Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: 4 Feb How we got this book: ARC from the publisher
Driven to win. Drawn to love.
Fresh from university, Eliza Hardison is determined to crusade for worker’s rights until her cousin Dexter, the Makesmith Baron, prevails on her to represent Hardison House in the American Dominion Sky and Steam Rally.
The competition is fierce, but only one opponent really matters to Eliza. Dexter’s protégé, Matthew Pence, was always like a big brother to her. But now she’s grown up, and Matthew has made a break from Hardison House with his own business venture—and his own entry in the rally.
Matthew intends to win while keeping Eliza safe on the perilous route from New York to San Francisco. But as the threats escalate through treacherous skies and uncharted American wilds, Eliza and Matthew must work together, discovering a bond deeper than either could have imagined… but is winning the rally more important than winning at love? This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: I read and reviewed Dryden’t first steampunk Gossamer Wing last year and found it very enjoyable. So when I received Scarlet Devices for review I was excited. When I found myself making notes of quotes I enjoyed early in the story I knew I was in for a treat. I liked how this was set in the same world but took place in a different geographic area with threats outside of the spy game.
Marlene: I had heard so many good things about Gossamer Wing, that I actually bought it from Amazon, so when the the second book in the series came up for review, I decided it was high time I read the first one. Gossamer Wing was absolutely delicious. (Review at Reading Reality) The alternate history is a treat, and the author makes the “fake relationship” really zing! Scarlet Devices was just as much fun, but uses a different setting and new characters to explore a vast new part of her world.
E: Dryden combined the temperance movement, women’s rights, universal suffrage, and the steampunk equivalent of The Amazing Race as Matthew and Eliza learn who they are and what is really important. Eliza was interested in engine and tinkering with them but she focused her activities towards equal rights and protection for the common worker. Her efforts were rather futile and after a discussion with her cousin and his wife, Charlotte, she decided to take Dexter up on his offer and pilot his new vehicle in the American Dominion Sky and Steam Rally. She also agreed because winning would have the added benefit of annoying her cousin’s former apprentice, Matthew. Matthew thought he was rather enlightened and forward thinking but the last thing he wanted was Eliza participating in anything as potentially dangerous as the rally. Since he was unable to stop her, he decided he would watch out for her as best as he could but he wasn’t expecting the extent of danger along the race course. Watching them strike sparks off of each other as they worked together was very entertaining.
Marlene: The Sky and Steam Rally created a ton of opportunities for dangerous adventure and suspense, and the progression of Matthew’s and Eliza’s relationship fit incredibly well within the framework of miles raced, checkpoints and obstructions. As they traveled across the U.S., their own personal journeys, both towards each other and towards a decision about what they each really wanted out of life, proceed in tandem. Their relationship uses the trope about former childhood frenemies discovering they aren’t children any longer, while the race gave them each a chance to see what they themselves, and the other, were really made of. The dangerous conditions of the race, and the bonding between all the participants, also reminded me a lot of the Iditarod, the sled dog race between Anchorage and Nome. It is extremely dangerous, incredibly real, and even the losers get a prize because of just how difficult the race is.
E: I like those points you made regarding progression of the race and their personal journey. Now that you have brought it up, I can see the resemblance to the Iditarod. Like that race the updates tend to contain how many racers are left. As I was reading Scarlet Devices, I kept trying to count and figure out exactly how many competitors were left at each race pit stop. I thought the variety of different reasons people left the competition said a lot about the inherent danger of a rally along with some very effective sabotage. The mystery behind the sabotage was also fascinating on a couple of layers. It seemed as if the competitors while they were willing to form alliances were also on the look out for interference but were not expecting any outside concerns besides the unpredictable environment. Having a third player so to speak involved really increased the stakes for not just Matthew and Eliza but the other racers.
Marlene: The shifting alliances between the racers made it difficult to figure out what the big threat was, which ramped up the tension and sense of danger within the story. It made sense that they formed very loose teams, it seemed like a less formal version of the Tour de France teams. It added to the verisimilitude because it seemed logical. The deeper the logic layers, the easier to suspend disbelief on the parts that were less grounded in reality. The real mystery behind the interference with the race and with Eliza personally turned out to be a bit “out there”. I guessed who it was, and eventually why, but the evil dude himself was a bit past the crazysauce stage. Including the classic supervillain “I’m going to tell you my entire plot before I kill you spectacularly” speech. BWAHAHAHA
E: The overall villain was more of a parody of a villain especially in his final scenes. He certainly had extremely elaborate plans but I could see his underlying motivation was relatively solid. I did find myself very fascinated by the potential glimpse of one of his henchmen and what it could mean for the future in this series. As entertaining as I found the villain, I thought Eliza and Matthew’s mental and emotional journey was extremely touching. I loved seeing Matthew go from thinking, “Charlotte would make an excellent role model for Eliza: beautiful, unassuming, ladylike and comfortable in the role of administering a large, if unconventional, estate.” To realizing, “he wanted to keep her safe so he could have her all to himself and do wicked things to her.” And finally knowing Eliza was a trusted partner who didn’t need to cossetting. In the same vein Eliza moved from wanting to beat Matthew in the race because it would irritate him to realizing how much he meant when she thought he was dead. I also have to say that I loved how Dryden handled their sex scenes. They were full of humor, intensity, exploration, and shameless wonder.
