Review: Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape

ether and elephants by cindy spencer papeFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #8
Length: 180 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: July 20, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian have loved each other most of their lives—but sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

Their chance at happiness was ruined by Tom’s hasty marriage to someone else. Heartbroken, Nell left home, finding a new life as a teacher at a school for the blind. But when one of her supernaturally gifted students, Charlie, is kidnapped, Tom reappears and her worlds collide.

Tom claims he hasn’t seen his wife since the day of their marriage…yet he fears the missing student could be his son.

The deeper they dig, the more Tom and Nell discover: a deadly alchemist, more missing gifted children and long-suppressed feelings neither of them is ready for. A race on airship across England and India may lead them to answers—including a second chance at love—but only if all of British Society isn’t destroyed first.

My Review:

Ether & Elephants is the last book in Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles. I’ve enjoyed the series very much, from my first night binge-reading Steam & Sorcery (reviewed here) and Photographs & Phantoms in one lovely gulp.

moonlight and mechanicalsMy favorite in the series is still Moonlight & Mechanicals (see review). It even made my Best Ebook Romances of 2012 list for Library Journal.

But Ether & Elephants brings the series to a very lovely conclusion – all the more so because it brings things full circle. The series both starts and ends with the adoption of a bunch of slightly misfit, seriously talented and definitely precocious children into a family that is expressly made to nurture all their varied talents.

A family headed by two adults who finally figure out that they love each other to pieces, and that nothing can, or should, stand in their way.

The journey for Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian is even rockier than the one in the first book – because Tom and Nell are two of the children who were adopted back then. They are all grown up now, and have loved each other forever.

And they’ve both given up hope.

Tom made a horrible mistake while he was at university. It’s not really that he gave in to temptation and fell into someone’s bed. While he may have known that he loved Eleanor, and may have guessed that she loved him, he was five or so years older and Eleanor was not yet an adult. There were no promises, no commitments – they hadn’t even talked about a possible future.

The problem was that the adventuress who seduced him claimed to be pregnant with his child, so he married her. She disappeared the morning after their wedding with the contents of his wallet and anything else in his room that seemed salable. He never saw her again, but he still feels bound to the marriage.

He also doesn’t seem to have done anything like a thorough job in investigating his runaway wife or her circumstances after the fact. A young nobleman with all the power of the Order of the Knights of the Round Table behind him should have done a much better job of tracking down the thief – or at least discovered that there was something fishy about that wedding, as there so obviously was.

Tom seems to have been too ashamed to take care of his own business, and now it may be too late. Not just because Eleanor has made a life for herself away from the family, or even that she may be engaged to another man. The problem at the root of everything is that she feels she can’t trust him.

But she needs his help. Well, she needs the Order’s help, and Tom is what she gets.

Nell has become a teacher, specifically a teacher of blind students. And one of her students has been kidnapped. This isn’t a simple rescue, because young Christopher appears to be “talented” in the way that the Knights are. He’s also not the only child, or more especially the only “talented” child, to be kidnapped in recent months. There’s also the ghost of a chance that Christopher might be Tom’s son. It’s certain that Christopher’s mother is, or was, Tom’s erstwhile wife.

In the investigation and chase to determine Christopher’s whereabouts, a number of long-buried truths come to light. They discover that Tom’s missing “wife” has been practicing the pregnant and disappearing bride scam at Oxford and Cambridge for at least ten years, meaning at least 5 years before she pulled the stunt on Tom. The inevitable conclusion is that Tom can’t possibly be married to her because she “married” so many other men first.

She’s also aimed her sights very high. All of the students she conned were rich and noble, including one well-heeled rake from Buckingham Palace. The Queen is worried there’s a little bastard princeling somewhere in the country.

And the Order’s old enemy, the Alchemist, seems to be taking these talented children to fuel a dastardly plot of his own.

Meanwhile, the chase moves to India, where Eleanor, with the Order’s help, is able to find the formerly young sailor who fathered her on a trip to England long ago. Only to find out that Nell is much better connected, at least in the Raj, than any of the Hadrians are back home.

But with all of their lives on the line, and with the certainty that Tom is now free, Nell can’t resist indulging in the passion that she has always felt for him. The question is whether passion is enough to overcome years of mistrust.

And whether they all come out of this mess alive.

Escape Rating B+: Ether & Elephants is a very nice wrap-up to the series as a whole. We first met Tom and Nell in Steam & Sorcery, when Sir Merrick Hadrian discovers Tom in the stews of London and realizes that Tom must be the son of one of his fellow Knights. That Tom will not leave behind the family that he has made and protected for years is just one more sign of his nobility, considering that Tom is all of 14 at the time.

