My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm always on the lookout for a good Steampunk book. I picked up this series at a local con in the hopes that it would be good (I rarely buy two books in an unknown series, not at the same time at any rate). I was lucky this time. This was a solid debut for the series. It's set a little early as far as steampunk is concerned, not really too Victorian, as Lord Byron is around, so more Regency. It opens where it ends, with an airship race.
Lily Stargazer is the pilot of the Stargazer with her two man team, Angus and Jesse. She races for England, placing second much to her chagrin. She celebrates with a little opium which is a lynchpin for the plot. Lily is a highly addicted opium eater. She also enjoys rough sex with Byron. I'll admit that made me a little uneasy, not the sex, Byron. I'm always leery when real historical people are used in a story though Byron is well handled and more of a minor character.
Lily is also lovers with Salvatore, a mechanical genius who is considerably older than her (within the first two chapters we see her with both men, sort of hammering home that she is not conforming to societal norms of the early 1800s though that's really never a problem for her.) Something happened to Lily at the end of the race, a strange young man dressed as a harlequin passes her a kaleidoscope before falling to his death.
The kaleidoscope is a mystery, one that takes her, her team and Sal to Venice as she tries to solve the mystery of both the man and ancient kaleidoscope. It leads her to the cult of Aphrodite who wants her help to secure a special statue of the goddess before the English – who have been liberating tons of Greco-Roman antiquities and whisking them away – get her. Despite being English herself, Lily throws her lot in with the goddess worshippers.
As the story progresses, Lily's tragic history – and reason for her opium/morphine/laudanum usage and feelings of not being loved in spite of her various lovers – is slowly revealed. Flawed as she is, Lily is a likeable character. She is strong without being bitchy, gets into trouble (and out again) without being an idiot. I enjoyed this a lot and I'm glad I have the next in the series. Even though this is a series, it is a standalone, complete story. Also, I love the title. There is one hiccup where vial is spelt vile several times but it's probably an autocorrect issue that got missed.
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New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I usually enjoy the In Death books in spite of the formula and the Mary Sueish characters. The uber wealthy Roarke sponsoring everything his detective wife Eve needs doing (and helping her with his fiendish computer skills that makes the cyber division of the police department redundant) is part of the series to the point I wouldn't know what to do without it.
In this one, a peophilic rapist, Isaac McQueen, has escaped from jail. Eve was the one who put him there after a lucky break as a rookie cop. He has never forgiven her and he has gone to her namesake city, Dallas. He has kidnapped a rape counselor whose sister is a Dallas cop. Both women had been McQueen's victims years before and had been saved by Dallas when she stopped him. I don't remember what hand waving the plot did to get Eve and Roarke down to Dallas while Peabody does the detective work on McQueen's trail in NYC. Apparently the local cops and the FBI are fine with not only her but Roarke's help too.
Their few leads include the fact McQueen is trying to live the high life after over a decade in jail and that he has a female helper just as he had in the past. He had a sick relationship with his mother who abused him mentally and sexually and McQueen uses an older woman accomplice, usually a grifter to help him while he satisfies himself with teenaged girls.
McQueen knows that using the woman Eve had rescued years prior would be excellent bait. He isn't wrong. While he tries to lure Eve into his trap (as capturing, raping and killing her is his goal) he and his woman, Sylvia, kidnap another teenaged girl for his desires. That's about the first half of the book.
Once Eve finds out the improbable identity of Sylvia and neutralize her, it's a race against time to stop McQueen before he kills his hostages or gets his hands on Eve. All in all it's a decent story. Fairly predictable but still enjoyable.
Even more predictable is Eve and Roarke. Naturally they have to have their prerequisite two fights over absolutely nothing, be nasty to each other then have flatly written sex. They do this pretty much every book. I'd be shocked to read one if there wasn't a stupid Eve/Roarke fight which never works for me. I do not find 'hot blooded passionate' people (i.e. fight constantly then make up) to be romantic so…
But what really didn't work for me was the PTSD. Yes, it's real. Yes it can even work like this. However, it was as flat as week old opened soda here. Maybe because that's part of the formula. Every book has to have one Eve PTSD dream.
On the plus side, however, was the fact that Robb didn't make Eve do anything stupid in order to put her into McQueen's hands. I mean you knew McQueen would have to have his chance at Eve and far too many times I've seen an otherwise intelligent character do something completely idiotic in order for the bad guy to get him/her in his clutches.
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