficult to acknowledge and express vulnerability and love by way of accepting everyone’s odd perfection. Jones has reached the other side of this stream and is holding out his hand, and heart, to Rosamond (and Arkady?), showing her that the current will carry and reward, not punish and drown.

So many of the social constructs, the accepted modes of behavior foisted upon us all, they are bunk. Hooey. Lies. Everyone cries. Everyone feels fear, exhaustion from that fear. Everyone recognizes freedom when it suddenly coats every cell of your being. Everyone knows how it feels impossible to relinquish it when society demands we do so.

So we don’t. Neither do Jones, Rosamond and Arkady.

Interesting: a line spoken by a minor character about the malleability of people, like mercury, just hit me. Lord Mercury, is his the mechanical exoskeleton meant to be broken free, letting his true self buck and canter, huffing those contented, thankful breaths?

Rosamond: ”I suppose what I can’t understand is why… why we care so much.”
Arkady: ”Because this is what we know. And, without it, there is nothing.

Love. Passion. Truth.

I’m gutted. Gutted by Hall’s unfettered connection to humanity and his ability to remind me of and strengthen my connection to my own, to ours.

There is a large, overarching question being asked by this story, these characters, this book, and the answer to it is no. For the inalienable right is freedom. Of self. Of heart. Of love. No, Arkady, you are not less worthy.

The depth of emotion entwined with the natural heat between these characters had me mesmerized… and more.
Profile Image for Pam Faste aka Peejakers.
175 reviews45 followers
December 10, 2016
I’ve updated my review of this beloved book, based on a recent re-read. Same rating, just a few new thoughts :-)

2nd read : Dec. 5-9, 2016:

*happy, happy sigh* I am not normally a re-reader of books, no matter how much I love them. I make an exception for Alexis Hall though. And this was just as beautiful in every way as it was the first time.

In re-reading this, I was struck anew, as I am every time, by the distinctive way he writes scenes of physical intimacy. Intimacy being the key word, because while they’re beautifully sensual, they’re so much more. There’s always such vulnerability, such exquisite tenderness co-mingled with that sensuality. It’s a real *cough* hallmark (sorry!) of this author’s work.

Like this description of a kiss: "His tongue, at last, entered her, warm and supple and not invasive at all, but when she pushed back, he yielded back, and suddenly she was deep in his mouth, and oh, oh, it was hot in there, hot and soft, all clinging velvet. This secret, waiting place inside him, like delving into the heart of a fig."

“heart of a fig” – omg! <3

Or this most ridiculously moving & romantic description of a man’s cock: “She closed her hand around . . . around it. His member. And was shocked and excited by the heat of it, the way it was hard and tender at the same time, pulsing softly against her palm as though it possessed a heart of its own.”

And this: “But he came to pleasure like an opium addict to his pipe, and Jones broke him with ecstasy.”

And this loveliness:

“How does it feel?” She had not intended to utter the thought aloud –– but there it was.
“What?” Arkady’s voice was slurred, as though he was pleasure-drunk, already half-asleep.
“To have a man inside you.”
“Well, I rather enjoy it.” She thought that was going to be all the answer he would grant her, but then he continued. “Like you’re holding his heart in your hand.”


But beyond that, there’s also this. In reviews I'm always looking (usually in vain) for some pithy way to sum up a books central . . . I want to say "premise", or "message", but those aren’t the right words . . . it’s more like, just what the book is, what it’s about, it’s essential character. Perhaps the soul of the book? And while I can usually feel it, it so often seems to be something I can’t put my finger on, or put into words. But this time, I think the book itself gave me the words: “She was Prometheus, and this was stolen fire.”

Yes, I think that’s it. All these characters are Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods. Sometimes fearfully, but still courageously, defying social convention, public opinion, the powers of a world that would deny it them, to seize their own happiness. That’s what I take from this book, in the end. And it’s something I find, for many reasons, even more moving and meaningful today than it was the first time I read this story.

This is a beautiful book. And still free everywhere :) So go read it, if you haven't already.

