Review: Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden

Gossamer Wing by Delphine DrydenFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: Paperback, ebook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Steam and Seduction #1
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Date Released: November 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A Spy. An Airship. And a Broken Heart.

After losing her husband to a rogue French agent, Charlotte Moncrieffe wants to make her mark in international espionage. And what could be better for recovering secret long-lost documents from the Palais Garnier than her stealth dirigible, Gossamer Wing? Her spymaster father has one condition: He won’t send her to Paris without an ironclad cover.

Dexter Hardison prefers inventing to politics, but his title as Makesmith Baron and his formidable skills make him an ideal husband-imposter for Charlotte. And the unorthodox undercover arrangement would help him in his own field of discovery.

But from Charlotte and Dexter’s marriage of convenience comes a distraction—a passion that complicates an increasingly dangerous mission. For Charlotte, however, the thought of losing Dexter also opens her heart to a thrilling new future of love and adventure.

My Review:

Gossamer Wing is a mixture of “pretend marriage” with “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” in a steamy (and somewhat angsty) steampunk world.

The alternate history is quite fun, the romance is suitably hard won and the steampunk adds just the right amount of engineered insanity to go along with the derring-do.

We have the engineer and the lady spy, entering into a pretend marriage for the good of jolly old England. Except that the marriage is real, and there will be a real divorce when the mission is over.

Or maybe not.

Lady Charlotte Moncrieffe is three things; daughter of an English secret agent, widow of an English secret agent, and pilot of the only airship light enough to fly over Paris at night. The mission is hers.

Dexter Hardison is also three things; a world-reknowned engineer, a baron, and unmarried. He is the best candidate to play Charlotte’s temporary besotted husband.

He’s already carried out several engineering commissions for her, he just didn’t know that her little dirigible, the Gossamer Wing, was a secret project of the government. He also didn’t know that the lady was beautiful. Or tempting.

Charlotte plans to go to Paris to retrieve the secret plans that her first husband hid on the roof of the opera house, just before the war ended. Their honeymoon and his subsequent death prevented him from retrieving them.

Dexter plans to finish several engineering commissions for the government, help to conceal Charlotte’s true mission, and woo Charlotte.

Charlotte believes that emotion clouds judgement. But then, she’s spent the four years since her first husband’s death pretending that she has none.

She learns differently. But when they arrive in Paris, her husband’s killer lays in wait to see if he can retrieve the secret plans that were his downfall.

Escape Rating B+: The steampunk in Gossamer Wing turns it into deliciously frothy fun, with a whole lot of steam heat in the romantic tension between Dexter and Charlotte.

Charlotte is interesting because she has trained herself to be a perfect agent; she’s always cool and controlled. She’s an actress playing a part because it means her life. She loved her first husband, but he was a part of her life long before their very short marriage. Her mission is about finishing his work. She doesn’t have a life beyond it. But her supposed grief, like so many other things in her life, is just another cover story.

Dexter is the really fascinating character. He is the “makesmith Baron” and doesn’t use his title in his business. He hasn’t disavowed it or anything rash, but he knows it puts his business contacts off, so he’s just Mr. Hardison when it comes to business dealings. Dexter is always genuine, and doesn’t ever pretend. He can’t manage to fake being married, either. His emotions are real, and that’s how the romance begins.

The alternate history is a treat. Britain never lost her colonies, so the “Dominions” are still part of the Empire, but they are a happy part. The other interesting thing is that Napoleon never seems to have arisen, but there was still some kind of French and English war at that period. Also there seems to have been something that wasn’t quite the French Revolution, but wasn’t quite not, either. It provides the opportunity for lots of background skullduggery, including something that reads a lot like a “cold war” between England and France. But then, England and France didn’t really get along until World War I. Of course they’re spying on each other. And spying on the spies.

The steampunk industrial revolution even allows for industrial espionage, which just adds more layers to the plot. The mystery behind the enigma is very nicely convoluted and provides tons of chances for misunderstandings all around. Opportunities that the author makes excellent use of!

scarlet devices by delphine drydenI adored the ending. Such a perfectly melodramatic bit of propaganda by both sets of secret agencies. I can’t wait to see where the next book in this series, Scarlet Devices, takes this story.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Ebook Review Central, Carina Press, July 2012

The July 2012 Carina Press titles, at least when it comes to which ones got the most reviews, could definitely be said to owe something to the “Fifty Shades” effect.

The hottest books — in the erotic sense — were also definitely the hottest titles in the reviewing numbers.

Fifty shades of tie-ins!  Although the popularity of the book opened doors for more books that show a kinkier side of sex, it also spawned products in areas that the author couldn’t possibly have dreamed of. This one from Etsy may be the furthest after “Laters, baby” as later can get.

I’d much rather (make that much, much rather) get back to the Carina books.

First, I’d like to give a shout-out to Natasha Hoar’s urban fantasy title, The Ravenous Dead, which was one of the featured for Carina last month. Its date of publication seems to have changed, so now it’s on this month’s list. But I can’t feature it again, dagnabbit! Because it absolutely earned a featured slot this month, too. But each book only gets one bite at the apple, and The Ravenous Dead have already bitten.

So who are this month’s featured titles for Carina? I’m so glad you asked.

The number one featured title was so far out in first place that the sheer quantity of reviews is worth mentioning. The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden attracted over 40 reviews, all good or better. Those are pretty big numbers for an ebook-only title. What was it about The Theory of Attraction? Yes, it’s a BDSM story like Fifty Shades, with the virtue that it’s a heck of a lot shorter. Ms. Dryden’s story is also a geek love story, with two socially awkward scientists as the hero and heroine. Lots of readers identified with the couple and their geeky social circle. The geek dom made for a different twist on the trope: the hero was intelligent but not super-rich. RT Book Reviews described it as “erotic romance done right.”

In the second position we have another erotic romance, and another boundary-stretching and review-grabbing title as well. Sharing Hailey by Samantha Ann King pushed at the erotic romance envelope in a different direction. Hailey has always had a crush on her two best friends, Mark and Tony. But Mark and Tony are best buds, and don’t want to mess up their friendship by forcing Hailey to choose between them. Solution: the three of them get together! It’s perfect until Hailey’s abusive ex returns and tries to spoil everything. This story has 29 reviewers behind it, so far, all of them generally thinking it was pretty good or better. Again, 29 reviewers is a lot of positive feedback. This one looks worth checking out.

It was much more difficult to decide on the third spot. Two books were very close. But by a whisker, the featured slot goes to Rogue’s Pawn by Jeffe Kennedy. Rogue’s Pawn is the first book in her Covenant of Thorns series, and it’s a contemporary fantasy/urban fantasy with a touch of fantasy romance. Gwynn the bored academic in 21st century America crosses over to Fae at Devil’s Tower Wyoming and becomes a powerful but totally untrained sorceress–one who nearly gets killed as a danger to herself and others in her first day on the other side. Everyone wants a piece of her, and everyone wants her to be their pawn. Only one fae, a trickster named Rogue, might possibly have some of Gwynn’s better interests at heart. If Rogue has a heart. This is one twisted, dark and decadent fantasy world.

If I were giving honorable mentions, and I can, one would go to Karen Erickson this month for A Scandalous Affair.

Ebook Review Central will be back in two weeks (no issue next week because of the Labor Day Holiday!) with Dreamspinner Press.