Tag: Delphine Dryden

Guest Review: Gilded Lily by Delphine Dryden

Posted August 5, 2014 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Gilded LilyJen’s review of Gilded Lily (Steam and Seduction #3) by Delphine Dryden

HIDDEN IDENTITIES, SCANDALOUS SECRETS…
DEADLY ATTRACTION.

Frederique Murcheson’s introduction into society hasn’t gone smoothly—some would even call it a disaster. Only Freddie considers her debut a success. Her scheme to become a makesmith has gone off flawlessly. The only thing that could upset her plans now would be if someone discovered that brilliant tinker Fred Merchant is, in fact, a lady in disguise.

Wooing a spoiled heiress is not exactly Barnabas Smith-Grenville’s idea of high espionage. However, considering his brother disappeared on the job, supposedly into the most iniquitous of opium dens, he cannot expect much better. At least the assignment will afford him time to search for his brother, whom he suspects is in spy-related trouble rather than a drug-addled haze.

But when Freddie proves to be both irresistible and the key to the answers he seeks, Barnabas finds himself not only entwined in a scandalous mystery involving lethal submersibles and deranged dirigibles, but also in a dangerous game of the heart…

This is the third installment in Dryden’s Steam and Seduction steampunk romance series. (I reviewed #2 here.) While the first two books weren’t perfect, I enjoyed them because the characters were interesting and the plots unique. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Gilded Lily as much.

The heroine is Frederique Murcheson. You may remember Mr. Murcheson from previous books as part of the English spy network, using his status as a successful merchant for cover. His daughter Freddie looks like a typical young society lady, except for her secret life dressing as a man and working as a tinker. The hero is Barnabus Smith-Grenville, who we first saw in the previous book when he entered the Sky and Steam Rally in order to find his missing brother. Barnabus has since joined the spy network, and his first assignment is to watch over Freddie. He discovers her secret life as a tinker, and then gets involved when Freddie starts investigating exactly what her father really does.

Freddie is a great character. She’s extremely intelligent and craves a challenge, but her father tries to restrict her activities and make her act as a proper lady. She chafes at these limits, which is why she starts sneaking out, with the help of some friends, to be Fred the tinker. I love Freddie’s spirit, and I love her curiosity about the world. It’s what drives her to start investigating what her dad is doing. She is definitely too impulsive for her own good sometimes, but to me that read as just a matter of inexperience. She has been young and sheltered, and at first she doesn’t understand how dangerous and complicated the world can be. She is a quick learner, however, and clearly would make an excellent spy, or most anything else she set her mind to, to be honest.

Freddie is about the only thing this book has going for it, though. The biggest stone dragging things down is Barnabus. He is completely and utterly boring. When Freddie first meets him she compares him to pudding–bland and unexciting. Later she revises her opinion, but I think her first impression was spot-on. Barnabus stumbles into the spy business mostly because he wants to search for his brother, who he suspects is also a spy. He has no particular aptitude for spying or even interest in it. He does manage to keep up with Freddie and discover her secret life, but that’s one of the few times he displays any cleverness. He is a total buzz kill, too. He’s doesn’t appreciate jokes, is always scolding Freddie for not doing what her dad wants, etc. He isn’t good at witty repartee, nor is he particularly brave. In other words, if he has any strengths, he doesn’t discover them in this book! I like the trope of the seemingly average person who discovers what makes them special during the course of a story, but that’s not what happens here. I saw little evidence of Barnabus’s uniqueness or growth by the end. And the fact that Freddie thought he was so amazing worked against the book, too. It felt forced and totally against her character. I was actually disappointed in her that she would settle for someone who was clearly not her equal. All I could envision for the future was her steamrolling over Barnabus in all decision making, going off to have exciting adventures while he tagged along complaining and making vaguely frowny faces.

