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Fangirl Friday: The Elders and Welders Chronicles

I hadn’t really read a proper steampunk book until the author asked me to review the first two in this series. Once I did, I was hooked, but I’ve yet to find books that live up to this series. I also have yet to find time to read book 3, which is part of my 2018 resolution: finish this series and finally experience the end of the trilogy.

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Book One: Prince of Hearts

London: 1896. Airships rule the skies, and automatons run the tracks at Ascot. Since the Great Exhibition of 1851, Her Majesty’s Empire has been powered by the Steam Revolution and Welding science. It is a time of glorious innovation and dangerous civil unrest.

But Miss Aline Finch, prim, plain career girl, has more important things on her mind than the state of the Empire. After her employer, the handsome but insufferable criminologist, Professor Romanov, hares off for parts unknown in a slightly-illegal dirigible, stranding her in France, she has finally had enough. In a fit of pique, she decides to marry her long-time and very proper suitor, quitting Romanov for good.

The last thing the Professor expects to come home to is his secretary’s mutiny. Finch’s timing couldn’t be any more inconvenient, for a serial murderer from Romanov’s past has set his sights on her. Romanov must keep her close if he has any chance of protecting her life – and the dangerous secrets the murderer threatens to expose. For the Professor is much, much more than he seems, and the secrets that he keeps are centuries old – and hidden deep in his heart.

When the Professor discovers Finch is to wed, however, he is forced to confront the truth of the matter: he doesn’t just want his secretary back to protect her. He wants her in his bed. Forever.

Aline fights Romanov’s seduction, but she’s no match for her own unruly desires, or the truth of her own heart. But when the Professor’s true identity is exposed, destroying the very foundations of Aline’s conception of reality, will the Professor lose her forever? Or will the murderer succeed in his evil plot to destroy them both before they can find their happy ending?

Warning: this sensual romance will put the steam in steampunk.

Book Two: A Dark Heart

London, 1897: Lady Christiana Harker once committed a grave sin against her kind when she saved Inspector Elijah Drexler’s life by turning him into a vampire.

Christiana’s bold act has only driven Elijah deeper into an impenetrable darkness, fueled by morphine, nightmares, and a constant thirst for blood. Elijah has no room left in his heart for anything but his quest for vengeance against his childhood tormentor, a quest that he fully expects to end with his own death. But when the mysterious Duke of Brightlingsea requests Elijah’s help in locating a doomsday device that could level half of London, Elijah’s personal vendetta becomes entangled with a secret war being waged among the immortal Elders.

Just when Christiana finally accepts that her long-held love for the Inspector will forever be unrequited, however, a catastrophe brings them together, forcing Elijah to finally confront his feelings for Christiana. But will Christiana’s love be strong enough to weather the terrible truths buried deep in Elijah’s past? And will Elijah find the strength of will to finally cast off his demons and let love into his dark heart?

This Victorian steampunk romance is recommended for adult audiences.

Book Three: Thief of Hearts

The Sahara Desert, 1887: hotbed of pirates, tomb raiders and general ne’er-do-wells. It’s not exactly the ideal place for Hex Bartholomew, dirigible pilot and former child-thief, to go straight. Trouble soon finds her at the mouth of an ancient tomb and in the company of bloody-minded treasure hunters, angry Bedouins, and a resurrected Pharaoh…

…But Hex is fairly sure Pharaohs don’t speak with snooty British accents.

“Mr. Pharaoh” can remember nothing of who he is or how he managed to find himself in an Egyptian tomb that has been sealed for thousands of years. All he has is a name, Rowan, and some truly disturbing and…well, god-like powers. And an annoying tendency to save Hex’s life.

The last thing Hex needs is to fall in love with an amnesiac Brit who may or may not be a reincarnated Egyptian god, especially when it becomes obvious that the truth behind who—and what—Rowan is threatens to tear them apart for all of time. It’s just not worth the risk to her heart.

Until it is…

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I write Steampunk Romance. I am self published and loving it! I also publish Historical Romance under Maggie Fenton. Thief of Hearts is finally finished and available for purchase!!

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Book One: Prince of Hearts

This is my first steampunk book, ever! I have to say that it doesn’t disappoint.

I was drawn into this book right from the very beginning. It gripped my heart, dragged me into the pages and made me feel for every single character.

I wasn’t really sure what to make of Aline Finch, at first, but I really grew to love her. She’s stubborn, independent and sticks up for herself in a time when women weren’t supposed to. She’s also fiery and a perfect match for Romanov. I love how she doesn’t always say much, but her actions and body language screams so much more.

I love Romanov, or Sasha, and how he’s got inner demons that don’t just get glossed over or passed aside. I really enjoy getting to explore parts of his history, when they’re appropriate. When the story demands it, we discover more about his past and how he’s felt about his history.

I really like the fact that we get Sasha and Aline’s POV. I think if we only got one, the story would fail, but if we had any more then it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. I love seeing things from Finch’s POV and then seeing how Sasha is dealing with the same event.

The two are an ideal match and I love the will-they-wont-they between them, the hot, spicy moments and the romance of the simplest elements of the story. Such simple things, that are realistic and normal, like Romanov putting her glasses back on for her or finding her adorable when she sneezes, come across as heartwarming and real.