But children grow up. Nell has always loved the young man who saved the lives of herself and her half-brother Piers, and hoped that Tom felt the same. Discovering that he did, but that he had pissed away their chance at happiness nearly broke her.

Eleanor Hadrian, like all of the family she has built, is made of stern stuff. She doesn’t just soldier on, but she finds a career that fulfills her, and makes a new life. When her new life intersects with the old one, she is the first person to volunteer to find her lost student, even knowing that she will have to deal with Tom and the ashes of their old relationship.

One of the ongoing themes of the story is that Nell doesn’t need anyone’s protection, not from the bad guys, and not from her own past. So many people have tried to be delicate about her feelings for Tom, and while she isn’t 100% sure those feelings are completely dead, she is utterly certain that she is tired of being treated like a delicate flower, because she so isn’t.

Bringing the story to India was a very nice touch. It allows Eleanor to discover and embrace the other half of her nature, and also answers the question that she has always wondered about – where do her supernatural talents come from? While I loved Eleanor’s ability to embrace her Indian family and heritage, it felt just a bit over-the-top that her father was effectively a prince. Eleanor has all the nobility she needs without inheriting it from her father along with her talent for seeing ghosts.

I liked her Indian family, and their participation in the final chase and capture is crucial, but her “Baba” didn’t have to be the social or political equal of Sir Merrick Hadrian to be effective, or to accept her as his daughter.

It gave the story an aftertaste of Eleanor’s needing to be a princess to be accepted as Lady Devere, when Tom, the Hadrians and especially Eleanor herself had all the nobility required.

I will miss the Hadrians and their magically steampunk world, but Ether & Elephants makes a fitting end to this lovely series.

***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.

Review: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford

Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys FordFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genre: steampunk, M/M romance
Length: 69 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: February 18, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

My Review:

I was hoping that Rhys Ford had another Hellsinger book out. Even though I was disappointed in that search (until this Fall when every anticipated book in the universe will be released) I found this little steampunk gem, and decided to give it a try. I love Ford’s urban fantasy Black Dog Blues (want more) so the steampunk alternative seemed like a good idea.

It was.

The story takes place in an alternate Victorian era where Charles Babbage seems to have been part of a deranged organization that tried to change the structure of society by using golems and machina to wipe out the upper-crust. While it didn’t work, it left a hell of a mess, and everyone is still recovering decades later.

It also seems that the U.S. Revolution must not have succeeded, because the city of St. Francisco is still very much a part of the British Empire.

St. Francisco is a place where peers of the British realm govern a city of Chinese laborers and colonial upstarts. Being in the midst of the Victorian era, the world is all decorum on the one side, but those with money and connections pay for corruption in the shadows that they decry in the light.

Due to the failed coup, the laws against the use of the Arcane, especially when mixed with mechanical powers, are draconian and downright detrimental.

Into this mix the author throws two men, Marcus, Viscount Stenhill, and Robin Harris. Two men who should never have met. Marcus is a scion of the upper crust, and Robin is not merely an Arcane practitioner, but was the genius scapegoat behind the inventions used by the plotters.

While this is a society that considers sex between two men a perversion (the Victorians seem to have considered sex between two humans unspeakable), that Robin and Marcus fall in love is just part of the story. It’s the why of it that’s interesting.

Robin is still trying to save people, using a forbidden mixture of science and the arcane. He’s trying to continue to be a doctor, in spite of having his credentials stripped. Marcus wants to see the injustices done to Robin reversed, and his method of saving Robin is to take him under his sponsorship.

Money can reverse some of the damage that has been done. Love can take care of the rest.

Escape Rating B: The love story between Marcus and Robin was actually kind of sweet. Due to all the societal restrictions, it takes them quite a while to move their friendship to a deeper level.

But the worldbuilding is absolutely terrific. The mixture of Victorian surface prudishness combined with the hidden world of deniable sexual sadism felt all too possible, similar to the way that the Victorians vilified prostitutes while patronizing them. It was done, it just wasn’t talked about.

That the revolution seems to have been magical rather than industrial takes this world down a different track completely. I wondered why St. Francisco was still British. That’s a heck of a change.

Also, the revolution left behind the equivalent of dirty bombs, in the same way that UXBs are still found in England. That Marcus’ father was one of the last victims, while Robin’s ideas were co-opted to create the damn things, made an interesting juxtaposition.

Clockwork Tangerine is a neat little story, I just wish I could see more of the world in which it takes place.

***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.

Review: Dragons & Dirigibles by Cindy Spencer Pape

dragons and dirigibles by cindy spencer papeFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
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, KoboAll 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.