There was also too much that didn’t make sense. The world building of this book wasn’t entirely consistent with the previous stories. For instance, when comparing Freddie to the last heroine, Eliza, it doesn’t seem like the two women come from the same world. Eliza is still subjected to gendered expectations, but she went to a university, learned how to be a mechanic/tinker, competes in the Sky and Steam Rally, etc. But Freddie has to sneak around dressed as a man, is expected to marry soon, and is definitely treated as the weaker sex. I think part of the difference can be attributed to her overprotective father, but Freddie’s world still seems more restrictive than Eliza’s. For example, Freddie’s friend Sophie (who I suspect may be the heroine of a future book) is also kept sheltered by her parents and is primarily valued for her marriageability. Perhaps the colonies, where Eliza lives, are simply more egalitarian than Europe, but if that’s the case the book doesn’t do much to make that difference clear. Freddie and Barnabus’s adventures are pretty preposterous, too. They easily eavesdrop on and follow Mr. Murcheson, who’s supposedly an experienced spy. They sneak into what is likely the most top secret location in all of England with no problem. There is more that I can’t discuss without giving tons of spoilers, but trust me when I say things get kind of far fetched.

I most definitely did not believe in the HEA for Freddie and Barnabus. It looked more like settling than an equal, loving partnership. I actually think Freddie belonged with another character. I don’t want to name him because his appearance is part of the plot, but right from the moment he entered the story he bickered with Freddie, stood up to her, was perceptive and mysterious, and generally injected some much-needed life into the adventure. THAT guy could have been a match for Freddie, and I would have preferred to read their story. The good news is I think he’ll be the hero of a future book–hopefully his heroine will be up to the challenge.

Grade: 3 out of 5

The series:
Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

This book is available from Berkley. You can purchase it here or here  in e-format.  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden

Posted May 29, 2014 by Whitley B in Reviews | 0 Comments

Gossamer WingWhitley’s review of Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden

A Spy. An Airship. And a Broken Heart.

After losing her husband to a rogue French agent, Charlotte Moncrieffe wants to make her mark in international espionage. And what could be better for recovering secret long-lost documents from the Palais Garnier than her stealth dirigible, Gossamer Wing? Her spymaster father has one condition: He won’t send her to Paris without an ironclad cover.

Dexter Hardison prefers inventing to politics, but his title as Makesmith Baron and his formidable skills make him an ideal husband-imposter for Charlotte. And the unorthodox undercover arrangement would help him in his own field of discovery.

But from Charlotte and Dexter’s marriage of convenience comes a distraction—a passion that complicates an increasingly dangerous mission. For Charlotte, however, the thought of losing Dexter also opens her heart to a thrilling new future of love and adventure.

I’ll admit: I judged this book by its cover.  Come on, look at it.  It looks like a bad steampunk cosplay that someone threw together the night before Halloween.  The man has cogs randomly glued to his hat for crying out loud!  On the other hand, it’s an amusing sort of bad cover, with some heart to it.  It thought the book would be the same way.  Silly, nonsensical, but fun.

Well, it was fun.  And smart.  And distinctly full of sense-making.  I was pleasantly surprised!

The book centers around a spy mission which is pretty complex and well developed, with lots of politics going on in the background.  But at the same time, it was never too complex to the point of overshadowing the romance aspect.  (This is, after all, first and foremost a romance book.)  It had a balance to it that kept both plot lines — spy and romance — moving along at a snappy pace.  And while some parts of the steampunk tech beggared belief, for the most part, that aspect was woven in to the world very seamlessly.  The worldbuilding was smooth, with no major hiccups to throw me out.

Dex and Charlotte were a great couple.  I especially liked their introduction to each other, how they kinda-sorta-quasi knew each other going in and so they had that base to work off of.  They had real chemistry together.  Plus, fake marriage/boyfriend plots always make my day. 🙂

In fact, only one thing really marred this book for me.  Both leading characters were well matched to each other in terms of sexual confidence and forwardness.  At the start of the book, I was really pleased with Charlotte and how in-tune she seemed with her lust.  She wanted to keep a handle on it for practical reasons, of course, but she wasn’t denying it or confused by it, and everything they did do, she was nearly as much an instigator as Dex.  But when it came time for the actual sex to start up, she turned into the blushing maiden and he turned some “wheee, I wanna break you!” bad-boy cliché.  Instead of the give-and-take between peers of earlier, she hesitated and he forced.  And then as soon as the sex was over, they went back to their normal personalities.  It feels like the whole mess was just a “ravish me” romance trope that got shoved into a book that wasn’t a good fit for it, hence the jarring personality switches.

