From the Back Cover:
Enemies. Allies. Lovers.
When her beloved father was assassinated, Lady Aramina swore revenge. The man responsible is well beyond her grasp, but his dangerously seductive heir, Leo Barrons, is fair game. When Mina obtains evidence proving that Leo is illegitimate, she has the means to destroy both the killer and his son, a man who troubles her heart and tempts her body.
A woman of mystery, Mina's long driven Leo crazy with glimpses of a fiery passion that lurks beneath her icy veneer. He knows she's hiding something, and he's determined to unravel her layer by silken layer. He just doesn't expect the beautiful liar to be the key to overthrowing the corrupt prince consort… or to saving his own carefully walled-off heart.
I love this series! And if you're a fan of smart, exciting, sexy historical romance with complex characters and a paranormal twist, you will too! Books one and two are fantastic, and there's a novella in between that's also great, books three and four are good--though the romance and excitement don't quite live up to the bar set by the first two, in my opinion--but this book, book number five, Of Silk and Steam, brings the series right back up to top-notch reading pleasure.
Bec McMaster has created a fantastic story world set in an alternate version of Victorian England where steam and clockwork are advancing technology and aristocratic blue bloods (pre-vampires) lord over the lower classes of humans and verwulfen, and the Echelon, the council of dukes, led by the wicked Prince Consort, rules over them all. But humans are tired of being used and abused by the blue bloods, and as unrest grows not only among the lower classes but among the upper class as well, the discontented are organizing. The humanist movement has formed and has been strategically taking shots at the Echelon wherever they can, and the moment they've been preparing for is finally upon them thanks to an unlikely pair of catalysts.
We first met Leo Barrons in book one, where we learned that he's the illegitimate son of one of the most powerful dukes in the realm and half-brother to the three Todd siblings. Leo has long struggled to find his place, forced to be a part of the Echelon, yet increasingly sympathetic to the humanist movement, and increasingly attracted to Lady Aramina Duvall, one of only two female blue bloods known to exist, and the only one with a vote on the council. That literally makes her the most dangerous woman in England. When Leo's deepest secret is exposed and a price is put on his head, he has nowhere to turn but to his siblings, who are up to their ears in treasonous plots. With nothing left to lose, he places his trust in the very woman who may have betrayed him, and who could end up being his final downfall . . . or his salvation. But Mina has secrets of her own, and when they come to light, the world as they know it will never be the same.
I love this romance because the hero and heroine are just made for each other, but their journey to figuring that out is full of angst and emotion, and that makes the payoff so much sweeter. Mina is a fiercely independent woman who has had to fight for her position, her power, and her very life at every turn. She's been able to rely on no one but herself, and her greatest fear is that falling for a man will be her ruin. And Leo is a lonely hero longing to belong to someone, to find the happiness and security his sisters have found, to have someone he can trust by his side as he forges a new identity for himself. When these two get together, the sparks are off the charts. But as they are forced to choose sides, the danger they are facing is very real, and they will have to determine what they are willing to sacrifice for freedom, for family, and for love.
One of the things that I felt lacking in books three and four is that the other characters from previous books didn't have enough of a presence, and since they're all awesome and all working together toward a common goal, they should have. Finally, at the end of book four, the gang got together again, and they are all here in this book in significant roles, and it made my heart happy. The only thing I didn't like about this book, and the reason for the bump down from five stars, is that the ending really confused me. After some emotional twists and one heck of a showdown and romantic resolution, there was a revelation and a cryptic conversation that I couldn't quite wrap my head around. So that was kind of frustrating and left me feeling like I didn't have the closure I needed. Originally, this was supposed to be the last book in the series, but the ending implies that there could be more to come, and I know there is at least one more couple that needs to have their own book, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
Each book in this series can be read as a stand-alone since they each focus on a different couple, but the beautiful thing about this series is that, in addition to the romances, there is a broader plot arc that develops over the course of the books as the humanist movement prepares to take down the Prince Consort and the Echelon. In each book, new twists and turns arise, enemies and allies are revealed, and pieces are dropped into place, propelling the characters toward a revolution and a series climax. So to fully appreciate this magnificent and complex story world Bec McMaster has created, you should start at the beginning with Kiss of Steel. Seriously. Like, right now. You won't be disappointed!
My Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5
*This review was originally posted at Romantic Historical Reviews