My Review:

Moonlight and mechanicals by Cindy Spencer PapeI’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.

***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.

Review: Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn + Giveaway

third daughter by susan kaye quinnFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: steampunk, fantasy
Series: Dharian Affairs #1
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: self-published
Date Released: December 13, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

The Third Daughter of the Queen wants her birthday to arrive so she’ll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince’s proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Third Daughter is the first book in the The Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance that takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

My Review:

Third Daughter is a first-rate fantasy. Especially if you like your fantasy mixed with a little steampunk and a lot of political machinations. It’s also the coming-of-age story about a fascinating heroine who goes from spoiled princess to smart operator through a trial by literal fire.

This fantasy is set in a land based on Indian-influenced customs and legends. Not Native American, but the Indian subcontinent. According to the author, Third Daughter is steampunk and fantasy with a lot of Bollywood.

However you describe the setting, it is refreshing to read a fantasy that uses something other than Celtic mythology and Medieval Europe as its starting point.

The story is the tale of the Third Daughter of the Queen of Dharia. Aniri has grown up in the mistaken belief that her mother does not have a political purpose planned for her, and that she will be able to marry for love the moment she turns 18.

Of course, it is not to be. And a good thing, too.

Aniri has fixed her heart on a courtesan attached to the household of the Samirian Ambassador. She believes that the Samirians are allies, and that Devesh really loves her and wants to help her. Aniri is politically naive, and doesn’t understand that courtesans are also spies.

But the Prince of Jungali arrives just before her 18th birthday, and promises her kingdom a peace treaty in return for marriage to the only unmarried daughter of Dharia. Meaning Aniri. Her mother wants peace with Jungali because the mountain country is rumored to be developing a skyship, a weapon that will change the balance of power between Dharia (currently on top) and Jungali.

Aniri reluctantly does her duty and accepts the engagement, but only after her mother lets her in on the real plot. Aniri is supposed to spy on her new country, and discover whether the skyship is real, or merely rumor. Once her mission is done, she will be free to return to her lover.

But the world is not as Aniri imagines it. Not just because it feels wrong to spy on the man she is supposed to marry, but because the Prince is much more than the barbarian she has been taught that all Jungali are.

Prince Ashoka wants peace. He wants to unite his people, and get rid of the warmongers who have been fomenting trouble between Jungali and Dharia with the help of the Samirians. But the young and handsome Ash also wants Aniri as his Queen. Not just for peace, but for real.

He’ll just have to navigate the plots and counterplots in his own court, and find the way to Aniri’s heart. But first, the would-be princess spy and the barbarian prince will have to cut their way through the secrets and lies that would keep them apart. And survive the assassins.

Escape Rating A-: Third Daughter is terrific fun! The setting feels fresh and new, in a way that makes you dive right into the story as you learn how the world is set up. It feels a bit like a fantasy version of India under the Raj, except that there are no British overlords. Each country is ruled by a Queen rather than the traditional male hierarchy.

Even Prince Ashoka of Jungali can’t unite his country until he finds a Queen who will rule. In Dharia, it is the First Daughter who will become Queen after her mother.

Aniri’s adventures are her coming-of-age story. She starts out rather spoiled, believing that the rules don’t apply to her. She also hasn’t bothered to learn about the conditions of the world around her, or the issues that make government such a burden for her mother.

Being sent to Jungali is the making of her. Aniri has a great adventure, but what makes her interesting to follow is that she learns from her mistakes, and does she ever make a lot of them! She wants to do the right thing, but starts out believing it is going to be much easier than it is.

She also discovers that a lot of people have been lying to her. Learning truths for herself is part of growing up. Aniri changes from willful child to self-sacrificing adult as she navigates her new and unknown country.

Ash is a great foil for Aniri, and also a swoon-worthy romantic hero. He will do anything for his country in order to bring peace. He thinks he’s sacrificing himself when he goes to Dhaira to bring home a bride, but he falls for Aniri and thinks its going to be unrequited. But he continues because he knows it’s best for his country.

It takes Aniri a long time to see the treasure that is in front of her, and to accept the life before her. Working with Ash, traveling with him and seeing his country through his eyes, opens hers.

And the swashbuckling, death-defying adventure climax helps to make Third Daughter one fantastic read.



Susan is generously giving away a $25 Amazon or Paypal Gift Card to one lucky commenter on the tour. For more chances to win, follow the rest of Susan’s tour! The schedule is here at I Am A Reader. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below:
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***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.

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.

