It’s rare in romance to find an uncompromisingly strong heroine and even rarer to find a hero who understands how to love such a woman. This book gets it just right.
Although Meljean Brook is one of my autobuy authors, I was hugely disappointed by her first Iron Seas novel, The Iron Duke. I found Rhys Trahaearn unheroic, rapish and generally irritating. I hadn’t planned to read any more of this series, except I forgot to tell the bookshop, and they put aside a copy of Heart of Steel for me.
This is fortunate, because Heart of Steel is everything I love about Brook’s writing. Adventurer Archimedes Fox and Captain Yasmeen, who appeared in the first book, remind me of Hugh and Lilith from Brook’s The Guardians series. Their romance is cheeky but filled with subtext and things left unsaid that make it just that much more thrilling.
Archimedes Fox is presumed dead and Yasmeen makes a bargain with his sister to sell off a valuable Da Vinci sketch in exchange for a portion of the proceeds. But there are complications. Word seems to have got out, and some people are not above a bit of murder to get their hands on it. The sketch is stolen. Oh, and Fox isn’t actually dead.
Soon, Yasmeen has her own very personal reasons for wanting to find who is after the sketch. Fox, for reasons of his own, has decided to fall deeply, tragically, romantically in love with Yasmeen as they pursue treasures, mercenaries and assassins.
It’s a testament to Brook that she can create a character like Archimedes Fox, who treads a precarious line between roguish charm and utter ridiculousness, and find the perfect heroine for him—one who is unbowed and unyielding. Fox is the heart of this story, but Yasmeen is its strength.
There’s a lot of world building in this book, some of which follows on from The Iron Duke. It’s possible to read this as a stand alone novel, but it may be more satisfying to read the series in order. It does gets a bit dense in parts, so if you’re an impatient romance reader like me, you might find yourself skimming through the political and historical background, even though they’re crucial to understanding how the plot comes together.
The romance in Heart of Steel is relatively understated. Fox is determined to prolong his romantic agony. Yasmeen, of course, tells him he’s being ridiculous, but Fox has his reasons. Brook could have developed this aspect of his character more, but Fox is so much fun that it hardly matters.
Yay or nay?
It’s rare in romance to find an uncompromisingly strong heroine and even rarer to find a hero who understands how to love such a woman. Heart of Steel gets it just right.
Who might enjoy it: Steampunk romance enthusiasts
Who might not enjoy it: Acrophobics
Title: Heart of Steel (excerpt)
Series: Iron Seas (Book 2)
Author: Meljean Brook
B format: 9780425243305 (1/11/2011)
PDF: 9781101542798 (1/11/2011)
ePub: 9781101545676 (1/11/2011)