Gilded Lily by Delphine Dryden


Grade: B
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Steampunk
Published: 7/1/14
Reviewed by Anne
304  pages

Freddie lives two lives.  In one she’s the privileged Frederique, an unmarried young woman with a large dowry, who nonetheless sits on the sidelines of all the ballrooms and has a habit of getting in trouble.  In the other she’s Freddy Merchant, a talented tinker and aspiring makesmith who works on the bad side of town.

Barnabas has several duties – he’s a newly minted spy and who has been assigned by Freddie’s father to keep an eye on Freddie by posing as a suitor for her hand.  He’s also looking for information on his brother’s disappearance.  Since his brother also worked for Freddie’s father, this assignment suits both his purposes.

Freddie immediately realizes that Barnabas is yet another man her father has hired to spy on her, and that gets them off to a bad start.  However, they’re both surprised and intrigued by the other, and Barnabas is supposed to follow Freddie wherever she goes, so they are spending a lot of time together, and they grow more and more interested in each other.

I enjoy steampunk, but I’m pretty picky.  I love, love, love Meljean Brooks Iron Seas series!  I’ve tried a few other steampunk romances and most of them fell far short of the bar Meljean Brook set, which means after I tried those few I’ve shied away from steampunk.  But then I saw that Delphine Dryden had written a steampunk romance!  I’ve loved almost every Dryden story I’ve read – particularly her nerd stories – so I figured it was worth giving Guilded Lily a chance.  I’m so glad I did!

Freddie is an awesome character, and the kind of female lead I wish we had more of in romance.  She’s intelligent and brave.  She’s as independent as she can be, given the rules of the society she lives in.  She’s also quite adventurous!  She definitely would make a better spy than Barnabas.  The really cool thing is, Barnabas realizes that, and it doesn’t make him feel like any less of a man.  In fact, he appreciates those qualities in Freddie and enjoys the excitement she brings to his life.

Barnabas is not a take charge alpha male, so that means he’s not the typical romance hero.  I loved that!  He’s still a strong man, and he’s a perfect partner for Freddie.  I really enjoyed the two of them together.

As I mentioned, Freddie and Barnabas don’t immediately hit it off, and Delphine Dryden writes that very well!  It’s fun to watch them come to appreciate each other and then realize they are attracted to each other.  Dryden’s dialog is awesome, too!

“If that wasn’t some sort of sensor array, my name’s not Fred Merchant.”

“Your name isn’t Fred Merchant.”

“You know exactly what I mean.  The point is, there was some sort of nonstandard equipment, and that was no military vessel.  You know that instantly, and I must concur.  What’s more, I’ve consulted a map my father had handy—

“He had it handy?  Just lying about in a parlor, I suppose?”

“Don’t interrupt, please.  I have my ways.” ~p. 71

The steampunk world is also really interesting.  I enjoyed the giant squid like creatures, the submersible vehicles, and the steampunk take on the underground tunnel between England and France.  I could tell from comments that I’d missed some flying machines in previous stories, and I’d really like to go back and read them!

So with all these things I loved, why not give it an A?  Well, it had more politics in it than I enjoy.  That’s definitely a personal preference and might be an added bonus for someone else.  I got a little lost in all the who was spying for who stuff, especially concerning Barnabas’ brother.

Before I read it I looked it up on Goodreads and was surprised to see it was the third in this series.  What?!?  How did I miss the other two books?  I went ahead and read this one out of order, since I really liked the blurb, and it worked just fine for me.  There were moments where other characters who had clearly been featured in previous books jumbled up a bit in my heard, but overall I had no problems following this story.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys steampunk or is interested in giving it at try.  Freddie and Barnabas are unlike the usual heroine and hero we read in romance, and that was really fun!  Please let me know in the !comments if you have any other steampunk or sci-fi/fantasy to recommend!

Vacation – All Time Favorite Read!

