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.

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.

The Liberation (The Alchemy Wars #3) by Ian Tregillis

Clakkers are mechanical men. Built to serve, for centuries they have catered to their human owners every whim. But now the bonds that held them for so long have begun to break. Minds held in thrall are now becoming free.

A new age of man and machine is dawning.

The Liberation is the third and final book in The Alchemy Wars series. It continues almost immediately where the second book left off and takes it to its thrilling conclusion.

The war that once pitted the Dutch against the French has now become a fight of man against machine. With the majority of the Clakkers now free of their alchemical bonds, some have begun to take revenge for years of servitude out on the humans they once served. Others, however, have formed an uneasy alliance with the humans in an effort to bring peace and understanding to both sides.

Like the first two books, The Liberation is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. There are certainly a good number of thrills – and spills – to keep the reader entertained. One thing that might be a drawback for some is the amount of violence described. Yet, if the reader has made it through the first two books they should have no problem with the third.

I really enjoyed this series from the moment I picked up the first book. While I am sad to see it ending, Tregillis has left it open enough that he can return should he so wish. I personally hope he does because I would like to see what the future holds for the humans and the Clakkers.

The Brothers Cabal (Johannes Cabal #4) by Jonathan L. Howard

Horst Cabal is back from the dead. Again.

Johannes Cabal’s younger brother, Horst – the nicest vampire one is likely to ever meet – has been brought back by to unlife by a strange occult conspiracy. Their ultimate goal: to create a country of horrors, a land ruled by supernatural creatures; and they want Horst as a general in their monstrous army. When Horst realizes the extent of their plans, he also realizes he cannot fight them alone. He needs a necromancer; someone who is sarcastic, amoral, and heavily armed.

As luck would have it, this perfectly describes his brother Johannes.

When Horst died in the first Cabal book, I admit dear reader that I was very sad. Not only was he an interesting character but he was the perfect foil for his elder brother Johannes. His was the voice of reason.

Horst has returned in this fourth book of the Cabal series and I was glad to see it. Told primarily from his point of view, it gives us a better view of his character. It allows us to see what an amicable man he is and how he uses that friendliness to aggravate and confound.

As the story his told from his point of view, the story has a lighter but no less dangerous air. Still incredibly amusing, I found myself laughing out loud several times while reading. Howard has taken the humor and action that caught me in the first book and brought it back with the fourth.

 

 

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast (Steampunk Proper Romance #1) by Nancy Campbell Allen

When Lucy Pickett receives a letter from her ailing cousin Kate, she rushes to Blackwell Manor. Yet upon her arrival she finds more than she bargained for: ghosts roam the hallways, werewolves are rumored to run the grounds, and vampires have been attacking the villagers in a nearby town. Blackwell Manor seems to be full of secrets and many of them seem to center of Lord Blackwell himself.

Lord Miles Blackwell is still reeling from the mysterious deaths of his wife Clara, and his sister Maria, six months earlier. The arrival of the smart and attractive Lucy Pickett doesn’t help his mood any. Her attempts to bring peace to Blackwell Manor means her digging in to the family’s past and raising questions he isn’t ready to answer.

Being a fan of the Steampunk genre, I always find it enjoyable discovering new authors. Especially when said author gives a new twist to an old favorite story.

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast is touted as ‘Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast’ in one review, and I feel I must respectfully disagree. In reading this book I found almost no similarities between it and Jane Eyre. There were similarities though between it and Beauty and the Beast – a story I quite enjoy.

One thing I quite liked was how the whole Steampunk thing (the fashion, the gadgets, etc. etc.) took a back seat to the actual story. Unfortunately there are authors who use them almost as a crutch, the technology being the star of the story leaving very little room for plot. Allen doesn’t do this; instead she uses the technology to simply add flavor to the story. Were the Tesla coils, airships, and other accessories to be removed from the story on the whole, I firmly believe the story itself would be enjoyable.

Also, while Beauty and the Clockwork Beast is touted as a romance, the romantic plot isn’t integral to the story either. It is a side plot, masterly woven in to the main plot so the two run side by side.

Fans of Steampunk as well as romance enthusiasts are likely to enjoy this book. I am curious to see what the second book of the series entails and will be keeping an eye out for it at my local library.