Kiss of the Spindle (Steampunk Proper Romance #2) by Nancy Campbell Allen

Doctor Isla Cooper is cursed – literally. Every night, at the stroke of midnight, she falls in to a death like slumber. A sleep that she cannot be wakened from for six hours. To add further insult to injury, the curse has an expiration date. After one whole year the curse becomes permanent and Isla sleeps forever – and the year is almost up.

Desperate to find the witch who cursed her, Isla blackmails her way on to a private airship headed for the Caribbean; the last place she heard the witch was residing. It is only when the ship is underway does she discover she’s travelling with three illegal shapeshifters and one government official determined to hunt and exterminate every shifter in England. And he is willing to travel to the ends of the Earth to do it.

Isla must now juggle her duties to Queen and country by protecting the shifters and keeping their secret while keeping her own curse hidden. All while trying to come to terms to her developing feelings for the handsome airship captain.

Kiss of the Spindle is a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Inspired by the Disney version of the story, it takes the well known movie characters and gives them a slight twist. This is certainly not a bad thing, in fact I believe it makes for a better story.

I found most of the characters to be well thought out and well written, especially the character of Isla. Fans of the original Disney movie will recall that she had almost a minor role in the story. However, in this story, she is not a background character; she even has a hand in saving herself and breaking the curse. And while she did have help in the end, she was still the one to take the first steps towards a cure.

Reading the book, I had a great deal of fun finding the little parallels between this story and the Disney version. The three shapeshifters on the ship take Isla under their proverbial wings, much like the three fairy godmothers do for Aurora. The handsome Prince Phillip with his trusty steed Samson in the story is now handsome Captain Daniel Pickett with his faithful automaton friend also named Samson. Then there is the evil witch Malette, who like Maleficent carries a staff and turns in to a dragon.

Much like the first book in the Steampunk Proper Romance series – Beauty and the Clockwork Beast – the actual steampunk elements takes a back seat to the prose itself. Yes, there are mentions of airships, Tesla lamps, automatons, and the like, but they are not crucial to the story. Remove those elements, replace them with their actual Victorian counterparts, and the story remains strong.

The same can be said for the romance elements as well, they too take a back seat to the main story. Yes, the two main characters do kiss and there is a bit of petting, but it goes no further. Any mention of a more physical relationship is hinted at, but again it is not described in any detail.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading Kiss of the Spindle. The action and likable characters will appeal to most readers. The hints of romance, the slow build of feelings between two characters, will appeal to more. This is a lovely addition to the Proper Romance series and I am looking forward to seeing more.

Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1) by Laura Thalassa

Callie – Callypso – Lillis is a siren with a rather large problem. A problem that stretches up her arm and seven years in to her past.

Seven years ago she began collecting the black beads that make up the bracelet on her wrist. Each bead represents a favor from The Bargainer; the man who can get you anything you want…for a price. Callie has racked up over 300 of these such favors and she knows one day she will have to repay every favor she has garnered.

When The Bargainer comes for Callie, she knows her time is up.

There are very few books that catch my attention from the first page, and Rhapsodic was one of them. Unfortunately, while it was advertised as a fantasy novel, it is more a romance novel with fantasy elements.

And that is what this particular book is, dear readers, a romance novel. Thalassa spends the majority of the book creating the sexual tension between the two main characters that there is little room for anything else. Even the main characters themselves don’t receive too much attention in regards to their respective pasts beyond when they meet. As far as the side characters, they are sadly rather one dimensional and not terribly interesting either.

This unresolved sexual tension takes over the plot of the story as well. So much so that what is supposed to be the main plot of the book takes a back seat and is almost pushed aside. The end of the book is quite rushed as well. Perhaps this is because there is a sequel to this first book and the big bad wasn’t quite vanquished.

Now I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy Rhapsodic, dear readers, because I did. I, however, would have liked more. More of the fantasy elements, less of the fluff.

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

Queen Victoria rules with an iron (and immortal) fist.

She rules over a Britain where the Aristocracy and ruling classes are made up of vampires and werewolves. A Britain where goblins literally live underground and mother’s know better than to let their little ones out after dark. It is a world where magic and technology live side by side.

It is 2012 and Pax Britannia reigns.

Alexandra Vardan is a member of the Royal Guard; an elite group whose purpose is to serve and protect the Aristocracy. When her younger sister goes missing however, Alexandra puts her life on hold to try and locate her. The search takes Alexandra down a path that causes her to question all that she knows and believes and eventually uncovers a secret that could topple the empire.

God Save the Queen is a perfect example of why one should never judge a book by its cover.

Head on over to Goodreads and you’ll see that there are two different covers to this book. One shows a saucy looking red-headed woman in a vaguely steampunk type outfit, the other shows a stylized skull and crown. The first cover I had come across in my local library and passed it by. I came across the second cover in a recent foray to the bookstore and I picked it up. It’s the same book from what I can tell, but I had to very different reactions.

All that aside, I found God Save the Queen to be quite enjoyable. While the book itself is touted as steampunk, I found it to be more of a fantasy type tale. Typically steampunk stories focus more on the technology where here it took a back seat to the characters. While mentions are made of the technology of the day, it is just that – mentions.

I had a few small qualms with God Save the Queen, but none of them are terribly major. I wasn’t terribly fond of the romantic subplot and thought the story could have done very well without it. I also found it a bit disconcerting that Alexandra felt it necessary to describe her clothing (albeit not in great detail, thankfully) whenever she dressed. I found it just disturbed the flow of the narrative and took me out of the story for that brief moment.

One the whole, I found God Save the Queen to be fairly enjoyable. Die hard steampunk fans will likely have trouble but the more casual fan – such as myself – should enjoy it. Don’t make my mistake and pay no attention to the cover; it is the story in side that counts.

All At Once by Vera Mae

Fate can be a funny thing sometimes.

If Jayne hadn’t gone to that audition…If Lyel hadn’t gotten on that elevator…

A chance meeting sets two individuals down the path of a three day whirlwind romance. In just that short amount of time, the two fall deeply and completely in love. But Lyel has a secret and when the three days are up, he leaves Jayne and returns to England and disappears in to thin air.

Jayne is left behind to try and mend her broken heart. Just when she believes she can finally move on, Lyel returns…

I was given a copy of All At Once from the author Vera Mae (pen name of K.P. Ambroziak) for review on this site.

Allow me to start, dear reader, by saying that I am generally not one for romance novels. I must find myself in a certain mood before I’ll even pick one up.

With that being said, I found myself enamored with All At Once. Not only does it feature the highs of a whirlwind romance that many dream of, it also has the extreme lows that often come with it. The feelings the characters experience is real and palpable and heartbreaking at times.

What woman (or man) hasn’t felt the anguish that Jayne goes through? What person hasn’t had to pick themselves up and keep going even as their world crumbles around them? Mae captures these emotions with her words and brings the reader with her on Lyel and Jayne’s journey.

My earlier experience with Mae’s work was through her earlier books, though those were more of the supernatural genre. Whichever genre she decides to continue to write in, she can count me as a fan.

Fans of softer, contemporary romances are bound to love All At Once. If you enjoy authors like Nicholas Sparks, you should definitely give Vera Mae a read.