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REVIEW: Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook

Dear Ms. Brook:

I was a bit apprehensive about this book. I guess after reading The Iron Duke, I was sure that this book would be a let down. Archimedes Fox was charming but could I buy him as a male lead? Would he be strong enough for a character like Yasmeen? In order to make Fox appealing, would you have to defang Yasmeen (because that would be even worse)? All of these doubts kind of hovered around the periphery of my subconscious as I began to read. Those quickly dissipated as I found myself lost within this rich, textured world that is the Iron Seas.

Heart of Steel by Meljean BrookThe Iron Seas series is an alternate reality set in the Victorian period.  Much of the world is under the control of the Horde.  The Horde released nanobots in sugar which infected the people who ate sugared items.  Once the nanobots were inside a person, that person was subject to the power of radio towers controlled by the Horde.  These nanobots create a sort of super human allowing humans to heal faster, live longer.  However, they also allowed the Horde to suppress their emotion or drive them into frenzies. In England, the radio towers were destroyed by the Iron Duke and the country is still reeling from the revolution and the aftermath.

Yasmeen is an airship captain who fought with the Iron Duke.  Archimedes Fox is an adventurer, kind of a treasure hunter who finds rare items and sells them for money.  Yasmeen and Archimedes met in the Iron Duke when Archimedes needed transport.  In a fever and not thinking right, Archimedes challenged Yasmeen’s control over her ship and she sent him over the side of the ship into zombies below.  She believes that he has died. Yasmeen isn’t sure whether she’s glad that he hasn’t expired when Archimedes shows up again.

Yasmeen and Fox end up on a journey together to look for Da Vinci’s clockwork army. The man who has hired them to undertake this task understands that it might be a fruitless mission but even if they shouldn’t find the ultimate prize, surely there will be artifacts to be picked up along the way that will make the expedition worthwhile.

Fox tells Yasmeen up front that he is going to fall in love with her. Yasmeen just kind of smirks at his declaration. Fox loves taking risks, the more dangerous the better. Nothing can be more dangerous than being in love with Lady Corsair. What we learn is that Fox was once under the control of a tower for a short time. He was sick and to save him, he was given a blood transfusion from a bugger (a person infected with nanobots). The tower deadened Fox’s feelings and he hated that. Once out of reach of the tower, Fox embraces feelings of all kinds, particularly the extreme ones.  He’s a perfect foil for Yasmeen who is all about control.

Yasmeen’s attachments are few. She has bonds with her crew but she’s been betrayed by men in her past, particularly because the men she has enjoyed have always wanted to exert their control, particularly over her in ways that diminished her in front of her crew which would diminish her reputation and jeopardize her ability to command her ship.  Over the course of the book, you begin to see them both be more balanced. Fox understanding that his pursuit of love as a game is more dangerous than being chase by zombies. Yasmeen recognizing that bonds and tethers don’t always hold you down, but can lift you up and strengthen you.

This story is full of adventure. It’s got great lines. (At one point, Fox bursts in just as Yasmeen is finishing off a bad guy and says “Goddammit. Can’t I save you just once?” or when they are crawling in the dark ““I think God is angry with me,” Archimedes grumbled in French. “My face is all but buried in your delectable ass, and I can’t see to enjoy a moment of it.”)

This is a more charming and funnier and less agnsty read than The Iron Duke but the world building is just as rich, the characters incredibly vibrant, and the love story just as amazing.  I do think of the book as an adventure first and a love story second but I think it is because of Yasmeen’s fear of love.  It takes her a while to acknowledge her feelings for Archimedes which isn’t the norm in romance these days and thus Yasmeen might come off a bit cold.

In answering the questions I had at the beginning, Yasmeen is not defanged but Archimedes is her match.  Not because he can save her.  He probably could but Yasmeen doesn’t need saving in a physical sense but she did need someone like Fox to make her realize the extent of her connections to the people around her and that life could be richer savoring those connections instead of cutting them off.  Yasmeen and Fox could have both lived perfectly acceptable lives  without each other but together, they were happier and that’s a romance story I really appreciate.   A-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

24 Comments

  1. Sarah
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 10:57:17

    Beautiful review for a fabulous story!

  2. Lorenda Christensen
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 10:57:41

    I was a little afraid of the “second book let-down”, but I agree, this one was great. I still like The Iron Duke the best, but only because agnst is my personal preference.

  3. Sirius
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 11:11:32

    I dislike one of the tropes in Iron Duke, so I refused to buy it, but I am definitely getting this one. Thank you for the review.