I love the progression of the story and the criminal aspect. I’m a sucker for a great crime story and this story was that great. There was a supernatural element, the steampunk element and it all felt real and logical. There wasn’t one thing that I didn’t find believable or thought didn’t fit the story.

The author is a really talented writer. I love the way she weaves emotional and mystery elements together, to make you care as much about the characters as you do about the solution to the crime. The whole plot is seamlessly put together, well executed and littered with little nuggets of newspaper clippings. I didn’t know what to make of them at first, but then it was explained it was a really nice addition, like a parallel universe; it was super cute.

I really love the way the author combines Romanov’s dark humour with the dark aspects of the book. He lightens up all situations, with his quick wit and his sarcasm. He’s not, perhaps, my new favourite male MC.

Overall, a great book. Although I sussed out a few of the ‘twists’ in the plot, I was really happy with how they were revealed, when they were revealed and the overall execution of the book. Everything was considered in intricate detail, so that nothing was left out or left unexplained.

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Book Two: A Dark Heart

For me, this is a book of two halves. So I’m going to explore both sides separately then together.

1st Half – ★★★☆☆

Reading this book straight after Prince of Hearts was perhaps not my best move. I can’t help but compare the male MC Drexler (minor character from book 1) to Romanov. And sadly, he just doesn’t compare.

The same goes for a comparison between Finch and Lady Christiana. Christian is a little more foppish and tame than Finch, who was a firecracker right from the start. I don’t see the same fight or gumption in Christiana. And I don’t see any of the dark humour or likeability in Drexler.

Romanov was intriguing, knew he was a monster and accepted his fate and his history, but he also pushed that aside to do good and put on a mark of pleasantness and indifference for the world. Drexler is so much darker. I get that, considering his past. It makes sense, but there’s no lightness in between. Romanov’s humour provided moments of relief, from the darkness and violence, but Drexler’s personality doesn’t provide anything of the sort.

I also don’t believe in Drexler and Christiana’s romance. It relates to things that, as we start the book, have all happened off page. Romanov’s attraction to Finch, and hers to him, was slow burning and tantalising. There was always that doubt of whether he would fight his demons or if she could give up her independence for them to be together. I don’t see that with these two. Drexler is adamant that he doesn’t want her, and when he does feel an attraction, it’s purely for her blood or her body. Romanov was romantic in finding Finch attractive while sneezing, or looking furious; there’s no hint that Drexler even likes Christiana. And that, for me, just doesn’t work.

2nd Half – ★★★★★

This is where the book, for me, really picks up. You start to see the demon in Drexler and how hard he fights to keep his real feelings from even himself, never mind from Christiana. The back story is better explored here, as is the real romance between Christiana and Drexler. There’s more emotion than primal desire and that makes more sense, especially when their internal struggles are explored.

This is also the part of the book where Christiana grows a backbone. She stops feeling sorry for herself and decides to stand up and be counted as an equal, instead of waiting for someone to hand her equality on a plate. She seemed ungrateful, selfish and ignorant of what was obvious in the first half. In the second, she begins to see past the surface and realise that everyone has secrets.

This is also where she begins to realise that she’s not being treated like a child because the person wants to keep her young and innocent, but because she allows them to treat her that way. And that makes a big difference, to how she sees herself and the world. In the first half, she says
“Of course, the odds had been stacked against her from the beginning because of her sex.” But that was no excuse for Aline, and it never stopped her from becoming an independent female, regardless of society’s expectations for her.

Saying that, I was really pleased to see Aline and Sasha back in the story, even if only marginally. I would have loved to read more from them.

Overall – ★★★★☆

I really didn’t get this story, until the halfway point. When Drexler had his ‘near-death’ moment, things began making sense. His relationship with Christiana became more about the trust and faith they had in each other, developed over the years they’d known each other, than it was about romance. It all centred on Drexler keeping a secret that he thought would destroy her and any relationship they might have, while Christiana tried hard to fight his secretive nature and the beast inside him.

I can’t help thinking that if Drexler and Christiana had never kept secrets from each other, there probably wouldn’t have been a book. That’s where the 3 stars comes from. The romance, for me, didn’t keep up to par with book 1, which was scorching, realistic and as fiery as the two MCs. Drexler and Christiana sort of fizzled, lightly, below the surface. The constant drama between them, along with the fact that it took them so many years to get to that point, is what lowers the rating. It doesn’t feel realistic.

The 5 stars goes to the second half, for being original, incredible and captivating. The first half felt a little more like a love-sick romance than the real adventure Steampunk story that it became. I understand why, having read the whole book, but I wasn’t glued to this book as I was to book 1. It took me about three days, whereas I had a burning need to complete book 1 in one day, and did.

The second half really lit up and explored the criminal aspect of the book that I was waiting to read more of. I also wanted Christiana to grow up and it took this long, for it to happen.

I have to admit that I loved the Duke. He was a real character and yes, he probably is cracked in the head, but he’s also amazing. I can’t wait to read his story.

But, if you don’t like cliffhangers, then beware. This book ends on a doozie and book 3, as far as I know, isn’t out yet. I’m hoping it won’t be too long in coming out, or else I might have to re-read this book, to refresh my memory of everything I want answers to.

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