Guest Post by Author Cindy Spencer Pape on Escapist Fiction + Giveaway

ashes and alchemy by cindy spencer papeMy special guest today is Cindy Spencer Pape, the author of one of the most fun steampunk series ever, the Gaslight Chronicles. This is the one that got me hooked on steampunk. It has all the cool steampunk gadgets and toys, there is always a marvelous romance, and for that added bit of the fantastic, she included the Knights of the Round Table. I always snap up each new book as soon as it appears, and as today’s review of Ashes & Alchemy demonstrates, Cindy always delivers a marvelous story.

Speaking of stories, here’s Cindy’s take on escapist fiction, and why she loves it.

Why I Adore Escapist Fiction
by Cindy Spencer Pape

Confession time: I absolutely adore escapist fiction. I’m not even too particular about the variety. I like mystery, fantasy, SF, and of course, romance. I read quickly, and I read a lot. I’ve been known to buy or check out the same book twice, because I’ve forgotten the title or cover. Reading is, and has always been, my escape. When I’m reading for fun, I don’t want anything too serious. If I want to be depressed, I’ll read the newspaper or an environmental report. When I read for fun, I want to get away from reality.

I find it funny (and not, at the same time) that romance is blasted as the ultimate example of unrealistic fiction. Come on, in fantasy and SF, they’re openly speculative and mysteries? Do we really believe those same amateur detectives solve so many crimes without ending up dead? It’s all fantasy, really. So pick your flavor and don’t bash the others, that’s my take.

In my Gaslight Chronicles, I’ve kind of taken all the flavors of genre fiction and tossed them into a salad. Each book contains fantasy, science fiction, suspense, horror, adventure, and romantic elements. That’s truly my favorite thing about the steampunk subgenre, is that you get to do that. I may even sneak in a little social commentary, but it’s there in the fiction, not as a smack in the face. (Yes, there’s a gay character in the series and yes, there’s a non-white woman adopted into a noble British family.) But the books aren’t about that. They’re about a bunch of interesting characters doing something in an interesting world. They’re meant to make the reader laugh, maybe cry a little, and mostly to forget about their job or their other problems, and just have a little bit of fun.

The books are all available digitally, which brings up another fun fact. Romance readers buy them for their Nook or Kindle without hesitation. A few SF or other fans will buy the version to listen to at the gym or in their car. But for the most part? Fantasy and SF fans—maybe especially steampunk fans—often reject digital books. It’s kind of ironic, really. You’d think science fiction readers would be early adopters of technology. But that’s not my experience. At romance conventions, I’m just another author, albeit with only medium-sized presses. But at SF or steampunk cons, I get this look. And then someone asks, “Do you have any real books?”

I smile. Sadly. “Yes. I have a number of print books. They’re mostly erotic romance, which I wrote for years with another publisher.”

“Oh. Romance.” They nod their heads and walk away.

Yep. Digital steampunk is a tough row to hoe. My steampunk books are all Amazon top 100 sellers in their genre. My romances aren’t. My steampunk books have sold literally thousands more copies than my romances. Library journal has named them as “the ultimate in steampunk romance.” I consider them very real books. I’ve spent years working on them, and the research for writing alternate history is not negligible. My publisher edits them thoroughly, and pays me royalties, just like they do for “real” books. I even have some great covers.

If you’re a person who reads e-books, then thank you! If you’re not, that’s okay too. To each their own—I really believe that. But we live in a changing world. We may not have jet packs yet, but I think we’ve at least reached the point where e-books and audiobooks count as real.

Thanks to Reading Reality for having me here today—this is an awesome site! Thanks to each of you for stopping by, and don’t forget to enter the contest.

Cindy spencer pape 2014About Cindy:

Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 18 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.

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Review: Ashes & Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape

ashes and alchemy by cindy spencer papeFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #6
Length: 82 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: January 6, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Police inspector Sebastian Brown served Queen and country in India before returning to England to investigate supernatural crimes alongside the Order of the Round Table. If his wifeless, childless life feels a little empty sometimes, that’s not too great a price to pay in the name of duty.

Minerva Shaw is desperately seeking a doctor when she mistakenly lands on Sebastian’s doorstep. Her daughter Ivy has fallen gravely ill with a mysterious illness–the same illness, it seems, that’s responsible for taking the lives of many of Ivy’s classmates.

Seb sniffs a case, and taking in Minnie and Ivy seems the only way to protect them while he solves it. But as mother and daughter work their way into his heart and Seb uses every magickal and technological resource he can muster to uncover the source of the deadly plague, it’s he who will need protecting–from emotions he’d thought buried long ago.

My Review:

Steam and Sorcery by Cindy Spencer PapeCindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles are a delicious alchemical mixture of steampunk and sorcery, and I’m not just saying that because it echoes the title of the first book in the series (Steam & Sorcery).