Marlene: I did laugh out loud while Matthew was thinking what a great role model Charlotte would be for Eliza; from Gossamer Wing we know that Charlotte is considerably more than appears on the surface. In a lot of ways, Eliza IS following in Charlotte’s footsteps, she just isn’t aware of how much! But I agree with you that the emotional journey Eliza and Matthew make towards each other is the heart of the story. The rigors and danger of the trek make them see each other as adults, and not the children they used to be. Matthew goes through the stage of continuing to want to protect Eliza to realizing that she is a partner as capable, albeit in different ways, as he is. Eliza also has to come towards Matthew, she starts out fearing that any emotional attachment will make her “less than” the man she married, and law and custom still support that view. It takes the danger of the race, and the changes that Matthew goes through, for Eliza to trust that marriage does not have to mean subservience–with the right partner.
And oh my goodness are Eliza and Matthew sweet and sexy when they finally give in. (fanning self)
E: Yes, *pauses in memory* such wonderful scenes. The promise Dryden showed in Gossamer Wing did not let me down in Scarlet Devices. I thought the change in setting and main characters really expanded her world and kept me captivated. The mixture of challenges, threats, and personal growth had me rooting for Matthew and Eliza from their first scene together. I will admit I wish I knew how the events affected the rally organizers and the future of this race. Even though I thought the villain was overdone I enjoyed the overall story. With this second installment, Dryden has moved to the very short list of authors whose Steampunk is on my to-buy list. I give Scarlet Devices a B+
Marlene: Scarlet Devices certainly lives up to the promise of the series title: Steam and Seduction, because it definitely has heaping helpings of both! The world-building in this series continues to shine as we explore the vast North American continent and discover the differences from the world we know. The whole concept of seeing the Great Plains and Rockies from an airship while they are still unspoiled is enough to take your breath away. Or my breath, at least. But it’s the way that the relationships are developed that keeps you turning pages. The romance between Matthew and Eliza was beautiful because it took their personal growth into account; they needed to discover who they really were before they could be ready for each other. I love it when the romantic HEA is the icing on the cake for the heroine, and not the whole cake, and they both needed to grow up for that to be possible.
The villain was overdone, but in the best melodramatic tradition, which made for scenery chewing fun to bring the adventure part of the story to a fitting conclusion. I can’t wait to see what happens next in Dryden’s next steampunk story: Gilded Lily. I give Scarlet Devices a B+...more
Publisher: Avon Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss
Two Lonely Hearts…
Kalindi MacNeil survived the devastating enemy airship attack that obliterated Liverpool, but even her engineering skills can’t seem to repair her broken heart. Seeking to put her life back together, Kali retreats to a desolate, deserted island—only to discover she’s not alone. Captain Fletcher Adams, an elite man/machine hybrid, a Man O’ War, crashed his battle-damaged airship into this deserted island after Liverpool, never expecting to survive the wreck. But survive he did.
Believing he is nothing but a living weapon, Fletcher is wary of his new-found companion—a pretty, damaged, but determined young woman. Together they are stranded on the deserted island, and it is only a matter of time until desire gets the best of both of them. Soon Kali and Fletcher find they may be just what the other needed. But a danger from beyond the island puts them to the test. Will it rip them apart or bond their hearts forever? This blurb came from the author’s website.
From the very first time I heard about this series I was intrigued. Two authors, Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso, known for their Science Fiction Romance (SFR) or alternate history romance writing in the same world with at mix of science, technology and human elements all blended together sounded right up my reading alley. I have had great experiences with Zoe Archer’s writing in the past and I knew that she would give me something unexpected with a great twist. So I read the first one, Skies of Fire and found myself more than intrigued, I was hooked. Archer and Rosso built an intricate world during a war that touched the entire globe in one way or another. This allowed me to feel that the series really spanned great distances and involved the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Skies of Gold started off with two characters who were very different from the previous stars of this series. Kali and Fletcher appeared to be suffering from a combination of PTSD and a crisis of self-identity.
Kali was a brilliant engineer who couldn’t resist inventing and tweaking to make things better. She left her family to find success, employment, and validation of her engineering skills. She had a comfortable live in Liverpool when war arrived in the form of an intense airborne bombardment. After physically recovering Kali could not bear to stay in the ruins of Liverpool, full of crushed dreams and lives, nor could she face returning home, a broken failure, so she decided to live on a deserted island once inhabited by her ancestors. There she decided to live alone and slowly come to peace with recent events and life changes. Kali was remarkably self-sufficient even when she realized that she overlooked a few realities of life in an ancient falling down cottage. One of the things I loved about Kali is that even after she basically exiled herself from humanity she never gave up on life but kept working at making things better.
Fletcher on the other hand did basically give up on humanity. He volunteered to become a Man O’ War because they were needed and he was eligible. Instead of the glory and satisfaction of saving his country, he lost everything. Instrumental in the fight to save Liverpool, Fletcher crash-landed his damaged ship on the same deserted island. He had sent his crew away in lifeboats trying to save as many of them as he could while drawing the enemy Man O’ Wars’ attention further away from the port. Months later without any hope of rescue, he decided that since humanity didn’t want him, he didn’t want humanity either. Then he encountered Kali.
