This is my first steampunk book and I loved it! I took the plunge with this one for a couple of reasons. First off, more than a few authors whose work I enjoy have spoken highly of Meljean Brook, including Bree Bridges (one half of Kit Rocha and Moira Rogers). Secondly, the steampunk theme...setting... alternate universe... whatever one would call it has intrigued me for a while now. And thirdly, the book was on sale at Amazon for only a couple of dollars. So, in I jumped.
And I really, really enjoyed it. I was fascinated from the get-go by the world-building - it's intricate and it's logical and it holds together and it forms the bedrock of the love story between Rhys and Mina. It was so fascinating to me that I went hunting for more and more detail and background on it.
Our protagonists are Rhys, the Iron Duke and Mina, the clever police investigator. I loved them together. And I loved their journey for the most part, although during the last maybe, quarter of the book, I thought that maybe a little more actual talking between these two might have gone a long way to each of them knowing where the other stood. But this is a romance at heart and as such, we need these tropes and I have to admit, Meljean does work them very nicely. Oh, and I really appreciated that neither Rhys nor Mina felt insta-love or even insta-physical-overwhelming-attraction. It grew with proximity. I liked that. There was curiosity before there was "Oh My God, I must have him/her!".
I have to admit here that maybe I'd have liked Mina a little better if I liked her name better. It's not that I dislike 'Mina' so much - it's a diminutive for Wilhelmina - it's that I keep picturing a little birdlike grey-haired lady whose mind is half gone whenever I hear it. Names of characters don't usually affect me in such a way, but this one did. The other thing that I found that annoyed me, that annoys me in a lot of romances, be they f/m or m/m, is that the hero's penis Must Be Huge. Really? I can't think of anything more unpleasant, to be honest. And less needed. Good and hot sex doesn't come from a telephone pole of a dick no matter how well it's written.
The supporting characters were wonderful and disparate and very interesting - much more than cardboard cutout plot pushers. I loved Scarsdale, Jasmeen, Mina's family, Tinker Anne, the Blacksmith and, of course, Constable Newberry,
The plot on which the love story is built was, to my mind, just the right level of importance to hold up the love story and keep things interesting and moving along. A few mysteries have been solved, but there are more to be had, especially concerning The Black Guard. And what I liked the best? As I read further and further into the book, it became obvious that this was a series because of the 'big picture' of the plot, NOT because of some unnaturally high-lighted character or couple being pushed at me. Oh, I appreciated that like nobody's business! Kudos, Meljean, kudos!!
So my first foray into steampunk was a romance and it was damned, damned fine. I will be reading more of Meljean Brook's novels (bless you for writing full novels!) and novellas and highly recommend them.
(Thanks for that final push, Bree!)