4.5 Stars. I love this series! And if you're a fan of smart, exciting, sexy historical romance with complex characters and a paranormal twist, you wil4.5 Stars. I love this series! And if you're a fan of smart, exciting, sexy historical romance with complex characters and a paranormal twist, you will too! Books one and two are fantastic, and there's a novella in between that's also great, books three and four are good--though the romance and excitement don't quite live up to the bar set by the first two, in my opinion--but this book, book number five, Of Silk and Steam, brings the series right back up to top-notch reading pleasure.
Bec McMaster has created a fantastic story world set in an alternate version of Victorian England where steam and clockwork are advancing technology and aristocratic blue bloods (pre-vampires) lord over the lower classes of humans and verwulfen, and the Echelon, the council of dukes, led by the wicked Prince Consort, rules over them all. But humans are tired of being used and abused by the blue bloods, and as unrest grows not only among the lower classes but among the upper class as well, the discontented are organizing. The humanist movement has formed and has been strategically taking shots at the Echelon wherever they can, and the moment they've been preparing for is finally upon them thanks to an unlikely pair of catalysts.
We first met Leo Barrons in book one, Kiss of Steel, where we learned that he's the illegitimate son of one of the most powerful dukes in the realm and half-brother to the three Todd siblings. Leo has long struggled to find his place, forced to be a part of the Echelon, yet increasingly sympathetic to the humanist movement, and increasingly attracted to Lady Aramina Duvall, one of only two female blue bloods known to exist, and the only one with a vote on the council. That literally makes her the most dangerous woman in England. When Leo's deepest secret is exposed and a price is put on his head, he has nowhere to turn but to his siblings, who are up to their ears in treasonous plots. With nothing left to lose, he places his trust in the very woman who may have betrayed him, and who could end up being his final downfall . . . or his salvation. But Mina has secrets of her own, and when they come to light, the world as they know it will never be the same.
I love this romance because the hero and heroine are just made for each other, but their journey to figuring that out is full of angst and emotion, and that makes the payoff so much sweeter. Mina is a fiercely independent woman who has had to fight for her position, her power, and her very life at every turn. She's been able to rely on no one but herself, and her greatest fear is that falling for a man will be her ruin. And Leo is a lonely hero longing to belong to someone, to find the happiness and security his sisters have found, to have someone he can trust by his side as he forges a new identity for himself. When these two get together, the sparks are off the charts. But as they are forced to choose sides, the danger they are facing is very real, and they will have to determine what they are willing to sacrifice for freedom, for family, and for love.
One of the things that I felt lacking in books three and four is that the other characters from previous books didn't have enough of a presence, and since they're all awesome and all working together toward a common goal, they should have. Finally, at the end of book four, the gang got together again, and they are all here in this book in significant roles, and it made my heart happy. The only thing I didn't like about this book, and the reason for the bump down from five stars, is that the ending really confused me. After some emotional twists and one heck of a showdown and romantic resolution, there was a revelation and a cryptic conversation that I couldn't quite wrap my head around. So that was kind of frustrating and left me feeling like I didn't have the closure I needed. Originally, this was supposed to be the last book in the series, but the ending implies that there could be more to come, and I know there is at least one more couple that needs to have their own book, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
Each book in this series can be read as a stand-alone since they each focus on a different couple, but the beautiful thing about this series is that, in addition to the romances, there is a broader plot arc that develops over the course of the books as the humanist movement prepares to take down the Prince Consort and the Echelon. In each book, new twists and turns arise, enemies and allies are revealed, and pieces are dropped into place, propelling the characters toward a revolution and a series climax. So to fully appreciate this magnificent and complex story world Bec McMaster has created, you should start at the beginning with Kiss of Steel. Seriously. Like, right now. You won't be disappointed!...more
This story had sooo much potential. From the description and the setup, I was really expecting more than the average new adult romance, and it feels lThis story had sooo much potential. From the description and the setup, I was really expecting more than the average new adult romance, and it feels like the author was trying to go for more, but it was marred (for me) by a rushed plot that wasn't believable, tired man-whore cliches, an immature heroine, and piles of backstory references popping up at awkward moments. As much as I wanted to like this, I'm DNFing it at the 35% mark....more
4.5 Stars. If you are fascinated by the fate of Pompeii and its residents and gobble up the documentaries on the history channels, like me, and recent4.5 Stars. If you are fascinated by the fate of Pompeii and its residents and gobble up the documentaries on the history channels, like me, and recently watched the big Hollywood action flick Pompeii and were disappointed in it, as I was, treat yourself to A Day of Fire and prepare to immerse yourself in the heart of a city on the brink of destruction. I'd had the pleasure of reading four of the authors featured in this collection before, so I just knew this had to be good, and it was!
A Day of Fire was a unique read for me. I've read a few novella collections, but never was one constructed in such a way that all of the stories truly worked together to form a whole picture, and it's genius in its design. The stories follow the progression of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, from the warning-filled days leading up to the eruption to the scramble for survival as ash and stone rain down on the streets to the final deathly silence that remains after the pyroclastic flow entombs the city.
The reader experiences this devastating event from the points of view of six main characters, the Son, the Heiress, the Soldier, the Senator, the Mother, and the Whore, and I loved the way featuring different people from different walks of life in different parts of the city combined to form such a complete picture of life in Pompeii. Even the manner in which these people were connected—friends of friends, business relationships, romantic encounters, common enemies, chance meetings—underscored the humanity and sense of community in this hedonistic resort town where pleasures—and people—are bought and sold, and where everyone has an angle.
Through these stories and characters, the reader experiences the heartache of first love and the transition of a boy to a man; the lack of freedom for even the most pampered and high-born of young women and the quiet strength of a noble heart; the struggles of those who have become addicted to the city's vices to their own detriment, for whom the destruction of Pompeii may be their saving grace; the poignant observations of a philosophical man trying to make sense of the devastation and coming to grips with his own mortality; the tragic choice a mother-to-be must make for a child born to a dying world; and the travails of sex trade workers who find self-worth and redemption of the spirit in the midst of calamity.
While all of the stories are good, the final three stories (The Senator, The Mother, and The Whore) really shine. They are the strongest, most intense, and most emotional as the eruption continues and those who could not make it out of the city resign themselves to their fate while those who did manage to escape must grapple with the survivor's guilt that plagues them and the destruction of life as they knew it. I loved the way some threads that had been left hanging in previous stories all came together in the end, and that epilogue had me in tears. There are a few weak spots that keep me from calling this collection perfect, but the novel as a whole is fantastic. I'm so impressed with the way these stories were written and woven together. A Day of Fire is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about Pompeii, and historical fiction readers who revel in experiencing history through the ordinary people who lived it should find much to love in this unique and memorable collaboration....more