The so called duckling was always beautiful,l she was just with the wrong family. If she’d been with a family of swans no one would have ever used the word ugly. That’s what happened to my heroine Piety. Her verbally and emotionally abusive mother called her ugly. As she grew up, Piety protected herself by trying not to bring attention to herself – dressing drably and throwing herself in to her work. She’s the head librarian at London’s library. The story is set in the Victorian era. So a prim and proper Victorian librarian transforms to an enticing beauty. What makes my version different?
I’m going to get to that. First, let me tell you about the hero. Blake Blackmore is a bad boy, a rich rogue who spends his nights gambling and womanizing. I’m sure you’ve already guessed, once he meets Piety he’s willing to give all that up for her.
Now, back to the earlier question. What makes The Brass Octopus different is – in The Bras Octopus, Piety lives in an alternate dimension in which inventions depicted in Jane Loudon’s book the Mummy have been created. So even though it’s Victorian London, there is some advanced technology for the era, woman wear pants, and tinkering or inventing gadgets is a favorite pastime for proper Victorian ladies along with decoupage, scrapbooking, and hand painting china. Piety’s sister, Polly, has created a beauty machine called The Brass Octopus.
Blurb: Spinster Librarian Piety Plunkett is happy alone with her books, until her sister Polly transforms her with a bras octopus beautifying machine. With her new look, the librarian catches the lusty attentions of London’s most notorious rogue. Blake Blackmore enjoys the favors of beautiful women from the brothels of London to high society’s most fashionable debutantes but only the spinster librarian consumes his mind night and day. Piety insists she will not wed but devote her life to her position as head librarian, but Blake will stop at nothing to win her. He takes matters into his own hands and tutors her in carnal pleasure in three passion filled lessons. Now that she is sharing her body, instead of just her books, Piety is shocked yet pleased at how naughty she can be under Blake’s personal tutelage. But if anyone finds out about what goes on in the library after closing time, her reputation would be ruined. Is that Blake’ ultimate plan?
“That is why we cannot waste a moment more.” Polly dropped her arm from Piety’s shoulders and grabbed her sister’s hand, pulling her into the dressing room. “Wait until you see my latest invention.” She pointed to a large brass octopus standing in the corner.
Held on a brass stand, its bottom was fashioned in the shape of an x, with a thin straight pole to the back of the head jointed to another rod so it could be adjusted. Two molded eyes on the side of its head stared at her. Eight long arms reached out from the tiny body beneath its gleaming head, and directly underneath stood a brass stool.
“This will make you even more beautiful than you are.” Polly walked over to the brass sea creature and reaching up, she patted its large head.
“Is it the pregnancy? Is that what has caused you to lose your mind?”
“This machine is fabulous.” Polly gestured to her to sit on the stool. “Try it.”
Piety scratched her head. “It’s good the Queen encourages all housewives to develop their creativity by crafting gadgets like the ones in Loudon’s book, to make life easier for them and their families, but I fear you’ve taken it too far.”
Each of the eight burnished arms held something in the suction cups attached on the end, where hands would be on a human. An open tin of rouge in one arm, the second, grasped a cosmetic brush and powder puff, in the third lay a tin of powder, an unwrapped silk paper container of red lipstick in the fourth, the fifth arm clutched a small bottle of hair oil, the sixth held a hairbrush, while the seventh grasped a fancy glass container of French perfume and the eighth arm lay empty.
Polly took Piety’s spectacles off.
“I need those.”
“For reading. You don’t need them right now or at the ball. You’ll be dancing, not reading books.”
She sat on the stool with the octopus behind her. “What is this?” Her upper back rested against its small, brass body.
“You will see. Just sit still so the machine can work its magic.” Polly pressed the ruby button on top of the octopus’s head.
The clanking, churning sound caused an on-edge sensation in Piety. As the hand holding the oil moved toward her, she grew shaky. She braced her toes on the floor, ready to lunge off the stool and make a run for it. The hand holding the oil reached her head, tilted slightly, then straightened after pouring some of its contents on her hair. Her scalp tingled from the warm liquid.
“It tickles, but feels quite nice. What does it do?”
The hand clutching the brush in its suction cup moved toward her. Piety grimaced, fearing it might hit her. She let out a pent up breath, relaxing her neck and shoulder muscles as the brass octopus brushed her hair, spread the oil to her roots and through the strands, and then swept her hair into a pile on top of her head.
“It helps it curl.” Polly grinned as she shoved a wayward blonde strand of her hair out of her face.
The octopus’s hollow head, which ran along the brass pole in back, rose, separating from its body, then swung forward, hovering over Piety. It lowered, inch by inch, until it dropped over her head, covering her hair and forehead.
“This is daft. It has swallowed me.” She cringed as tiny things, she didn’t know what, gripped sections of her hair and twirled it. “What is happening?”
“It curls hair better than any lady’s maid.”
“I do not want my hair curled by a brass octopus.“
“It’s guaranteed to bring out the beauty in everyone. Isn’t it marvelous?”
Before Piety could answer, the arm clutching the powder puff dipped it in the large round tin held in another arm. She had to shut her mouth as the octopus powdered her face.
From inside the octopus’s head, it squirted liquid on her scalp. “It sprayed me.”
“I have always liked your hair, but you say it’s drab. Now it will be a different color. That should make you happy.”
The octopus seemed to be baking her scalp. “Why is it hot?”
“It’s battery-powered rather than clockwork. I needed it to heat to curl hair fast and tight.”
“A battery. Like the galvanic one in The Mummy that resurrected Pharaoh Cheops?”
“Smaller and not as strong. It’s just a lead-acid battery. Remember when Father took us to the seashore for holiday and we flew in the balloon-coach? It’s the same type of battery that powered the lights on in the carriage at night.” Polly flashed a toothy grin at her sister. “It doesn’t bring anything alive except your hair.”
“How fabulous,” she said with full sarcasm. “My head itches.” She wished this would all be over soon. “What color will it be?”
“We won’t know until it’s finished, but whatever it is will be the best color for you.”
“Of course, everyone knows if you need beauty advice, just ask a brass octopus. Polly, my only sister or not, I shall kill you when I escape the clutches of this confounded contraption.”
Contest: Win a trade size copy of my Steampunk Novel, To Love A London Ghost. Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.
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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 21 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus.