The Iron Heart by Leslie Dicken is a terrific steampunk romance. The story takes place in and around Lundun, and yes, the resemblance to Victorian London is intentional and heightened, because there is a serial killer just like the infamous Ripper on the loose, and the hunt for him brings in the suspense.
Unfortunately, his first victim provides the introduction for our hero and heroine, and also points out the class divide in this quasi-Victorian society.
Lundun is where the common folk live. The Greenlands outside it are where the nobility reside. Except for Ella Wilder. She’s been secretly living above her Uncle James’ clockworks in Lundun ever since her cousin Jenny was the first horrific victim of the killer.
At the time, it seemed like a random murder. Lundun is a big and dangerous city, and sometimes, death happens. Even gruesome death. But when a second young woman, one who looks just like Jenny, turns up, Ella knows that Jenny’s death was the start of something horrific, and she wants to get the word out to other young women to protect themselves.
Ella even has a way to get that word out. Ella publishes a newspaper in Lundun, She also knows how to mobilize the upper crust to act. Ella is a member of the Syndicate of Provinces, the Council that governs Lundun. But Council members are required to live in the Greenlands, which is the reason that her actual residence over her Uncle’s shop must remain a secret.
The District Four representative is Bennett Pierce, Lord Barrington. He is alarmed by the recent death of the second young woman. He does not know about Jenny. But the second woman was his brother’s fiancee, before his brother’s accident.
Bennett wants to investigate the girl’s death himself. He is already investigating the girl’s death–by himself. He has reason to believe that his brother Hugh, who he rescued time and time again from excesses large and small, may have gone over the edge into madness, and that it is Bennett’s fault.
But as much as Bennett wants to quiet the Council, Ella wants to involve them. The only way for him to keep her from publishing her findings in her newspaper is to give her some information, and to keep her close enough to him to prevent her from finding out too much.
The difficulty with that plan is that Bennett Pierce discovers that Ella Wilder is the one and only person who has ever distracted him from his single-minded quest to find and save his brother. The only saving grace is that he tempts her every bit as much.
But with a crazed killer on the loose, will their mutual distraction be their salvation or their doom?
Escape Rating A-: I was up until 3 am trying to finish this. I didn’t quite make it, but I really, really wanted to. I wanted to find out how it ended so badly that I picked it up at breakfast the next morning. I got so caught up in the romance I forgot to figure out who the killer really was. Very well done!
This is very steamy steampunk. A genre description might be steampunk romantic suspense. The story is romantic suspense. There’s a serial killer on the loose and the hero is hunting him for personal reasons. The heroine is personally involved because someone close to her was a victim. There are hints she might be a target. This is romantic suspense.
But the world is so, so steampunk. Dirigibles, clockworks, automata. Not just big airships, but small personal vehicles as well. Clockwork parts for people are an integral part of the story. Even a tiny hint of Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics makes an appearance.
I found this book because Heather Massey recommended it (while fanning herself) on The Galaxy Express. She also mentioned that the description of the book on Amazon and Goodreads doesn’t use the word “Steampunk”. And it doesn’t. The description is really cute, but the keyword isn’t there. This is steampunk, and the book description needs to just plain say it for readers who will love this book to find it.
Because steampunk romance fans will adore it.