If you love steampunk, read this series from the very beginning. The worldbuilding just gets better and more detailed as the series goes on, and the stories are always just plain fun! What makes the series shine is the author’s invention of an alternate Victorian age where Charles Babbage’s analytical engine was actually invented, as opposed to merely theoretical, in the 1830s, and Ada Lovelace was the first coder. Computers in the 1830s and 1840s changed history, bringing the analytical sciences to bear on the age of steam.

And, since Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer, women attend university in this alternate era.

But alongside these scientific developments, vampires and werewolves walk, or stalk among the populace. Werewolves are mostly the good guys, but vampires are rotting corpses that feed on anyone they catch. To fight them, and other supernatural creatures, the Order of the Knights of the Round Table has continued into the “modern” era. They fight the supernatural with magic.

Magic and science coexist to make fantastic stories.

In Ashes & Alchemy we see something that hasn’t previously been dealt with much in the Gaslight Chronicles world–what about the people who are part of the families but don’t have the gift?

Sebastian Brown knows all about the Order because his father is a Knight. He has a smidgen of the talent, but not enough to qualify for the Order himself. He still serves Queen and Country–Seb is a Police Inspector, and his talent is a handy one–he can sense when someone is telling the truth.

Minerva Shaw spends nearly her last strength dropping against his door late one night, mistaking his house for the doctor next door. It’s fortuitous for them both. Her daughter is burning up with fever in the tenement they share, and his neighbor is a doctor known for his willingness to make house calls in chancy neighborhoods.

Moonlight and mechanicals by Cindy Spencer PapeBut the doctor is overwhelmed by patients from an accident, and Seb volunteers to bring the child to his own house. This is where the case deepens from a simple act of charity into another fiendishly clever plot like the one in Moonlight & Mechanicals, although this time the motives are closer to hearth and home.

When Seb takes in Minerva and her daughter Ivy, he finds that the presence of this little family in his formerly empty house awakens feelings that he thought he buried in India along with his own wife and child.

But he knows that Minerva has secrets chasing after her that she is afraid to reveal. And the doctor discovers that Ivy’s illness has a far from natural origin; an origin so unnatural that it requires investigation by the Order.

Escape Rating B+: Steampunk, magic and the Knights of the Round Table are still an irresistible combination. But it is terrific to see this story explore what happens with someone who is not a Knight. Just because your family has magic powers does not mean that your parents are any better at the job. Seb’s father is a piece of work. Still.

Seb using the case as an excuse to keep Minerva and Ivy around is such a classic excuse for him to disturb his empty household for a reason. It works excellently! He can keep pretending that he’s only taking care of them during the investigation, and Minerva can pretend that she doesn’t actually want to stay.

Minerva’s past, particularly her relationship with her daughter Ivy, is extremely touching. She puts Ivy first, always, even at her own expense. She’s aware that she’s doing it but has decided that it is worth the cost to herself.

It was great to see the rest of the gang. Wink and Liam in particular, the couple from Moonlight & Mechanicals, are very necessary side characters in this one.

Ashes & Alchemy is a marvelous love story that continues a theme throughout this series, about the importance of the family-you-make. And it has a terrifically convoluted scientific steampunk plot and a sparking hot romance, too!

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***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-12-14

Sunday Post

I was hoping to come up with something really profound to say today, but it’s been a wet, gloomy weekend here in Seattle. While this is terrific reading weather, the constant drip does not inspire!

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrHowever, this was one of my best weeks ever for review books. So many grade A reviews! Even the B+ book was a load of fun. And although I was sad to see the end of this “chapter” of Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio, he has said on his blog that there will definitely be another series in that world. That news made this reader very happy. Except…I have to wait for it. Darn.

Winner Announcements:

Big Sky Secrets by Linda Lael Miller; the winner is L Lam.

Sharp by Alex HughesBlog Recap:

A Review: Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson
B+ Review: Beg Me to Slay by Lisa Kessler + Giveaway
A Review: Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
A+ Review: River Road by Jayne Ann Krentz
A+ Review: Sharp by Alex Hughes
Stacking the Shelves (73)

ashes and alchemy by cindy spencer papeComing Next Week:

Steal Me, Cowboy by Kim Boykin (blog tour review)
Ashes & Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape (blog tour review + giveaway)
The Sweetest Seduction by Crista McHugh (blog tour review + giveaway)
Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden (review)
After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn (review)

Once More with Feeling: The Best Ebook Romances of 2013

LJ 2013 Best BooksIn spite of what the opening paragraph of the article at Library Journal says, this is actually the third year that I’ve been asked to choose the Best Ebook Romances of the Year for Library Journal.