(Original review below)

First read: Dec. 7-11, 2014

This is just an absolutely fantastic book! Just a few quick impressions, but this book is just beautiful, romantic, funny, sexy, & so much more. Quite deeply moving. Who else but Alexis Hall could reduce me to tears over the color of a silk waistcoat? Twice? And there were a couple of scenes that made me so *proud* of the characters that I felt like crying & standing up to cheer at the same time.

Also, I haven't read a lot of MMF, but I've read some & this is definitely the most love-centric one I've ever read. Typically, seems to me anyway, the central point of these dynamics seems to be the just the hawtness of it all. And while this is certainly all that (wo-ow!), it's so much more than that. But then, naturally, this author would never write anything merely typical!

I am also immensely moved by the fact that this wonderful book is the author's gift to us. It's just the most amazing, generous thing.

Profile Image for Teri.
1,775 reviews
December 13, 2014
Okay Mel, I get it. I totally see why you are in love with this author. This was some truly fantastic writing. Eloquent. Deep. Honest. Loved it. The genre isn't what I normally go for. This whole thing of a woman should be this, men should be this and "societal rules" makes me want to vomit, but this was well done and really illustrated all the reasons and attitudes that contribute to my dislike of this particular kind of society. It took me a bit to get into Ros, I was just not really feeling this chick at first, but honestly somewhere between I warmed up, I mean, I could have done without her because I'm more of an M/M kind of girl, but she didn't take away from the story and I did feel for her and want for her.
Arkady...man, there were a few heartbreaking moments in there with him and Jones.
Loved Jones, truly fantastic, embraces all the characteristics I love.
I wish it hadn't ended quite so abruptly, but I do believe I have been sucked in and I will definitely be reading more from this author.
Fantastic writing.
Profile Image for Amy Cousins.
Author 49 books620 followers
January 31, 2015
I forgot to write a review! And now I'm behind on a ms., so I'm just copying what I posted on FB when I first read this book. (Note: I've now read TWBP at least six times, so that should tell you something.)

"YOU MUST GO READ THIS BOOK NOW. It is the platonic fucking ideal of a romance, while being full of all kinds of trope subversions. I want to sit still and read it over and over again, which I could do by rereading my highlights alone, since they cover 90% of the book. The writing is gorgeous and witty and hilarious. The characters are fascinating and full of fear and loneliness, and then brave and honest and warm. The sex is hot and sweet, the society is cutting and yet full of surprises, the ending leaves me desperate for more."

Yeah, that pretty much says it all.

Oh! And it's FREE! Don't say I only ever break your budget. ;)
Profile Image for Jennifer.
76 reviews4 followers
October 5, 2020
Interesting. I liked that there was this weird alternate steampunk past but Hall doesn't bang you over the head with world-building. It's very subtly woven in. That scene with the flesh-eating horse was amazing and probably deserves 5 stars all by itself.

Ros's experience at the Clockwork Circus provided some nice dimension for her character. The fact that she looked at the attractions as demonstrations of control, abuse, and imprisonment gave me some decent insight into how she feels about herself-- very much like a trained animal on display, performing for the pleasure of others but not truly cared for or valued as a being with autonomy or independent thought and desire.

Characterization aside, her inner reflections while watching the acts under the big top offered some critical commentary on the practice of keeping animals in captivity for performance purposes. Paired with the themes in Sand and Ruin and Gold, there's a pretty clear point of view on circuses and trained animals in captivity in general.

The romance itself didn't quite make it there. The characters certainly had chemistry and I was happy for Anstruther Jones to end up with everything he wanted, but the partnership felt a little thin. The ending was obviously more of a beginning and I'm sure I'd respond differently given more time to watch the characters develop together in their newfound love.

Lord, forgive me for this tepid review.
Profile Image for Lotta.
1,040 reviews18 followers
July 23, 2020
This review is a bit spoilery, don't know how to get it tagged right, but be adviced, if you haven't read the book.