  4. Maili
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 11:28:29

    I felt it has a couple of bumps (such as, there are some slightly repetitive moments, and the conclusion of their courtship seemed a bit rushed in “Oops, we’re running out of pages, let’s wrap it up now!” way, but I didn’t get that any more from the second read, though), but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I read it twice within a week. Heh.

    The horse scene, the zombies piling into a room scene and the campfire story are probably my favourite moments. I loved many of Fox’s witticisms, too. A great adventure romance, and quite different from The Iron Duke and other two novellas. When I finished reading this, I wanted to read the next Iron Seas story ASAP, which I think it’s a great compliment.

    I think the Iron Seas series will have different types that appeal to readers with different tastes. Like so:

    The Iron Duke = angsty with a touch of Johanna Lindsey.
    Heart of Steel = Indiana Jonesy with touches of survival horror and it’s a mad mad mad world.
    Here There Be Monsters (novella) = a beauty and the beast tale, but who’s the beast? Both think they are the beast and both think the other is the beauty.
    The Blushing Blounder (novella) = a sweet and gentle-natured fish-out-of-water tale.

    I liked them all for different reasons, even when each has an element that doesn’t work. I’m loving the Iron Seas universe, so I really look forward to more Iron Seas stories.

  5. Elyssa Papa
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 11:52:41

    Oh, I’m really looking forward to reading this one. The review is fantastic, and I loved Yasmeen as soon as she pitched Fox overboard. lol

    And, Maili, those are awesome in a nutshell summaries for the books. I love adventure romance stories (I blame you, Romancing the Stone) so I’m sure I’ll love this like I did THE IRON DUKE.

  6. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 12:18:29

    I’m on the fence about buying this one because I didn’t finish The Iron Duke. I loved Mina, and Rhys grew on me, but there was just so much going on. I felt lost.

    On the plus side, I enjoyed Here There Be Monsters and The Blushing Bounder very much. If Heart of Steel is more like those, or unique to itself, as I’m beginning to see each of Brooks’ works, I’m on board. Maili’s comment (and this review) makes me want to give it a whirl.

  7. Lorenda Christensen
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 12:38:21

    Jill – it could have been the fact that I’m more familiar with the world now, but I thought this one was a little easier to follow. I agree that The Iron Duke was a little hard to follow with all the “who’s this Horde?”, “nanobots?”, and “pneumatic what?”.

    This book had a few things like that, but I felt like the invention stuff took a backseat in this one, which I thought was an improvement.

  8. CourtneyLee
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:55:27

    I loved it, which is good because I felt a bit shafted by the price: $9.99 for the Kindle edition. Last week, I bought a fantastic novel that was a third longer and three dollars cheaper from an epublisher. I really loath the basing of ebook pricing on the print release.

    But that’s not Meljean’s fault, and damn that woman can spin a tale. I felt that Archimedes’ attitude toward falling in love was refreshingly different. The entire romance was so much fun to read. And the Iron Seas ‘verse was, as always, fascinating.

    The banter between them was indeed great. One of my favorite exchanges:

    Archimedes: “I could kiss you”
    Yasmeen: “I’ll bare my ass for your lips later.”

  9. MarieC
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 14:03:00

    Great review! I am roughly 2/3 of the way through and loving it. Although it has a very different tone from Iron Duke, the world is still very rich and colorful.

    @Maili: I guess I didn’t really notice how different the tones were for various stories, based on the primary characters. How awesome is that?!?

  10. Jane
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 15:19:55

    @CourtneyLee I have to know what the other book is that you read and enjoyed!

  11. Ridley
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 17:27:59

    I thought the romance in the Iron Duke was pretty badly written, but I LOVED the world building and the adventure story, so I really want to read this one.

    $9.99 for an ebook, though? Can’t swallow it. I’m hoping a local library consortium will buy it.

  12. msaggie
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 17:47:16

    Thanks for two great reviews at Dear Author for Heart of Steel. I bought the Kindle version here as I did for The Iron Duke (those who are complaining about Kindle prices, i.e. $9.99 for Heart of Steel, Iron Duke was $12.99, so to me, at least this one was $3 cheaper). I am halfway through and am thoroughly enjoying it. I love Romancing the Stone and the Indiana Jones movies. The problem is that books aren’t always able to emulate the action of movies (e.g. I thought Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose books were a bit flat in portraying the action – I just didn’t get excited enough). Heart of Steel is marvellous – one gets the zing of the action-adventure story and then there’s the wise-cracks from both protagonists. I think it’ll make a great movie! I’m loving the ride and would also recommend it highly.

  13. Brian
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 19:35:53

    I look forward to reading this one. Do we get ‘updates’ on characters from the other tales at all? That’s one of my favorite thins in series books.