And, hopefully, trying to patch up that switch is the reason for lines like:

“Perhaps that was his usual response to being thwarted in matters of the mind or heart, to settle the matter through brute force and determination.”

So…he’ll only use force if you don’t go along with him?  That’s…just…if you were going along, he wouldn’t have to, so the statement is already kind of weird.  But then also the implications are disturbing.  Considering how good the rest of the book is, I really, really hope that was just a poorly-thought-out patch.

Rating: 4 out of 5

This book is available from Berkley Sensation.  You can purchase it here or here in e-format.

Guest Review: Scarlet Devices by Delphine Dryden

Posted April 4, 2014 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Scarlet DevicesJen’s review of Scarlet Devices (Steam & Seduction #2) by Delphine Dryden

Fresh from university, Eliza Hardison is determined to crusade for workers’ rights until her cousin Dexter, the Makesmith Baron, prevails on her to represent Hardison House in the American Dominion Sky and Steam Rally.
 
The competition is fierce, but only one opponent really matters to Eliza. Dexter’s protégé, Matthew Pence, was always like a big brother to her. But now she’s grown up, and Matthew has made a break from Hardison House with his own business venture—and made his own entry in the rally.
 
Matthew intends to win while keeping Eliza safe on the perilous route from New York to San Francisco. As the threats escalate through treacherous skies and uncharted American wilds, though, Eliza and Matthew must work together, discovering a bond deeper than either could have imagined…but is winning the rally more important than winning at love?

I am a growing fan of steampunk romance and have been eagerly reading whatever I can get my hands on, so when the opportunity to review Scarlet Devices came up, I jumped at the chance. I read book 1 of this series, Gossamer Wings, and while it helped me understand the world a bit better, I don’t think it is absolutely necessary for understanding this second book.

Book 2 focuses on Eliza Hardison, cousin to Dexter Hardison, the hero from book 1. Eliza is young and very smart. She’s an academic primarily, though she’s also exceptionally handy with tools and knows her way around the various gadgets and vehicles steampunk is known for. Dexter presents her with the opportunity to represent his company in the Sky and Steam Rally, a kind of cross country race by car and air ship. After some persuading, she finally accepts, in large part because she wants to beat Dexter’s friend and protege, Matthew Spence. Eliza and Matthew have known each other for years and always been at odds with each other, and she wants to prove that she’s not an incompetent kid any longer. For his part, Matthew feels strangely protective of her, and while he wants to win, he also feels compelled to keep Eliza safe. They set out with a large group of other racers, but they quickly realize that someone is trying to sabotage the race. Eliza and Matthew have to solve the mystery and stay alive long enough to stop the villain.

While I didn’t exactly love this book, I did enjoy it quite a bit. One of my favorite things is the way that Eliza has to fight against sexism and discrimination. In the world of this series, women are allowed some freedoms but are clearly still seen as the weaker sex. Eliza has the added burden of being very young, so she is rarely taken seriously. She doesn’t want to be a social outcast, but she also doesn’t want to just roll over and do what society expects of her. It was fascinating to see her struggle with this issue and ultimately prove her worth. In a way, this is partly a coming of age story.

While Eliza is occasionally kind of silly and naive, I still found her likeable. She’s tough, tougher even than she realizes, and she is willing to learn from her mistakes. Matthew is a great foil for her, too. He’s smug and cocky at the beginning of the book. He acts a bit superior to Eliza, thinking he’s so much more capable than her because he’s older and wiser. But thankfully, Matthew grows throughout the book, coming to realize that Eliza is much more competent than he knew. He manages to protect her without demeaning her, and he respects her strengths without trying to change her into something she’s not. I especially love that at the end, he’s ready to take Eliza on her terms, even if it wouldn’t be his first choice, because he respects her goals for the future.