While Kate and I are on vacation, I leave you with one of my favorite reads of all time!  ~Anne

The Iron Duke (Iron Seas, #1)
Grade – A
Hotness Level – Blaze
Kink Level – no kink
Genre – Steampunk
Series: Iron Seas #1
Reviewed by Anne

I’ll preface this review by saying this book is an all time favorite of mine. I recently re-read it and I liked it even more, so there might be a bit of fangirl gushing going on today.


The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook is steampunk. It’s an alternate history where some things are the same, but others went along a different path. So in The Iron Duke, we have a historical England that has recently escaped enslavement by The Horde. The Horde controlled the people by infecting their blood with “bugs”.  They also used technology to change the people in ways to match their slave occupation.  So a miner might have a pick axe for an arm and so on.

The Horde looks different than your average English person. (I picutre the Horde as Asian.) The Horde was driven out of England due to actions by Rhys Traehearn, aka the Iron Duke. He’s a national hero. On the other hand, Mina, who is the product of her loving English mother and a member of the Horde who raped her, is pretty much despised on sight by everyone due to her Horde looks. Despite that, she’s an inspector with the police force, and the book starts when she’s called to investigate a death on Traehearn’s property.

Traehearn nearly immediately thinks Mina is someone he would like to have. Mina also feels an attraction to Traehearn, but for reasons of her own would never act on this attraction.  Traehearn is determined and the investigation keeps them together.  Unfortunately and fortunately, the investigation quickly deepens and gets more complicated.  This leads to lots of adventure and more time for them to spend together.

There is so much good about this book. Even the things that bothered me initially turned out to be so well handled, that in the end I didn’t have a complaint.  One example is Thraehearn’s alpha-ness.  When he first meets Mina he is enthralled by her.  She is interesting.  He wants to have her.  He gives no thought to her feelings.  He’s quite confident that she will be amenable to anything he wants.  Her resistance just makes her more attractive to him.  He’s rich enough that he can pull strings to get whatever he wants, and he doesn’t hesitate to force Mina into a situation where she has to go along with him.  He’s really an arrogant ass.  So the author has a big job in turning him into a sympathetic character.  But she does it and she does it well.  Amazingly, at the end of the book, Traehearn is every bit as much of a take charge alpha man as he was at the beginning.  He has a greater understanding and love for Mina, though, and that comes through loud and clear.  He’s not afraid to make sacrifices to ensure her happiness, even if he’s awfully alpha about how he does it.
Another thing I really appreciated was that Meljean Brook builds an interesting world, and she does it without boring info dumps.  The book has great secondary characters, too.  It’s got ships on the sea and air ships that float under huge balloons!  It’s got zombies and mechanical flesh.  It’s got the best of sci fi/fantasy and romance together.  I highly recommend this entire series!
One final note.  There is a prequel to this story.  It’s a short story called Here There Be Monsters.  (It’s in the anthology Burning Up.)  It’s one of my all time favorite short stories and is only loosely related to the Iron Duke.  However, reading it first probably did help me understand the world building.

The Kraken King Part II: The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm by Meljean Brook

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Ember
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Steampunk, Serial
Series: Iron Seas #4.2 (Part 2 of 8 parts for this story)
Published: 4/15/14
Reviewed by Anne
71 ebook pages

So, I’m still loving this story, and the serial format is still killing me!  This installment of the serial starts with another letter from Zenobia to her brother Archimedes.  This is a really clever way to trigger my awful memory and remind me what happened in the first installment. (Still, this is a serial, and MUST be read in order.)

This time Zenobia and her entourage set out over land with Ariq and his entourage.  They travel in mountain walkers which were fascinating to read about!  Zenobia and Ariq dance around their attraction to each other. Despite her decision not to have anything to do with him in Part I, she enjoys his continued pursuit.  Unfortunately this installment ends with yet another obstacle in their path.

I find it difficult to review this without giving away everything about it.  So I’ll just say, if you can stand the serial format, I highly recommend this book!