    Kind of strange that The Iron Duke is still $12.99 for the book, it must have gone up instead of down as it was $9.99 back when I got it as a gift, or at least I think it was.

    Don’t really like the covers for these, but it’s the story that counts.

  14. Jane
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 21:48:59

    @Brian Not really. I don’t know if this will be disheartening or not but there will be a very very very long extended epilogue of sorts to the mass market release of the Iron Duke.

  15. Brian
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 21:58:44

    Hopefully the extended epilogue will be available another way. I hate it when they add stuff like that to the mass market release exclusively to try and get a second sale out of fans.

  16. B
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 05:43:20

    […] Brooks zweiter Teil der Iron-Seas-Serie erhält überall hervorragende Kritiken: Dear Author | The Good, The Bad And The Unread | Smexy […]

  17. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 07:19:06

    @Lorenda Christensen: Good to know! I had no trouble following the worldbuilding in the shorter stories, so maybe I’m more prepared now. I also like the sound of the relationship dynamics here; I’m not always a fan of power imbalances that favor the hero.

  18. Niveau
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 23:30:53

    @Jill Sorenson: I think you’ll like the balance of power here, then. It’s generally pretty even, or slightly tipped in the heroine’s favour, and the way it was handled is one of the things I loved best. I don’t know if this will interest you, too, but another thing I really liked in this case: I’m often annoyed that most authors (or at least that’s what it seems like to me) who create alpha heroines give them heroes who are even more alpha, and I feel like this book flipped that.

  19. LG
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 10:04:16

    Oh, I can’t wait to read this. I’ve been slow getting through Brook’s Iron Seas works, and have only read The Iron Duke and The Blushing Bounder, but I’ve loved what I’ve read so far (and am thankfully now feeling less confused by all the world details – it’s interesting, but there’s so much!).

    @Maili: I like your breakdown of the stories – I was amazed at how different The Blushing Bounder felt from The Iron Duke.

  20. cleo
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 12:31:35

    I love coming to DearAuthor and discovering a new review of a book I just read – and agreeing with review about a book I really liked is even better.

    I was hoping Brook would write some sympathetic Horde characters, maybe even some rebels within the Horde empire, and she did. Yay. Finally.

    @Niveau: I completely agree about the balance of power. I hadn’t thought about how alpha heroines are usually treated but you’re right (drove me nuts in a couple of Nalini Singh’s psy/changeling books). I like that Yasmeen knows she wants a man who’s as tough as she is but who won’t undermine her authority on her ship, and that Archimedes gets it. And it’s not a big sacrifice for him to “let” her be the captain.

  21. cleo
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 12:45:08

    @Jill Sorenson: This has a completely different feel from The Iron Duke, which is my least fav so far. I really loved this one. As a couple people have said, the world building seemed less confusing, but there’s some political intrigue and references to past wars that completely lost me in this one. I tend to read for the characters and romance first and plot second, so I just ignored the stuff I didn’t get, but I’m still not clear on some of the nuances, especially about the French-Libre war.

  22. Angela
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 07:21:56

    I took my time reading this book, because I wanted to drag out the pure pleasure I was getting from it. Just finished it yesterday.

    I was also worried about Yasmeen getting defanged in her book, and was so glad it didn’t happen. I loved that Brook took the path she did with their relationship. That Archimedes didn’t turn out to be even more alpha than Yasmeen.

    After falling in love with her in The Iron Duke, I was very satisfied in this story.

    I also really appreciated being shown how intelligent Yasmeen was. Too often I feel like I’m told that in stories, but this one clearly showed it.

  23. Pamela
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 17:53:42

    Thanks for the great review! This sounds like my kind of book, full of great dialog, and a strong heroine.

    @Niveau says: “I think you’ll like the balance of power here, then. It’s generally pretty even, or slightly tipped in the heroine’s favour, and the way it was handled is one of the things I loved best. I don’t know if this will interest you, too, but another thing I really liked in this case: I’m often annoyed that most authors (or at least that’s what it seems like to me) who create alpha heroines give them heroes who are even more alpha, and I feel like this book flipped that.” Yes, yes! You just put into words what I’ve felt keenly for several years now, but didn’t know quite how to articulate. I’m a big fan of strong heroines, but the number of heroines I’ve read who didn’t get outdone by an even stronger love interest, I can count on one hand!

    I always read in order, and I’ve put both The Iron Duke and Heart of Steel into my ereader. Thank you!

  24. Jane
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 20:47:52

    @Pamela I hope you enjoy both books.

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