Labyrinth basements, talking animals and abandoned automatons are a few of the wonders waiting at Illyria College for the next generation of Her Majesty’s best scientific minds. Illyria’s closed-door policy means that Violet Adams, a promising scientist, cannot set foot inside, until she decides to impersonate her twin brother, Ashton. Hijinks ensue as Ashton and their best friend, Jack Feste, teach Violet how men behave in private and the Duke’s ward, Cecily, falls for Violet’s persona.
Rosen’s humorous debut novel recreates Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in a Victorian setting and offers a lighthearted look at several beloved characters from both plays. The gears, gild and gentrified manners add to the steampunk ambiance as Violet learns to portray a man and discovers her womanhood. Rosen’s work is a gentle commentary on homoeroticism and gender biases against women.