One of the many things I enjoyed about this story was how Archer built their friendship and eventual relationship slowly. They moved from fear of and resentment that someone else was on their island through a variety of different phases each with underlying attraction to a full-blown relationship. Both Fletcher and Kali were damaged and worried about being rejected because of their physical differences. Kali was concerned about the scars and permanent changes from her injuries during the Liverpool bombing. Fletcher on the other hand thought Kali would reject him because of his very obvious connection to his ship and his other physical changes as a Man O’ War. When they finally relaxed enough to trust in the other person the scene was so moving and really signified a turning point.
As Kali and Fletcher were dancing around the fact that Kali planned to return to civilization some time and Fletcher was resistant to leaving, the outside world found them. For a while, I thought this meant rescue and repairs for Fletcher, which would force him to decide if he was going to try to quit the Navy and stay on the island or return to his job but Archer decided to throw a wrench in my guesses. I quite enjoyed her surprise and the results so I will leave them unspoiled for you to discover.
I enjoyed reading Skies of Gold and the different aspects of being a Man O’ War or even a regular civilian during the time of war. I think some aspects of this particular story with Fletcher’s past and his struggles with his life really speak to the struggles that men and women are going through now. From the moment I realized that both Fletcher and Kali had survived a horrific battle I had a soft spot for them. I cheered the entire story as they found themselves individually and as a well-partnered couple. I look forward to seeing what Archer comes up with next.
Publisher: Berkley Sensation Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
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. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I have what can probably be described as a love/tolerate relationship with steampunk. There are a few authors whose steampunk I love and I tolerate the others I have tried. So when I saw that Dryden had a steampunk series starting I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk it. But then, I remembered that I have enjoyed what Dryden has written in the past, primarily erotic romance, so I decided to stretch my comfort zones a bit and give Gossamer Wing a try. I am glad to say that Dryden didn’t let me down.
From the opening lines, I knew that the steampunk aspect would be thoroughly incorporated into the world-building which allowed me to settle into the story. It also started off with an interesting piece of action that tied nicely into the body of the story. I found the first interaction between Dexter and Charlotte very intriguing. The history of written requests, the development of technology, and the difference between spelling out the how vs stating the requirement all kept me wondering how they would manage to get along in person. The twist Dryden provided to enable their meeting and “marriage” was a great play on a certain familiar historical trope.
The romance between Charlotte and Dexter was slow growing but full of spikes in intensity. The reluctant attraction that started in admiration for their respective strengths grew with Charlotte’s awareness of Dexter as a man not just as a faceless acquaintance. On Dexter’s side, he was aware of his attraction but kept reminding himself that this was not a true marriage until he finally decided to see if Charlotte was willing to explore expanding their relationship. One of the things I enjoyed with their relationship was that sex didn’t solve or miraculously equate to HEA. They had to continue to work for their happiness and to learn to trust each other making the ending that much more satisfying.
In addition to the romance, Dryden included layers of intrigue. Like any situation there is the truth, there is the best guess on each side about the truth/motivation of the other side, and there is what happens. The interweaving of those threads colored as they were with past events made the story even more interesting. I really didn’t know what some of the individuals were going to do until they did it which kept me invested in the rest of the story. I also thought it was fascinating to see how motivations could and did change throughout the story as facts were uncovered.
Towards the beginning of this review I mentioned how the steampunk elements were seamlessly integrated throughout the story. One aspect of the integration, which added a nice touch, was the realization that personal enhancements came with a cost. If the enhancements or replacement body parts were metal, in cold weather they might not function as well or they could potentially cause frost damage to the connection between the implant/enhancement and human flesh. Or when the enhancements were more sophisticated and used not for a body part but for one of the five senses, if there was a problem or the implant was disconnected the particular sense was gone not just muted.
There were several scenes in this story that I really enjoyed and bookmarked. One was the scene when they decide to take the next step and “consummate” their marriage. The discussion prior, logic used in the argument, and then the openness during really spoke towards the partnership Charlotte and Dexter were building. I also enjoyed one of the many discussions when Charlotte was insistent on keeping emotion out of their relationship because she was scared and didn’t understand what she was feeling. The last scene I wanted to highlight was the one in which Charlotte actually grew up. She learned some painful truths about herself, her first husband, and how much Dexter meant to her. I loved how she prepared and executed her grovel. Just like I loved how Dexter was abiding by her wishes as promised with their initial arrangement. He knew that she had to be the one to decide what kind of life she was going to live. I thought the way Dryden kept them in character even under pressure was admirable because I was sitting on the edge of my seat willing them to make their “marriage” a real one. I think I can safely say that I have found another steampunk author to add to my very slowly growing list. I give Gossamer Wing a B.
Oh those pesky Gods interfering with people like we are toys. Interesting read. I liked the take on lightening and how the Gods both help and hinder.Oh those pesky Gods interfering with people like we are toys. Interesting read. I liked the take on lightening and how the Gods both help and hinder. I did think things were cleaned up a bit too neatly....more
One of my favorites in this world. I enjoyed the intrigue, the competition, the food *grin* and how the two bounty hunters had been playing a game ofOne of my favorites in this world. I enjoyed the intrigue, the competition, the food *grin* and how the two bounty hunters had been playing a game of cat and mouse for years. Seeing it all come to a head was great. I also really enjoyed how this joint world combines steam, man, technology into a coherent whole. Looking forward to the next entry in this world....more
Publisher: Avon Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss
In the world of The Ether Chronicles, the Mechanical War rages on, and appearances are almost always deceiving . . .