This was an amazing book this time too. I didn't cry as much, but I laughed much more, and found some amazing quotes, mainly by Rosamund. She's so prim and proper on the outside ("Should there be some fashion of reciprocity?"), so inquisitive and open minded under the surface - and so alone. She's selfish and unpleasant, but I can totally get why. Jones is the strong centre, there to guide them to other futures that they didn't know were possible. Lord Mercury has so much emotion welling up when he no longer represses it. What I loved is how aware this book feels, although it takes place in a parallel historical England, with all the conventions of the upper classes. How I can identify with the different characters in different ways (Ros for being a woman in a man's world, Jones for being upwardly mobile, Arkady for being vulnerable). In a quiet way, it addresses issues that I have rarely seen addressed in books without it seeming political. Ideas of virginity, masculinity, family.

I'll finish with a favourite quote. It's towards the end of the last chapter, after Arkady and Jones make love (italics are mine):

They drifted in sated and companionable silence for a minute or two.
"Is it always thus?" she asked. "Does Jones always ... and to you always ..."
She had not realised it was a troublesome question, but the quality of the silence shifted, and she felt Arkady tense.
"I ... have never ... that is, I presume. I do not think Jones–"
"As it happens," said Jones, "I'm very fond of taking a cock."
This made perfect sense of Rosamond–clearly having an appendage up the fundament was a delightful pastime for men. But Arkady seemed oddly flustered.
"Truly? But ... are you not ... I would not have ..."
"Love, I've lived too long in this world to believe my masculinity lives in my arse."

First review, from December 2014: Wonderful, emotional writing had me thrilled and in tears at the same time. Also, hot! I am pretty sure this is a new favourite writer for me.
Profile Image for dobbs the dog.
576 reviews11 followers
December 18, 2022
Reread December 2022, rating upgraded to 5 stars.

And with that, she had finished all of the Prosperity books.
I enjoyed this one, though it had little to do with the other stories, other than that it’s set in the same world and had several of the same characters. This is the story of Byron Kae’s half-sister, Rosamond, as well as Lord Mercury and Baron Jones. Definitely the steamiest of the Prosperity stories 🥵.
I quite liked all the characters, especially Anstruther Jones, the phlogiston Baron, he was so self-assured and had no fucks to give about what anyone else thought of him. And I liked that throughout the very short book, that Rosamond and Arkady (Lord Mercury) also lost any fucks they had to give, and decided to choose love and happiness instead.
Profile Image for Kimber Vale.
Author 23 books70 followers
February 8, 2015
Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler, and Ashley Wilkes all reside in the same steampunk town and decide they can't decide, and so embark on a three way love affair in order that I should buy the first book in this series. Well played, Alexis Hall, but joke's on you: I was going to buy it anyway. Na na na-na na.
Profile Image for Meredith Katz.
Author 16 books173 followers
April 6, 2021
YES YES YES. I absolutely LOVED this. Perfect and delightful and delicious. My only regret was that we didn't see them navigating the fallout of it, we just knew there would be some, but I feel like that would be another novella in itself if tackled, and fair enough to leave it out of this one. I can't praise this story highly enough.
Profile Image for Julia ♥Duncan♥.
359 reviews23 followers
April 28, 2015
This was really, really fricking good! I kinda loved it, it was soo, sooo fun to read. The characters were amazing, the writing was great, it was super funny, and it had absolutely incredible feels. Also, a killer mechanical horse! I mean really, what more can you want from a book?
Profile Image for Katie.
324 reviews26 followers
November 3, 2020
We're told in the title that there would be phlogiston.

I'm here to answer your burning question: Was there phlogiston?

Before I answer, there will be a lesson.


Pay attention.

steampunk | ˈstēmˌpəNGk | noun
a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology

Victorian | vikˈtôrēən | adjective
of or relating to the attitudes and values of the Victorian period, regarded as characterized especially by prudishness and a high moral tone

ménage à trois | māˈnäZH ä ˈt(r)wä, məˈnäZH | noun
an arrangement in which three people share a sexual relationship

Phlogiston | flō-jĭs'tən | noun
a substance supposed by 18th-century chemists to exist in all combustible bodies, and to be released in combustion. ORIGIN: mid 18th cent.: modern Latin, from Greek phlogizein 'set on fire,' from phlox, phlog- 'flame,' from the base of phlegein 'to burn'

free | frē | adjective
given or available without charge


Got all that? Sure you do. You're smart.