Eliza and Matthew have some sexy chemistry, and I adored the way Eliza was so frank about sex. She isn’t experienced or overly forward, but she’s a practical woman and approaches sex with the same curiosity and forthrightness that she approaches everything else. The scene where she loses her virginity was one of the more fun “deflowering” scenes I’ve read–in real life, sex can be funny, especially the first time, and Eliza and Matthew are good at making each other laugh.

“Ow! Bloody hell, that hurts!”

“Warned you.”

She was already laughing, gasping against his shoulder at how ridiculous it all was. He stilled his hips and grinned at her, kissing her a few times.

The book isn’t entirely perfect. Eliza and Matthew do fall in love awfully quickly, though it’s made more palatable since they have known each other for a long time. A bigger problem is the world building, which I also had a little problem with in book 1, too. For instance, it seems a bit inconsistent that women are able to go to school, work in a workshop, etc but then are still expected to conform to more rigid rules about propriety. It felt a little incongruous. And why on earth would Dexter want Eliza to enter this race, which is clearly dangerous and involves an awful lot of unchaperoned time for a young virgin? I don’t think I have a good handle on the geopolitics of the world, either. In both books, the main characters were from the “American Dominions,” which I did gather were basically British colonies, but I wasn’t clear on what all the national agendas were. (I later found out that Dryden has further explanation of the world on her website, which does help.) The villain in Scarlet Devices is also pretty over-the-top, almost cartoonishly so. I couldn’t understand why his plan wouldn’t have been discovered before, especially since Matthew is able to puzzle it out so easily.

Still, I’m enjoying the series and will keep reading!

Grade: 4 out of 5

The Series:
Book Cover Book Cover

This title is available from Berkley.  You can buy it here or here in e-format.

Guest Review: The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden

Posted August 8, 2012 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 2 Comments

Judith’s review of The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden

Camilla can set her watch by her hunky rocket-scientist neighbor who jogs past her window each day. She relishes each glimpse of his shirtless abs, and is dying to see more. But it’s hard to connect with a man who doesn’t seem to know she exists…

Ivan feels at home in the lab, not in social situations. When he finally approaches his attractive neighbor, it’s not for a date—he wants tutoring in how to behave at an important fundraiser. Ivan doesn’t expect the chemistry between them to be quite so explosive, and is surprised when Cami actually accepts his proposal to embark on a series of “lessons”.

Cami soon discovers Ivan’s schedule isn’t the only thing he likes to be strict about—he needs to be charge in the bedroom as well. She’s shocked at how much she comes to enjoy her submissive side, but wonders if a real relationship is in the equation.

This is a very erotic story built around two very unlikely characters–two scientific types who could both really be classified as brainiacs with Ivan definitely one of those obsessed geek types.  Yet Cami doesn’t just see a genius scientist when she looks at her neighbor — she sees one gorgeous guy who appears to be locked into a routine in order to be in control of his life and to live in his own comfort zone.  She really can’t seem to find a way to break into his life and having Ivan come to her is nothing short of astonishing.  Tutor and mentor?  It’s a role she never envisioned.  And the way that very unlikely beginning grew into a relationship is the meat of the story.
This is a wonderful story . . . a slice of erotica that keeps the tension alive page to page and a story that flows through the thoughts of Camilla and actions of Ivan.  There are ups and downs as Cami tries to figures out what is driving Ivan and how she can fit in with his expectations.  Ivan’s mind works so differently than any man Cami has known, but for that very reason she is intrigued and as time goes on, more and more “hooked” on him.  This author has delivered an intense and sensitive romance that surprises the reader repeatedly and which never disappoints.  I really didn’t know what to expect so the way this story played out kept me riveted from beginning to end.  I seldom find a story that I don’t like, but I am delighted when I find one that is extraordinary, which holds me captive as this one did.  This is not a long read and can be consumed in a relatively short period of time.  Yet it is one of the most satisfying reading experiences I have had in recent days and one that introduced me to a new author.  I will most certainly look for future work by this very talented writer.I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Carina Press. You can buy it here or here in e-format.