The prim professor Daphne Carlisle may be a scholar, but she’s far more comfortable out in the field than lost in a stack of books. Still, when her parents are kidnapped by a notorious warlord, she knows she’ll need more than quick thinking if she is to reach them in time. Daphne’s only hope for getting across enemy territory is an airship powered and navigated by Mikhail Denisov, a rogue Man O’ War who is as seductive as he is untrustworthy.
The jaded mercenary Mikhail will do anything for the right price, and he’s certain he has this mission—and Daphne—figured out: a simple job and a beautiful but sheltered Englishwoman. But as they traverse the skies above the Mediterranean and Arabia, Mikhail learns the fight ahead is anything but simple, and his lovely passenger is not entirely what she seems. The only thing Mikhail is certain of is their shared desire—both unexpected and dangerous. This blurb came from the author’s website here.
E: I would like to welcome Joy, one of our guest reviewers back as we talk about our impressions of Archer’s latest book. Thanks for joining me Joy.
Skies of Steel is the third in the Ether Chronicles series written by Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso. They have taken the approach of writing alternate books set in different parts of the same world. Rosso’s are set more in what would be the American West while Archer’s are set in Europe/Asia. The really neat part about their approach is that the world-building and rules are the same but if you are just starting this series the only previous story you really need to read first is Archer’s Skies of Fire because that will give you familiarity with the world, the primary equipment, and how a Man O’ War is very different then any other ship’s Captain. I really enjoyed the first two installments so when we were offered a chance to review Skies of Steel I leaped on the chance. I was expecting voyages, steampunk, intrigue, a feisty heroine, and a larger than life hero. I certainly got that and much more.
Joy: I hadn’t read the prior books but decided to take a chance that I wouldn’t get too lost by starting with Skies of Steel. I think the author did a great job of providing enough detail on the world-building aspects (Man O’ Wars, ether, tetrol and the like) including references to the political unrest over control of resources and the resulting over-arching Mechanized War that embroiled much of the globe. Skies of Steel didn’t focus so much on the Mechanized War per se as it mainly provided a backdrop for the story developing between Daphne and Mikhail. I appreciated the characterization of Daphne as a woman who didn’t let fear stop her from making the decisions that had to be made, even if she had to be ruthless about it. Definitely not a Mary Sue. I was fascinated by the Man O’ War concept and enjoyed reading about the air ship’s design and Mikhail’s connection to it. The story was non-stop action to be sure. But at times, I felt disconnected from it. I suppose that could have been a result of not having read Skies of Fire first. Although, I’m still not sure as to the why of it.
E: I think reading the first book would have given you more of the technology and a bit more about the war. Like you I loved how Daphne was characterized. I think the blurb when it talks about Mikhail’s perception of her initially really set both Mikhail and the reader up for a lot of fun. Seeing the different aspects of her personality unfold and her sheer inability to give up on achieving her goal was delightful. I also liked how Archer portrayed Daphne’s mental struggle between the ends justifying the means and her growing relationship with Mikhail. On the flip side I think that Mikhail’s years as a rogue Man O’ War gave him enough mental flexibility to accept that business and pleasure are separate even though the timing could appear to be slightly suspicious to the casual observer. I think the part that won me over by Mikhail is how he didn’t dismiss Daphne’s intelligence and worked with her ideas to overcome some pretty impressive odds.
Joy: Mikhail was a nice compliment to Daphne. Of course, he had his own baggage to deal with, but I so agree – he never really dismissed Daphne or the choices she had to make even as he struggled to come to terms with his own history. Despite being defined by his rogue status, he continued to operate within a code of honor. He was Alpha without being an AlphaHole and I appreciated the respect and consideration he gave to Daphne. I like that Archer placed Daphne in a position of having to make difficult decisions that comprised her usual sense of ethics as it brought to light some gender biases that exist in society: is it ok for a man to make questionable choices when the ends justify the means, but not so much for a woman to do the same? This scenario forced Mikhail to decide what betrayal really means and is it a betrayal when someone is operating under exigent circumstances?
E: Ooh I like the gender bias thought. Speaking of that I really liked how Daphne and Mikhail joined forces with Khalida and secured her parents’ freedom. They certainly proved that when one side doesn’t play by the rules the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Before that however, I enjoyed the dichotomy between Daphne’s intelligence and her dig experience with her innocence regarding how much danger information intended for scholars could be in the wrong hands. She was so into information for information’s sake and believing in the sanctity of that information that I think she really needed someone who was a bit jaded around the edges to keep her out of trouble. Mikhail certainly met the description of jaded and than some. I also found Archer’s vivid description of the spare landscape combined with the lushness of the different dwellings; the control required to pilot a Man ‘O War combined with the sheer elemental hatred between Mikhail and Olevski painted a fascinating picture.
Joy: Oh, I hadn’t thought about the disparity between the natural setting and the human dwellings. Great observation! And yes, Daphne’s naiveté really did show in that scene regarding her instinctive need to gather information. Information is power. I think the whole experience woke Daphne up. She’d been living a life as an academic, even if that involved trips in the field, but still always from the fringe of the observer’s perspective. With the abduction of her parents, she found herself now in the thick of it having to get involved and make decisions that directly impacted those around her. It forced her to see firsthand the affects of war on the people. In the end, I think she found a sense of purpose and realized that going back to the relative quiet life of academia would no longer satisfy her.