Just check the archives, if you’re terribly curious, here are the links to the 2011 and 2012 lists. This is one of the most fun things I get to do all year that can be more or less labeled as work, even though, as what I call reverse full-disclosure, Library Journal does not pay for the writing of this particular article or for the book reviewing I do for them.

Creating this list is always personal for me. These are books or series that I read or am in the middle of. They are the books that I gave either A ratings or 4.5 or 5 star ratings to, depending on where I did the review. Or in a few cases, B+ reviews of books I absolutely couldn’t get out of my head.

The first year, I was told to list 5 books. Last year, 5-ish. This year, my editor said 10 from the start. I think she figured out that I cheat and list series. I did again this year and went over the limit.

skies of gold by zoe archerArcher, Zoë. Skies of Gold. Avon Impulse. (Ether Chronicles, Bk. 5). ebk. ISBN 9780062241443. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE (4.5 star review)

The first four books in the Ether Chronicles (Skies of Fire, Night of Fire, Skies of Steel, Night of Steel) were on my 2012 list for good reason; this series is simply awesome steampunk worldbuilding. Also we have all the story possibilities inherent in a world war, but with airships and “ether” power. While Skies of Gold is a more than worthy successor to the first four books in the series, it is unfortunately the last book in the series. If you love steampunk romance, you’ll be enthralled. And then sad that it’s over.

forged in blood 1 by Lindsay BurokerBuroker, Lindsay. Forged in Blood I. ebk. ISBN 9781301493357. Forged in Blood II. ebk. ISBN 9781301349876. ea. vol: Lindsay Buroker. (Emperor’s Edge). FANTASY ROMANCE
I’ve adored the first five volumes of The Emperor’s Edge series (The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents, Deadly Games, Conspiracy, Blood and Betrayal) so much that I haven’t wanted to see it end. So I’ll confess that I put the entire series on the list even though only the last two books were published in 2013, and I’ve been saving reading the ending for a treat for myself. LJ was slightly puristic about things and only put the 2013 titles as the main entry on the list. The Emperor’s Edge is Epic Fantasy with a touch of Steampunk. The primary story isn’t a romance, but, and it’s a truly lovely but, there is a romantic subplot. Or maybe that’s sub-subplot. Our heroine convinces the best assassin not to kill her, and keeps on convincing him to help her, even though everyone tells her he’s just a heartless killing machine. Of course he’s not. Well, not completely.

[Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft]Croft, Nina. Bittersweet Blood. Entangled. (Order, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781622669592. PARANORMAL ROMANCE (A- Review)
What a difference just a few days makes! At the time I wrote the article, I was just about to read the second book in Croft’s Order series, Bittersweet Magic (B+ Review). I didn’t want to jinx things by listing it, but I shouldn’t have worried. What’s so much fun about this paranormal romance series is that the standard definitions don’t really apply; the vampires maintain the Order of the Shadow Accords on Earth to prevent the Fae and the Demons from repeating their use of Earth as the battleground in the long-running Fae/Demon war. The contemporary fallout seems to be over the descendants of the Fae Juliet and the Demon Romeo of that war. But Demons are immortal, so Romeo isn’t dead. But his half blood daughter is ground zero for armageddon, and only the vampires can protect her. Make that one vampire with a personal “stake” in the result. The world-building in this just keeps getting better, and the love stories more complex.

black dog blues by rhys fordFord, Rhys. Black Dog Blues. Coffee Squirrel. (Kai Gracen, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781301668625. M/M PARANORMAL ROMANCE (4.5 Star Review)
This is a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic urban fantasy much more than it is a paranormal romance. There are several characters in this story who care a great deal for the elfin Kai Gracen, but Kai doesn’t even like himself enough to be ready for more than friendship with anyone else. He’ll get there, but he isn’t there yet. The story drops us into Kai’s world as it is; we know what he knows. We don’t know why or how the sidhe suddenly merged with what used to be our normal, just that Kai has to endure whatever crap gets thrown his way. It’s the person who emerges from the endurance that makes the story. That and dodging the dragons mating over the Mojave Desert.

