Whitley’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.
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