Can we just talk about Mikhail’s physique for a minute? He was described as being so massive one could hold motorized bicycle races on his shoulders. Another passage indicated that he had to turn sideways to walk down an alleyway. For some reason, I kept picturing the Hulk without all the green but with all the sexy;-) Mmm. Fascinating.
So, I am left wondering why I felt so disconnected at times and caught myself daydreaming and having to go back and re-read passages.
E: *daydreams* Right Mikhail’s physique *clears throat* anyways. I’m sorry you found yourself disconnected at times. I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed the majority of Skies of Steel I did have a few niggles. While I liked knowing that Daphne and Mikhail were together at the end of the book it seemed more of a HFN (Happy for Now), since I didn’t quite buy his decision. As you mentioned above I could see why Daphne made the choice that she did because she now had a way to use all of the information she had accumulated over the years as well as direct proof that she could make a difference. I didn’t see that same sort of reasoning for Mikhail. His choice seemed more spur of the moment based on his attraction to Daphne without any thought of the future. That hurt my romance loving heart and I found myself wondering what Mikhail was going to do to stay occupied, pay his crewmen and women, and handle the daily routine of surviving as a rogue Man ‘O War. I do continue to enjoy this world and I look forward to what Archer is going to come up with next. I give Skies of Steel a B.
Joy: Yes, I could totally see this as being an HFN vs. an HEA. As much as I enjoyed the individual characters, I felt the actual development of relationships between those characters was at times lacking. When we first meet Mikhail, we are presented with an eight paragraph description of him yet no actual character interaction took place. As yummy as it may be to imagine Mikhail, I’m still more interested in how the characters interact with each other. The basis for the romantic relationship between Daphne and Mikhail begins with the insta-attraction trope whereby we are treated to many internal dialogues from each character’s point of view about said insta-attraction…which again, isn’t really actual character interaction. Some internal angsting is understandable, but it was a bit too frequent for me. Even though I do believe a real relationship developed between them, I didn’t enjoy the foundation from which it sprang. I think that if the relationship had developed organically without the insta-attraction element, it would have helped to ground me in the story a bit more.
There were elements to the world-building that also left me a bit flat. Sometimes I felt that the reference to mechanized camels, donkeys, automatons and fountains were added to scenery descriptions just to render a scene more steampunk-y. As if just using the word “mechanized” was enough to provide rich detail that didn’t require any further description. I also found some logistical problems with some key plot elements. But overall, it was a fun, quick read. I give Skies of Steel a C ...more
Publisher: Penguin Publish Date: Nov 6th How I got his book: ARC from the publisher
Amelia Darcy has no interest in marrying well. Her heart belongs to the sky and the dirigibles of brass and steel that swoop over Victorian England. But when her father, an eccentric inventor, dies, the Darcy siblings are left with scrap metal—and not a penny to their names. Their only hope to save the family reputation and fortune is to embark on a quest to discover an invention of historical importance in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Armed with only her father’s stories of a forgotten da Vinci workshop, a mechanically enhanced falcon, and an Italian cook, Amelia takes flight for Florence, Italy. But her quest is altered when her kitecycle crashes into the airship of ex–Air Marshal—and scandalous dime novel hero—Tucker Gentry. Tuck agrees to escort Amelia to her destination, but the two are challenged by political unrest, a devious sky pirate, and their own sizzling attraction. Soon the pair is dragged into an international conspiracy that could change the course of history…again. This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I have a complicated relationship with steampunk. I really like the idea behind it; I have loved some of the ways I have seen steampunk done, while others I have found to be meh or no thanks. Because I continue to think that the idea is fascinating, I keep giving steampunk a try. I was really excited when I read the blurb of Her Sky Cowboy because it mashed together several things I have enjoyed in the past. While I did enjoy those elements, there were some things that I didn’t quite enjoy.
Ciotta has created a very complex world for her Glorious Victorious Darcys’ series. Not only did the world contain steam-based elements, it also was very much an alternate history. The divergence seemed to happen sometime after the Italian Renaissance because people were still trying to locate some of Da Vinci’s inventions and plans. Famous musicians and their music were present but with slightly altered names. Many of the countries we have today also existed. There was a rather entwined structure of social and political parties that provided a constant undercurrent of tension throughout the world. There were also genetically altered humans consisting of a combinations of genes from the past and future. Those different humans had what we might call a wide range of mental powers. Time travel was utilized as the instigator that caused the split history. While I was able to understand most of the world-building, I continually struggled with the different political and social parties. I never quite understood what differentiated them from each other – just that they didn’t seem to get along. In fact, I had the impression from the heroine that she was unable to look beyond someones party affiliation if it was counter to what she believed. I think I missed some of the more subtle elements in the story because the parties were important, but they never really worked for me.
Amelia and Tucker were interesting and yet also disappointing. They both shared an interest in the different ways you could make/improve steam technology. They were both hiding secrets from each other, yet also refreshingly honest once they decided to act on their mutual attraction. Tuck, however, seemed a pretty static character. Initially his character was motivated for money and revenge. I could see that Amelia fascinated him because she was so different from the people he usually interacted with but I never got a sense of character growth from him. Amelia kept flipping back and forth from irritating me to interesting me. I really liked her in the beginning and when she initially started her adventure, but then she started acting extremely naïve – almost like she refused to comprehend that there might be a good reason why she was told to do/not do something. In fact there were times when I thought that if she hadn’t met up with Tucker then she never would have survived her initial journey. While I am aware that people often do impulsive things, if the expert tells you don’t do something then you should probably listen to them.