Me? I didn't know phlogiston was a real word until about an hour ago...now I can't stop saying it. I'm not always real smart. Also, I'm still kinda new to the whole steampunk thing. Cut me some slack, will ya?

Sorry, sorry. Where were we?

Oh, yes.

Now, what do you suppose we get when we put those five things together?

I'll tell you what: Put on a fucking helmet and strap the fuck in, is what.



I rest my case.

There was, in fact, phlogiston.


Oh, that wasn't enough?

Alrighty then. I'll tell you more.

This story consists of three vastly different people who have one huge commonality. Stay tuned and I'll tell you what it is. What it is NOT is a spoiler.

Lady Rosamond Wolfram - prim, proper, aristocratic young woman caged by propriety and familial/societal expectations. She's a bit of a snooty bitch...but funny, curious, and restless in the confines of her corset and the duty to please her family.

Lord Arkady Mercury - prim, proper, aristocratic man caged by dwindling coffers and the overwhelming shame of his perversion of being attracted to (gasp!) men.

The Phlogiston Baron, Anstruther Jones - not prim, not proper, commoner turned wealthy, yet unwelcome in high society because...common. He's rough around the edges, laughs too loudly, and doesn't give a shit what the society snobs think.

So, what do these three have in common?

They're lonely.

Loneliness sucks.

The Lady wants to live a life less traveled but isn't quite sure how to make that happen. The Lord thinks he'll be okay if he can occasionally sneak down to the docks for a clandestine hand/blowjob or whatever to ease his perverted cravings. The Baron simply wants a loving home and a family.

What are three lonely people to do?

Oh, you know. I don't have to tell you all that. Anyways...Alexis Hall does a MUCH better job of it that I could ever hope.

The better question is: How in the world, in the Victorian era of aristocracy, social standing, and prudishness, do these three get together?

I'm not tellin'!

I'll share this opinion with you, though: I'm very, very picky about menage stories. I love them when they're done right. To me, they're done right when I'm made to believe that three is stronger than two and that the throupling isn't all about three-way-freaky sex. Yeah, gimme the sex with those extra arms and legs and sexy bits. But I want to feel a deeper (no pun intended) connection.

Alexis Hall did this too.

Of course he did, because he can do anything.

And he does it with poetic eloquence and subtle humor---my favorite!

Now...before you go download this book (because it's FREE , remember?), I'll also tell you that it can be read as a stand-alone.

Sure, it's book 5 of a series, but the people in here only have glancing roles in the previous books. Honestly, I had no idea I even needed their story. And you don't really need to know anything that happened in those other books because it all takes place before book one. A prequel, if you will, sort of.

**Warning: The story is over at the 50% mark on your Kindle. I was aaaallll excited when I looked down and noticed I was only at 46% and then it was only a few minutes later and I was done. I don't want anyone else to suffer the heartache of the story ending so soon.

Q: Katie, are you by chance, intoxicated?
Only on my adoration of Alexis Hall's writing and super-amazing stories. Honest! But ask me again in an hour.

Also posted on BackPorchReader.com.
Profile Image for Becs.
112 reviews3 followers
December 14, 2022
The final book in the Prosperityverse and I honestly had low expectations because my beloved main characters from Shadowless are not involved. But I loved it! The adventures of a really unlikeable, complicated heroine, Byron Kae's half sister, Lady Rosamund Wolfram, Lord Mercury, and Anstruther Jones, the Phlogiston Baron. A short read that packs in a lot of character development, sexy times, and a surprising (for me) but completely delightful conclusion for all of them...together.
Profile Image for Susinok.
1,265 reviews55 followers
February 21, 2016
I loved this story! I have a huge book hangover since I want to read more NAO but have to wait until January for the anthology to come out... Rosamond and Mercy were such victims of their time. I really felt bad for them both. Loved Anstruther Jones. How can you not with a name like that? :)
Profile Image for Jen.
342 reviews5 followers
July 18, 2015
One day, Alexis Hall may write a book I don't immediately fall in love with.
Today, is not that day and this is not that book!
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