Take What You Want by Jeanette GreyGrey, Jeanette. Take What You Want. Samhain. ebk. ISBN 9781619213746.
Ignore the New Adult label. Take What You Want is an absolutely marvelous contemporary romance that just so happens to be about two people in college. Ellen can’t go away for Spring Break, so she takes a vacation from herself. Just for a few days, she tries to be someone a bit different; instead of being shy and retreating into her books, Ellen buys sexy clothes on sale, goes to a townie bar and picks up the hottest guy in the place. She pretends to be “New Ellen” for just one night. Josh thinks no-strings-attached sex with a girl that he’s had a crush on since freshman year is a fantastic idea, but he knows exactly who she is. Ellen really doesn’t recognize him without his glasses. The next night is where pretense starts butting up against reality, because he wants to turn their one-night-stand into something more and New Ellen and regular Ellen have a difficult time deciding the difference between what they should want and what they do want.

armies of heaven by jane kindredKindred, Jane. The Armies of Heaven. Entangled. (House of Arkhangel’sk). ebk. ISBN 9781620611067. FANTASY ROMANCE (4.5 star review)
The fall of the House of Arkangel’sk is a deliciously complicated blend of the historic fall of the Russian Imperial House of Romanov with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen with more than few tablespoons of the deviance, decadence and twisted political machinations of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. There is love to be found, but the path to reach it leads through dark places, and our preconceived notions of good and evil, right and wrong, do not apply in Kindred’s Courts of Heaven. The best man in the entire series is a demon, although he would never think of himself as good. The biggest fool is a certainly an angel, and he would definitely label himself as such. The series begins with The Fallen Queen (4.5 star review) and continues with The Midnight Court (A Review) before the conclusion in The Armies of Heaven. Prepare to be enthralled.

how to misbehave by ruthie knoxKnox, Ruthie. How To Misbehave. ebk. ISBN 9780345545305. (4 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Along Came Trouble. ebk. ISBN 9780345541611. (5 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Flirting with Disaster. ebk. ISBN 9780345541703. (A- Review)
Knox, Ruthie. Making It Last. ebk. ISBN 9780345549297.
ea. vol: Loveswept: Random. (Camelot). 4-vol. set. ebk. ISBN 9780804180436. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
This small town romance series set in central Ohio is all about the Clark siblings, Amber, Katie and Caleb. Knox specializes in contemporary romances where real people solve very real problems while going through major life experiences. The tension in her stories comes from the kind of situations that cause stress in ordinary life; trying to reinvent yourself, trying to maintain a marriage, dealing with grief, not dealing with grief, returning home, being part of the sandwich generation, financial stress. The difference is that Knox makes her characters people that we all identify with and lets them have a fantastically steamy romance while they resolve their problems. Her stories pull at your heartstrings and make you smile. Every single time.

case of the displaced detective omnibus edition by stephanie osbornOsborn, Stephanie. The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Twilight Times. SF ROMANCE
I adore Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings, with the exception of the whatever-it-is that Guy Ritchie birthed with Robert Downey Jr. (who should stick to Iron Man). But I seriously digress. I read, and reviewed, Stephanie Osborn’s Case of the Displaced Detective somewhat in its originally published parts: The Arrival (A- Review), At Speed (B+ Review) and The Case of the Cosmological Killer (B Review). In the case of Stephanie Osborn’s continuing opus, I very much admire her concept of a Holmes who is not quite our Holmes and has an excuse for being so. She has used theories of quantum physics to create not just a possible universe where Holmes would have been a flesh-and-blood person, but to create causality that would bring that person into our 21st century. He is not quite the “thinking machine” of Conan Doyle’s fiction because he is not supposed to be, and that opens up a world of possibilities. Real human beings, after all, feel real emotions as they solve mysteries. Sometimes they even fall in love.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversRivers, Mary Ann. The Story Guy. Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9780345548740. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (A- Review)
There was only one thing wrong with this story. It was too short, and at the time it was written, it was the only thing available by Mary Ann Rivers. The story is absolutely awesome, I wanted more by this author, and there just wasn’t anything else, yet.
What’s a “story guy”? A story guy is someone who may or may not be long-term relationship material, but who will, sometime in the future after the heartache is over, make a terrific story. Librarian Carrie West answers a personal ad from a very hot guy for one hour of kissing in the park every week. The answers to the questions about why this unattached and gorgeous man is willing to settle for so little for himself, and to make sure that no one is able to get attached to him, make for one marvelous and nearly heartbreaking love story. (And if you fall in love with The Story Guy you’ll probably also love Ruthie Knox’ Big Boy.)

Anything for You book coverScott, Jessica. Anything for You. Loveswept: Random. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.5). ebk. ISBN 9781301165766. (A+ Review)
Scott, Jessica. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.6). ebk. ISBN 9781455554249. (A Review) MILITARY ROMANCE
Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series, which began in 2011’s Because of You (A Review) and continued in 2012 with Until There Was You (A- Review), is a military romance series that gets to the heart of what it means to love someone who serves in the military, because author Scott is herself a career army officer and is married to a career NCO. So instead of writing about the glory of the battlefield, she writes about the toll that deployments take on a family with inside knowledge of what it’s like to wonder if someone is coming home, and how hard it is to wait and worry. She’s able to convey the emotional cost to a soldier with a career-ending injury, not just because his body is messed-up, but because he’s lost his purpose and he’s worried about the people he’s left behind. If you want to read a military romance with real heart, read Jessica Scott.