While Amelia and her brothers had set out on their independent quests, Ciotta took the tactic of introducing the main villain and providing his viewpoint and actions. So in essence I know there is a lot more going on than just the hunt for an artifact and the prize money it will bring. In some cases I enjoy that technique but in this one I think it took too long for Tucker and Amelia to decide that something else was afoot. That diluted the impact of seeing events unfold from both the good and the bad sides. The supporting cast was interesting, and the contrast between Amelia’s brothers was rather striking. I also liked the wide assortment in Tuck’s motley crew; they each had an area of specialty and their own individual secrets but they had meshed well together as a team. They also slowly accepted Amelia’s presence aboard their ship, which was really nice to see.
As I said earlier Her Sky Cowboy had some pieces I enjoyed and some pieces that I didn’t find as smoothly executed. I found the world fascinating but I am still puzzling over some of the elements. I also with wish there had been a bit more substance to both Amelia and Tucker. It seemed from the brief mentions of her brothers that they were a bit more complex and thus could prove to be more interesting characters in their stories. The combination of shallow main characters and some world-building elements that I never quite grasped did bring down my overall enjoyment in reading this novel.
The second story in the Ether Chronicles was a lot of fun to read. Very different setting and characters which I think made it more fun. The technologThe second story in the Ether Chronicles was a lot of fun to read. Very different setting and characters which I think made it more fun. The technology was still in place and the world building remained consistent. Sometimes that is difficult with more then one author working in the same world but this fit nicely. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next....more
Enjoyable. Vampires, tainted blood, human/machine combinations, werewolves of a sort. I liked the twists especially centering this in the part of LondEnjoyable. Vampires, tainted blood, human/machine combinations, werewolves of a sort. I liked the twists especially centering this in the part of London I think of Jack the Ripper. I am looking forward to the next one. ...more
Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: Out Now How we got this book: eARC from author
A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.
Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airshipPhatéon, flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return home . . . but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard.
Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam . . . *Blurb from Goodreads*
Thoughts on Hero
MinnChica: I wasn’t too sure what to think of David at first. It was obvious that the nano agents and his mechanical enhancements were a source of contention for him, that he was constantly viewed negatively by others because of it. Although that would have hardened many men, David seemed to take it in stride. He was still this caring young boy underneath all that gruff exterior. While cautious with his feelings, his thoughts, and his desires, he was still a genuine caring little boy that wanted nothing more than to be loved and give love in return. I adored David once we got to know him better, and hope we get to see more romance heroes like him in the future.
E: I had mixed feeling about David for a while. I liked him initially when he saved Annika from being arrested and through most of their initial encounters. I could tell that he was sensitive about his nano agents and his enhancements. While they gave him back a lot of what he had lost in the eruption he had to deal with a larger number of negative reactions to his appearance. Those included rather harsh rejections as a man from women who should have been able to at least act. Then David fell off his pedestal when he tried to blackmail Annika into giving him information. I could understand his frustration and pain but I hoped that he would have to work to get back into Annika’s, and my, good graces. Well he certainly succeeded and I ended up liking him even more than I had in the beginning. He was strong, smart, not Alpha and just wonderful.
Has: Oh I loved David- he was a fabulous beta hero, honourable and sweet but with a strong inner core! And I immediately warmed up to his character because I totally understood why he would regard people like that due to his enhancements and scars. I really loved how Meljean portrayed themes of disability and how that related to his character especially with how people’s attitudes towards him before he got enhanced and then later when he became the super hottie cyborg. It felt so realistic and not heavy handed, and so very well done. But then this is one of the reasons I love about her world-building and characterisation. But I loved that it didn’t make him bitter or angry but I could relate to him being reclusive and guarded about his feelings. I also loved how vulnerable that made him even though he would rarely show that aspect to others. Especially in his interactions with Annika, even though it got off to a rocky start, I could understand his frustration and desire to fulfil his mother’s wishes, although he made it clear he wouldn’t have betrayed Annika’s trust and that of her family and home town.
Thoughts on Heroine
MinnChica: Annika wasn’t as much of a mystery to me, and while I liked her immensely, she didn’t stand out as much as David did. I understood her dedication to keep her family secret safe, and thought she did the best she could at keeping the secret. I have to admit that I never really saw her character as being a scared little bunny until the second half of the book, when she reunited with someone from her past. At that point, her character seemed to deflate a little for me, and I was sad to see her bold and fearsome character whither a bit under the strain. Like David, I saw Annika almost as a little girl as well. She left home with a goal in mind, and it seemed like she really hadn’t gotten the chance to grow up the rest of the way. But with David at her side, the two of them really blossomed together, and I loved reading that.
E: Annika seemed to be quite the individual. She certainly didn’t fit in with women from other places but at the same time she managed to get along with most of them. Due to her peculiar upbringing she was free from most of the common prejudices but had some less common ones of her own. She was intensely private with good reason given some of the horrible things she had seen while searching for her sister. I liked how she never gave up regardless of the odds against and managed to come up with ways to make a difference. It was striking to see how much her character had matured while being on her own when she encountered people she knew from her home. I have to say I much preferred the strong Annika. Watching the relationship grow between the two with their ups and downs was a lot of fun.
