When Nowhere Is Safe
Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it's the last safe haven. But at what price?
Blade is known as the master of the rookeries—no one dares cross him. It's been said he faced down the Echelon's army single-handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood-craving he's been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.
When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She's so...innocent. He doesn't see her backbone of steel—or that she could be the very salvation he's been seeking.
Honoria Todd knew she couldn’t lie low in the Whitechapel district forever – but she had hoped. Honoria and her family – a prickly younger sister called Lena, and sickly little brother named Charlie – had already been through so much since their father’s murder. She had hoped that they could hide away somewhere, nurse Charlie back to some semblance of health and quietly hunt for the cure their father was working on, before it got him killed.
But now Honoria has attracted the interest of district master, Blade. He is ruthless and blood-thirsty (literally) and nothing goes on in his rookeries that he doesn’t know about – least of all a prim-looking dove like Ms Todd who is clearly on the run from someone.
When Blade and Honoria finally cross paths, it’s downright combustible. She has fierce secrets to keep, and he’s curious to pry them out of her . . . any way that he can. But Blade predicts Honoria would be sweeter to catch with honey than vinegar, and so strikes a bargain that she’ll coach him in elocution lessons, in exchange for his protection.
But when Blade discovers the identity of the man who killed Honoria’s father now hunts her family, he will come to realize all that is at stake for the Todd’s, and in fact, the whole of Whitechapel.
‘Kiss of Steel’ is the first book in a new steampunk paranormal romance series called ‘London Steampunk’ by Bec McMaster.
I haven’t really been terribly tempted by steampunk romances. I tried Meljean Brook, but it wasn’t for me. And there have been a few others that I've sampled pages of, but rejected because I just wasn’t interested. . . the only steampunk I've loyally stuck with was Gail Carriger’s ‘Parasol Protectorate’ because the trending sub-genre seemed suited to Carriger’s ludicrousness, extravagance and wry humour. But, I decided to give steampunk 'steamies' another whirl with Bec McMaster's hot new series.
First off, I loved the Whitechapel setting. It’s already an iconic, gory destination for Jack the Ripper – but in McMaster’s steampunk world the streets of Whitechapel are overrun with monsters. We’re talking vampires and werewolves, and a few nasties that are all new and horrifying creations of McMaster’s ‘London Steampunk’. Honoria Todd and her little family certainly stick out in the gloomy Whitechapel district – she’s an educated lady, barely scraping by with elocution lessons since their father’s death left them in hiding and near-penniless. So it’s no wonder the biggest Whitechapel monster of them all, Master Blade, makes it a point to pull Honoria aside one night and try to deduce the reason this lady would be hiding out in his rookery. . .
From there ‘Kiss of Steel’ becomes quite the cloak-and-dagger story; there’s the murder of Honoria’s father, the secret ‘cure’ he was killed for, and how it links back to her sickly brother, Charlie . . . and the powerful echelons beyond Whitechapel who are responsible for the Todd family’s tragedy and currently being in hiding.
And the currents running beneath all these stories are Honoria and Blade’s attraction. They really are two complete opposites; she, an educated woman on the run, and he a riff-raff blood-drinker with a cockney accent. But they work incredibly well together;
“Easy, luv. Don't stir the devil, or you'll 'ave to pay the consequences."
"I'm not sure I have any coin on me," she said leaning closer and kissing the stubbled roughness of his jaw. "Do you think he would accept my favors instead?" A sultry whisper in his ear.
Blade groaned, "Bloody 'ell, Honor. Don't tease a man so."
"But it's so very exciting.”
There’s this constant push-and-pull with them that makes their scenes together very interesting – she’s hiding big secrets, and he knows she’s running from someone but increasingly, he wants her to run to him for safety. Sure, it’s a storyline that’s been done again and again and again, but McMaster has written two very charismatic and conflicting characters in Honoria and Blade, and it’s just downright fun to read them clash on the page.
If I have any complaints about this new series it’s the questionable ‘steampunk’ label . . . I think this is actually pretty firmly in the ‘paranormal romance’ genre, since there was more of a concentration on supernatural than steampunk. And while there was an alternate history explored, it just seemed like this book was lacking the Victorian-era industrialisation and mechanics that mark most steampunks. Regardless of the fact that the word ‘steampunk’ is in the series title – there just wasn’t enough here to convince me of its steampunkiness, if you will. That’s not to say this wasn’t a darn good paranormal romance – I just think maybe the ‘steampunk’ label was an attempt at trending.
This is a new series, so throughout ‘Kiss of Steel’ McMaster is laying the foundations for future books. Next up is ‘Heart of Iron’, featuring Honoria’s sister Lena and Blade’s right-hand-man, the loupe-infected Will Carver (who’s already terribly interesting for hints of bisexuality touched upon in this first book). I actually went into ‘London Steampunk’ thinking that the next two instalments were already available. Alas, I have to wait until May and October to get my hands on more McMaster books . . . but my impatience is probably a very good indicator of how much I enjoyed this new series, and intend to stick with it.