That’s it for this list. The specific requirements for the Library Journal list were that they all had to be ebooks, either ebook-only or ebook-first, or ebook-mostly. In some cases, there is a print available on demand, but the ebook looks like the primary format, or it did at the time. Also, for this list, there had to be a romance in the story. Yes, a couple of times you have to be looking for the romance, it’s not the primary plot. But there had to at least be a romantic element.

I used to be able to put this list in preference order, but it’s gotten too big. And there’s kind of an apples/bananas problem. How do you compare a steampunk romance to a paranormal romance when they are both at the top of their respective trees?

I will do a “best of the year” list next week (which includes a few contributions from my friend Cass!) These type of lists are loads of fun. It’s great to look back and see what I’ve read and which books stick in the mind by the end of the year.

Review: The Blushing Bounder by MelJean Brooks

Blushing BounderFormat Read: ebook.
Formats available: ebook, paperback (in Novellas & Stories).
Genre: Steampunk Romance.
Series: The Iron Seas #0.4.
Length: 50 pages.
Date Released: November 26, 2013.
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon Barnes & Noble.

In The Iron Duke, Constable Newberry helped save all of England. But before the events of that novel, Constable Newberry’s faced a danger of another kind: to his heart, by the woman forced to marry him. What will it take for this prudish bounder to convince his wife to stay?

My Thoughts:

I began reading MelJean Brooks’ Iron Seas series because of the steampunk cyborgs, nanoagent zombies, and all manner of other awesome creations. I firmly classified the series as Steampunk, and just, well, overlooked the romance. Because I Do Not Read Romance. Or at least I do not enjoy reading romances. (I may have deleted the clearly romancey covers from Ilona Andrews’ The Edge series in order to perpetuate said delusions.)

Mina Wentworth and the Invisible CityThe worldbuilding in The Iron Seas is top-notch and keeps me coming back for every installment. Which gets me to poor Constable Newberry, who, despite his status as a Blushing Red Giant, always manages to fade into the background. Unless he is being mocked by another character.

They made good time to his small, cozy flat on the second level of a converted mews, where Newberry’s sensible—and very pregnant—wife asked him to cut and wrap hunks of cheese, bread, and salted boiled eggs while she chatted with Mina. Newberry blushed for a record length of time after Temperance checked on his progress and complimented his skillful use of a knife, then again when she laid a farewell kiss on his cheek.
So sweet. It still surprised Mina that the prudish bounder had ever taken off his clothes long enough to make a baby, and she’d have wagered that he’d been fiery red the entire time.*

See? Even when he’s scoring free food, he’s still the butt of every joke. Newberry has more than earned his chance to shine – and so we travel back in time to the events that initially brought him to London. As usual, the world building was spectacular. This outing provided some much needed insight into the Mind of the Average Bounder, but……

It’s only 50 pages. There is no Kraken to battle, Slavers to defeat, or Zombies to slaughter. It really is just the story of how Newberry got his groove back. Which means that I was forced to admit I was reading – and enjoying – a romance. GODDAMNIT.

I’m not saying the story is flawless. It’s really not. As with many a romance, it generates conflict by the characters failing to discuss a Super Important Issue that really could have been resolved with one or two sentences. As it ultimately was.

Despite this, I found myself entirely engaged in Newberry’s relationship with his wife (thank god they didn’t name her Prudence), and invested in the outcome of the story. Especially since Mina was there to mock the Bounders.

“You think she’ll become a zombie, constable?”
“Yes,” Temperance answered for him. “Won’t she? This is what we’ve been told. What we’ve always been told.”
“And I’ve been told that bounders believed this, but didn’t think they were that stupid. But they are?”
“Apparently, sir.”

Poor Newberry, nobody wants to be branded a epic moron on their first day. Though this does explain why he elects to remain silent through much of the series.

Escape Rating: B- for forcing me to reconsider my ban on all things romance. Any fan of The Iron Seas will enjoy this prequel story, though I would not recommend it as a first outing into the series. In such a constrained space there is not a lot of room to explain the complex world we’re playing in.

*Quote from Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City. A short story that takes place shortly after The Iron Duke, and is, once again, unapologetically romantic in nature. Though it will be a worthwhile read for anyone who thought Mina’s story ended just a tad abruptly, it was tragically short on zombies.

***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.