Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Reviewed by Anne
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!