Has: For me Annika’s character was much like peeling an onion and as the book progressed each layer slowly unfolded showing a different side to her. Her character may not be as dramatic,but like her dress sense which is colourful, she she definitely stood out to me. I think David needed an introspective heroine, because she like him, she was an outsider and I definitely agree that once she was with him, she really found her sense of self. Especially towards the end of the book, where she wasn’t being held back by her past guilt on the reason why she’s looking for her lost sister Kalla and family obligations. But I liked that she was refreshingly honest, and sweet but I don’t think she had the chance to show this side of self because she wasn’t given an opportunity until meeting David and encountering the mystery with Lorenzo and the experiments. And although she wasn’t as kick-ass as the previous heroines, I loved her steadfastness and determination and I think David needed that because he never had someone who could relate to him or be as loyal, and she’s going to be his touch stone and vice versa..
MinnChica: There were really so many of them, I just don’t know how I can narrow it down to one. There were so many great pivotal moments to their romance, and many of those stick out to me: hiding in the saferoom of the airship, their private moment in the bathhouse, their first time together. But I think the one moment that sticks out most is the first time they got hot and heavy, while traveling in the troll. I loved that they both wanted to take things slow, that they knew going into their evening that they WOULDN’T be having sex, and yet they desperately wanted to experience everything they could together. They were like fumbling teenagers doing what felt good, and it was such a turning point for them to admit they were on their way to love, and wanted to experience all the sexual buildup that comes with it.
E: Oh those are good scenes that MinnChica mentioned. I think I am going to say one close to the beginning of the story when David and Dooley (his scientific expedition partner) had a conversation about how David had never spoken to a women for longer than three minutes. The humor and teasing there highlighted who David really was to me while also mentioning a rather important truth. That just meant his conversations and other encounters with Annika that much more precious.
Has: I totally agree with you all about those scenes, especially with the touches of humour, and the growing sexual tension which was fun and very sexy! But for me the scene that called out to me and I don’t want to spoil the book, is at the end of the book, when they were both trying to survive the repercussions from big event. Oh, for two quieter toned characters, this scene was jam packed full of intensity and I really could feel the sense of despair and desperation and just how much they loved each other. This scene really summed up their romance for me because it showed how much they developed from their initial meeting to this point and it was so sweet and poignant.
Dislike about book
MinnChica: Other than Lorenzo and his total disregard for humanity, there really wasn’t much that I didn’t like about this book in particular. One of the things I love most about this series also has a tendency to frustrate me: you never know what you are going to get. With Brook and this series it could go one way or another. I’m a very mood-based reader in that I’ll pick up what I’m in the mood for, and with this series, I never know if I’m in the right mood or not. It’s very annoying for me, and I find that many times it’ll take me multiple sittings to get through the book, which almost never happens with me. However, that being said, I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed after finishing one of the Iron Seas novels or novellas.
E: I was slightly disappointed in what happened to Lorenzo. I know that the fact his carefully built and orchestrated world falling to pieces not to mention the destruction of his plans caused him a large amount of distress but I wanted more. So I might be slightly bloodthirsty but I wanted to see him suffer physically like so many of the people whose paths he crossed. Granted I don’t think he is any position to come back and cause anyone any harm *grin* but I wanted confirmation.
Has: I don’t really have any real dislikes in the book, although I agree about Lorenzo’s fate! But I did find it interesting that his character was contrasted with David and Annika who both observed things and people too, because they were outsiders. But unlike Lorenzo, who was basically a sociapath, they had empathy and was able to relate to people despite being different or eccentric.
Misc. thoughts & grade
MinnChica: All in all I really enjoyed this book. The world of the Iron Seas is so robust, there is so much going on, and there are so many different places Brook can take us to. I love the small world feel we got being in Iceland for the majority of the book, and how a lot of the underlying themes of community stood out to me. It felt like a steampunk small town romance, and I loved it start to finish. I hope we get to see more of the Hannasvik people and these characters in future books. The romance was great, the action was fun, and the steampunk aspects were engenius. Brook has another hit read on her hands! I give Riveted an A-
E: Once again I was completely entranced by Brook’s world. I stayed up way too late finishing this and loved every second of it. Between the depth of the world building, the complexity of the characters, and what is at stake for them it never lost my attention. This could actually serve as a standalone because none of the characters from previous stories are mentioned although it is obvious it is the same world, just focused in a different part. Yes it does take a little while for the action to start but the slow ramping up allowed me to get to know the characters and get a feel for them before I was focused on their life and death prospects making their relationship that much more believable. It wasn’t a sudden urge to celebrate not dying in the most primitive of ways but a thoughtful logical next stop to their already established friendship and attraction. I also really admire how Brook manages to integrate steam so thoroughly instead of an afterthought tossed in to satisfy a genre classification. Like MinnChica said above the romance, action and steampunk were all marvelous. I can’t wait for the next one. I give Riveted an A
Has: I was totally immersed in this book, although unlike the previous books which was more action led, I liked the quieter toned, and touches of humour, but the real stand out element was the romance – this was a beautifully drawn out love story about two misfits falling in love, and I loved the backdrop of Iceland with huge mechanical trolls, and leviathan like whales. I can’t say enough good things about the detail and depth of the strength of the world-building that Meljean Brook has laid out. It is like a real feast of the imagination, and I love how she tackles themes of race, sexuality and disability and the impact this has in a world where differences are frowned upon due to fear and ignorance. Riveted adds another element in the ever expanding tapestry of the Iron Seas world, the rich characterisation, the sweet and passionate and vibrant steampunk setting, I was truly captivated from the first page.
