Series: CLOCKWORK AGENTS
Plot Type: SMR, HIS, Steampunk
Ratings: V4; S4; H2-3
Publisher and Titles: Signet Eclipse
Heart of Brass (5/2012)
Touch of Steel (12/2012)
BOOK 3: Breath of Iron
In this world, the upper classes depend on all types of machines to make life easier. For example, automatons scrub the floors of their mansions, mechanical horses pull their carriages, automated androids handle security, and robotic orchestras perform at their parties.
Note: One of the on-going jokes in the series is that Arden is a mechanical genius who has invented a hand-held mechanical device called a Personal Hysteria Dissolution Mechanism that assists women with hysterics. If you can't figure out just what this handy little invention does, click HERE to read a plot summary of the movie, Hysteria. Click HERE to read a Wikipedia article on "Female Hysteria."
Claire has personal reasons for wanting to capture Howard because he is the Company traitor who killed her brother, Robert. She wants to know why Robert was murdered, and she is desperate to avenge his death. In the opening scene, Howard shoots Claire and pushes her off the roof of a building. The Wardens rescue her and make a deal that they won't kill her if she helps them capture Howard. Claire agrees even though she has secret plans to kill Howard herself, as slowly and painfully as possible.
The plot follows Claire and Alastair as they make a quick train trip to Scotland and then board a ship that is crossing the Atlantic. All the while, the two are falling for each other. (The captain of that ship is the hero of the next book.) They go through the usual paranormal romance procedure: first comes the sarcastic, teasing dialogue; then the "accidental" touches and soulful gazes; next, the first big kiss; and finally some steamy bedroom scenes. Even though they are extremely attracted to one another, they know that their romantic relationship is doomed. Alistair believes that Claire faces long-term imprisonment; Claire believes that when she kills Howard, the Wardens will immediately kill her. Of course, we (the readers) know that the couple is slated for their HEA, so we're not too worried.
This book isn't as strong as book 1. I had no trouble at all figuring out the plot twist regarding Stanton Howard, and you won't either because the author telegraphs it all the way through. This isn't an awful book; it's just not as good as the first one—which was terrific—so it would have had to meet a very high standard, one that second books frequently miss. One weakness in the steampunk aspect of the story is that most of the gimmicks and gadgets that the characters use are carbon copies of modern-day inventions (e.g., cell phones, tasers, laptops). Steampunk is more fun when the gadgets are a bit more exotic.
The third book will tell the romantic story of Warden surgeon Dr. Evelyn Stone and her ex-lover, ship captain Gavin MacRae. Book 2 has several scenes involving the two of them (separately) so we can ascertain that they are both good people and that they share a troubled past.