Formats available: ebook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #7
Length: 125 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: May 19, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance
When airship engineer Melody McKay’s dirigible explodes and plunges her into the yard of a gothic manor, she suspects foul play. With her ankle injured–an indignity far too feminine for her taste–she resolves to crack the mystery while in the care of Victor Arrington, the stuffy-yet-disarming Earl of Blackwell.
Ex-Royal Navy Captain Victor runs a tight house and is on a mission to protect his niece and foil a ring of smugglers using fire-breathing metal dragons. He has no time for romantic attachments. Particularly not with women who fall from the sky wearing trousers and pilot’s goggles.
As he and Melody navigate a treachery so deep it threatens the lives of everyone in Black Heath, the earl becomes unexpectedly attached to his fiery houseguest, and Melody discovers a softness in her heart for him. But when the smugglers strike, there’s more at risk than just their future together.
I’ve enjoyed the entire Gaslight Chronicles series, but it feels like the pinnacle of the series was Moonlight & Mechanicals (reviewed here). The plot was dastardly and far-reaching, and the hero and heroine were both up to the challenge. And the love story really sang.
Dragons & Dirigibles is fun, but doesn’t work quite as well, and I’m still trying to figure out why.
The plot definitely puts it into the middle of the long-running story of how the Knights of the Round Table continued through the centuries to reach this alternate Victorian era where Ada Lovelace really did manage to program Babbage’s engine. But by this point in the tale, we’ve not just met, but watched the adult children of the Hadrians, the Lakes and the Mackays find their intended match.
There’s one story left untold, but we’re teased about it at the end of Dragons & Dirigibles. Instead this is the story of engineer/pilot Melody Mackay, and her nearly-disastrous trip to Black Heath in a new stealth airship.
Melody and her ship accidentally run afoul of smugglers on the north coast, and she’s shot down–straight into the arms of the Earl of Blackwell. That’s where the story gets interesting. He’s hunting the smugglers, and thinks she might be one of them. He’s also incredibly conventional, and believes that women should be wives and mothers and nothing else. Certainly not pilots or engineers.
Melody thinks he has a stick up his arse the size of a ship’s mainmast, a totally appropriate simile because until just a few months previously, Victor Arrington was a naval captain. He inherited the title, the estate and his niece on the sudden death of his brother and sister-in-law. Melody is a complication that Victor doesn’t need, because his little niece is refusing to settle down and learn ladylike skills, and Melody’s presence is catnip to the child.
Also because he’s been trying to find where the smugglers are hiding, and not having much luck. Melody is either a conspirator or another target in the house. It takes him a while to figure out which. And even then, he still thinks she’s a bad influence on his niece.
Meanwhile, the village rumor mill is grinding on. The locals think that the new Earl is the smuggler, and that his niece is a feral child who caused the death of her parents. And that Melody is no better than she ought to be for staying in the house of a bachelor without a chaperone.
When she requests help from her family, and from the Order of the Knights of the Round Table, the situation goes even crazier.The smugglers have more secrets than just the location of their base. And their plans are much more dastardly than either the Earl, the Order, or the revenue agents off the coast could ever have imagined.
Escape Rating B: Melody is not a conventional woman, and she knows she isn’t going to be. What kept her from striking Victor with a blunt instrument in the first part of the book I’ll never know. It’s not just that he’s a prig and holds the views of his time, but that he’s frequently insulting about it into the bargain.
It’s not just that he doesn’t have a clue about what his niece wants and needs, but that he doesn’t have a clue that there is a clue to be had. It takes a lot of evidence for him to finally see the light, that women may not desire, or need the strictures that society places on them. And that the world changed quite a bit during the 10 years he was at sea.
Melody seems to fall in love with his niece long before she does him. Which makes sense, the little girl is a LOT nicer to her.
He does change, and figure things out, but the love story seemed a bit too pat, too formulaic, to really sing.
But the smuggling plot turned out to be quite ingenious, with quite the scary twist at the end. That part of the story had more layers to it than it seemed at the beginning. I figured out who one of the baddies was, but the other was a complete surprise.
I like the world that the author has created, and I’m looking forward to more stories. There’s been a simmering relationship for years, and I want to see that couple finally have their chance.