Lots of fun to read. I was sucked into their adventure from the start with a giant ship battle. The past history the hero and heroine had was also wonLots of fun to read. I was sucked into their adventure from the start with a giant ship battle. The past history the hero and heroine had was also wonderful along with their changes as three years has passed since they last met. The heroine was very strong but she didn't try to outman the guys which I also really enjoyed. The inventions were very fascinating and I liked that they didn't come without a price. I also really liked that the person who discovered and invented how to meld man and machine into Man O' War (love the play on words from old navy terms) was a woman. Her eccentricity was mentioned and I wonder if she will play a visible role in later books. Both the hero and heroine discussed plans and allowed each to shine in their area of expertise which was really nice to see. He didn't assume that she couldn't function because she was a girl and she didn't assume he was stupid because he was a guy. If I had a paperback copy it would certainly go on my keeper shelf :).
I initially marked this as a 4 star but when I was writing my short thoughts above I realized that I didn't have any quibbles so I moved it to a 5 star. I am seriously looking forward to seeing what comes next in this world :D. ...more
Publisher: All Romance Ebooks Publish Date: Feb 12th How we got this book: From the author via Novel Sidekick
A short story set between Wilder’s Mate and Hunter’s Prey.
Merrick Wood is a wild man–literally. For six decades he’s stalked the Rocky Mountains as a bloodhound, fighting a losing battle against the vampires who have taken over most of the American frontier. He’s sure he’s seen it all, until an airship crash leaves him caught behind enemy lines with a concussion and a mate he doesn’t remember taking.
Paralee Colton is a wild woman. She enjoys her freedom and makes a good living flying over the Deadlands. Until, that is, bloodsuckers shoot down her ship, and she’s forced to deal with an irritatingly attractive man who isn’t a man at all.
Trapped together in the wilderness, Merrick and Paralee must fight to find a safe camp before the new moon drags Merrick into three days of sexual madness. But as enticing as Paralee finds the bloodhound, she doesn’t realize the stakes of their courtship game.
Getting out of the Deadlands is only half of Merrick’s battle for survival. If he can’t convince Paralee to stay with him, he’ll follow the footsteps of every bloodhound who’s ever lost a mate–straight into the grave. This blurb came from the author’s website here.
E: I had heard through the twitterwebs that Moira Rogers had a short story coming out in All Romance Ebooks Valentines special anthology I was pretty excited. Then I found out it was one of the Bloodhounds and I was even more excited because I have to admit that I am addicted to them. When we were offered the chance to review this I about broke my fingers trying to type my acceptance. If anything this short story just fueled my addiction to this particular series.
Has: I really loved Wilder’s Mate and the setting and premise of a western with steampunk elements and hawt smexy weres as heroes is just full of WIN for me. So I was definitely looking forward to the next installment, and dare I say it – I think Merrick’s Destiny almost topped Wilder’s Mate! I loved how sexy and intense the romance even though it was short. I adored the opening scene which hooked me straight into the story.
E: Talk about starting off with an impact! With a short story I think it is even more important to have the reader hooked quickly because you don’t have the room for a gradual build-up. That scene certainly set their characters and gave them a reason for having to work together. I also liked that Merrick was hurt and in a way owed his life to Paralee. It seemed to almost level the playing field between the two of them.
Has: I loved that scene so much! It packed so much info and emotions in such a short time period and the tension between them sizzled! And I totally agree that there was such an equal footing and their partnership on surviving their crash landing and the tentative beginnings of their emotional part of their relationship. I liked how Merrick didn’t want to push her and gave Paralee the space to make the moves.
I have to say that each love scene that they shared really ratcheted the tension and the intensity of their romance. I really do think that this was hottest story that Moria Rogers has written yet because if my Kindle could live up to its name. The words would be smoking!
E: Merrick was great. For such an old gruff Bloodhound he certainly had a hidden soft side. He tried so hard to let Paralee make her decision without any pressure. My favorite line that displayed how much he cared for more then the physical is:
"You’re going to be the most important thing in my world, and if you’ve got a scrap of compassion for me… Well, you’ll let me care for you a little, whether you need it or not."
OMG talk about swoon and certainly telling Paralee that she had a lot of power over him. And the continual build-up of sexual tension…*fans self*
Has: *Sigh* I know! That scene was pure utter scrumptiousness! I don’t think that a lot of short stories can carry that aspect well. But seriously Merrick’s Destiny really did deliver! Even though it was such a short story, the romance, the characterisation and the setting all worked. I felt very satisfied towards the end and although I was sad when I got to the end of the story and wished for more but that is because I wanted to know more about the characters and their future adventures. I thought that it was a wonderfully sweet but passionate Bloodhound entry to the series and for such a short story – it packed a memorable punch! Frankly I <3 this story!
I give Merrick’s Destiny an A
E: I also liked how the authors were able to sprinkle in bits of world building and Bloodhound history. I felt it added to the story both for readers familiar with the world and those who might be visiting for the first time. This was a great installment in their series and I can’t wait for the next. This short story delivered everything I was looking for. I can’t even complain about the short length, even though I didn’t want to stop reading, because the story felt complete.