A steampunk romantic suspense set in America’s Deep South sounded all sorts of fun times so I was eager to reach for this book and get started. And what’s a steampunk tale without a daring, independent-minded heroine and a smart, handsome hero to ride at her side? Let’s just say that I didn’t have to find out because this book opening a new thrilling series had those very types. It took me a bit to get into this one, but after a time, I got my feet under me and I was off to enjoy Adele and Rawley’s adventures.
The story opens on an alternate history in 1890’s Mobile, Alabama with poor Adele de la Pointe covering yet another boring event for the society column of the newspaper when instead she would rather be dashing around digging up an exciting story as an investigative journalist. Unfortunately, it’s a man’s world and she is barely holding onto the job she has now. It’s her only way to hold off her father from marrying her off. Oh sure, it hurts a bit that everyone in Mobile thinks she’s flighty and odd, but Adele wants more than to stifle in the rigors of social norm as some man’s society wife. She wants to make a difference in the world like her hero, Nellie Bly. As she ponders life, her unorthodox pet monkey makes a big splash at the garden fete in the lemonade bowl and she can only hope it doesn’t mean her job. Things get interesting when a handsome stranger with a delicious British accent and an adventurous flair about him arrives from the sky by balloon. All her curiosity turns sour when she realizes that Dr. Rawley isn’t just there to intern with her father.
Phillip Rawley is told all the time that he’s a dead bore, but to help his despairing sister, he will venture most anything including moving to America and agreeing to an arranged marriage with the feisty daughter of the man who can help Charlotte. Phillip’s proposal is soundly rejected and after seeing Adele in action, he’s not sure that he’s all that disappointed, but for Charlotte’s sake he has to keep trying. Adele’s a nightmare for a man who wants a calm, peaceful, organized home. But he can’t very well let her go after a serial killer in an attempt to scoop a big story all by herself, can he? Okay, and maybe he does like her fire and individuality just a little even if she wants nothing to do with him.
What a rich, colorful world the author painted of a steampunk world Mobile with true life figures and locales rubbing shoulders with interesting original characters and a steampunk makeover. The plot was fun and engaging once it got going with both leads taking turns with the narration. I confess that it took a bit for me to get into the story. The heroine struck me as being flaky even as I sympathized with her passionate underlying needs. Later, when the story was in full-swing and she grew and developed as a character some more, I was fine, though I still thought she was a mess albeit a fun mess. The plot has several layers that include both Adele and Phillip’s character growth, the romance, and the nice bit of suspense with the murder and espionage going on.
Since this is a first in a series book, it needed to set things up. I liked how the story and setting wove well together and the details of the world were allowed to unfold as we went. The pacing was good and the descriptive details were just right for me- not too much; not too little. I love Steampunk stories, but I like them to have a more organic or magical feel than an info dump that sounds like a mechanical science manual with this one hitting a happy medium.
As to the romance, that was a slow to develop bit and rightly so. Adele had a couple past traumatic experiences that shape the adult she is and cause her to run from the prospect of marriage, struggle with her family relationships, and flit about with very little purpose, but a whole lot of determination. Phillip has his own devils in the closet that keep him from being in a good place for a romance too though he is a more grounded person than Adele. However, they do have a lot of sparks and sizzle that gets up to some steamy (see that play on the genre and the story just like the author did with the title?) passionate encounters even as they both resist their attraction hard. Phillip is masculine perfection and all (Adele was a nut to take so long to figure that out), but his biggest appeal was that this guy really understood his lady.
Rawley values Adele and sees her so well, accepting what is there instead of what society dictates she should be. He helps her work through her fears and helps her learn how to focus her flightiness for results. Adele shows Rawley that he really isn’t a bore and she likes being with him although in a freakout moment, she lets her tongue hurt him terribly by calling him exactly that.
In the end, this was a diverting, exciting and passionate story that makes me eager for more. Dare I hope that Rex gets his turn next? He really caught my attention as Adele’s brother and a pivotal secondary character. But anyway, I’d recommend this one to Steampunk Romance lovers who don’t mind America for the setting, moderate amount of gadgetry, suspenseful plot and a hot romance.
My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.