Reticence is the last in the Custard Protocol series by Gail Carriger. A supernatural Steampunk romantic romp about the world, told with all the wit and humor characteristic of Ms. Carriger’s works. The Spotted Custard has hired a lady doctor, in light of all the scuffles the crew gets into, and in light of its lady captain’s delicate condition. Said doctor, a young woman named Arsenic, immediately catches the attention of Percy, the airship’s navigator and resident curmudgeon. Of course, before Percy can figure out how to flirt, the ship is immediately off on another adventure.
Percy hates adventure and yet, as a member of the crew of the Spotted Custard, finds himself frequently a party to them. First there’s captain and friend Rue’s wedding to inventor and engineer—and Percy’s intellectual rival—Quesnel. Then off to Egypt to visit Rue’s mother and paw (her other father, Lord Akeldama, walked her down the aisle but due to various complicated reason, Rue’s two other parents couldn’t be there in person), where Rue’s mother has an assignment for them—find out what’s up with the fox-shifters in Japan. So off to the floating Paper City of Edo it is.
Percy and Arsenic are adorable. Each immediately fancies the other, and each is unsure of how to go about wooing the other. Scones are involved, and Latin. Since the narrative switches between Percy’s and Arsenic’s perspectives, we get to see how each feels about the other, misinterprets the other initially, and learns to read the other. We get to watch them come to grips with the fact that the object of their affections is is amenable to said affections. Of course it takes half the book reach that point, precipitated by some danger, but the second half of the book, as they negotiate said affections is just as adorable.
Everybody is meddling with everything. Aunt Softy and her allies are meddling in Japan, as is Rue’s mother, both via the Spotted Custard and other means. Formerly Floote, the Custard’s resident ghost is going poltergeist and so meddling less actively than usual but the results of many of his previous machinations are coming to fruition. The Japanese government is meddling with the fox shifters, who in turn are meddling with the politics of all the factions in the country. And, as per usual, no one knows what Lord Akeldama is and isn’t meddling in. And someone, likely several someones, is meddling in the personal lives of the main cast.
I loved Reticence and it left me happy, but also sad that this is the last Custard Protocol book. I look forward to reading the novellas set in the same universe, and to any and every thing else Gail Carriger writes.