Guest Review: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Thursday, October 14

Greetings everyone! This is my first guest post for Seductive Musings. I am a big fan & supporter of this wonderful blog. I wanted to start off with a book that has generated a lot of buzz around Romancelandia and justifiably so.

Title:  The Iron Duke*
Author:  Meljean Brook
Series: Iron Seas #1
Genre:  Steampunk Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Format:  Trade paperback
Date/Year: Oct 5, 2010

*This book was won by the reviewer in a Dear Author contest.

Summary from the publisher:

First in an all-new series where seductive danger and steampunk adventure abound in the gritty world of the Iron Seas.

After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.

My Musings:

Meljean Brook’s latest release, The Iron Duke, ventures into the Steampunk sub-genre. What is Steampunk? Think alternative-history meets sci-fi with emphasis on gadgets, intricate engineering and innovative technology. This aspect of steampunk is not mere window dressing, these elements play an intricate and involved role in the culture and society, especially so in The Iron Duke. But don’t fret this is steampunk romance and trust me, romance you will get. I would not read over 350 pages for cool gizmos alone :)

The Iron Duke is set in alternate Victorian England. Two hundred years ago, the Horde, a conquering group of Mongol descent, infected the people by hiding nanoagents aka “bugs” in the tea and sugar. The people who got infected became known as “buggers” and those who managed to flee prior to occupation, “bounders.” The Horde would control the emotional range and actions of infected people through a radio tower that would emit frequency waves. The story opens 9 years after pirate captain, Rhys Trahaern, blew up the tower and freed England. He became a beloved hero and was bestowed a dukedom, Duke of Anglesey, but he is better known to the people as the Iron Duke.

Inspector Detective Mina Wentworth is a smart, strong and determined woman but not without vulnerabilities. Much loved by her family she would do anything to protect them. Society does not treat Mina kindly, she was conceived during one of the Horde imposed “Frenzies” in which her mother was raped by a Horde and that fact is written all over Mina’s features. She deals with prejudice, name calling (“jade whore”) and physical abuse on a daily basis because of her heritage.

When a dead body is dropped onto the Iron Duke’s property, Mina is sent to investigate. Rhys is immediately captivated by the pretty Inspector and knows that he wants her. Mina doesn’t want any part of it. Firstly, she’s well aware of the Duke’s questionable reputation. His past as a pirate is certainly not angelic. Second and most importantly, her career and family will only suffer if she becomes involved with the Iron Duke. What she fears most is the bigotry, censure and intense ridicule that will play out on the newssheets and gossip if she becomes the Duke’s woman.

As the investigation continues both Rhys’s and Mina’s stake in it become personal as Rhys’s former ship, Marco’s Terror, is hijacked. The very same ship Mina’s younger brother is apprenticing on. A group known as the Black Guard is trying to create a new weapon that seeks to control and destroy infected people, reminiscent of the Horde.

The quest to put a stop to the destruction, search for Mina’s brother and save England leads Rhys & Mina across air and sea. On airships, seaships and across land this is an adventure filled with unusual inhabitants and situations. Kraken, Ratcatchers, zombies, mechanical flesh, automatons…you just never know what will come up next in this steampunk world. Along with a cast of highly fascinating secondary characters (Lady Corsair, Scarsdale, Archimedes Fox….) the Iron Duke and the Inspector work together to defeat bad guys while trying to find a way to be together.

I really loved this book. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Storytelling with this much creativity and spectacular world-building is hard to find and Brook excelled. The Iron Duke is an action-adventure story written with emotional depth. It took me a longer time to finish because there was so much to take in. The Iron Seas world is so vast and new, you can never take anything for granted because this alternate world isn’t bound by the same rules. The ingenuity doesn’t venture so far out that it becomes unfamiliar, though, which I really appreciated.

If there is a weakness in this book, it resides in the romance. Rhys & Mina are complex characters with interesting, tortured backstories but as a couple their attraction towards one another was never fully fleshed out. Why was Rhys so taken by the Inspector? Lust, yes, but what else? For Mina, what was it about Rhys that made her change her opinion of him from pillaging pirate to a man whose love she longed for? We get snippets of answers but not enough for me to walk away feeling as if I knew them completely and that kind of bummed me because I fell in love with this couple and wanted to know everything. That being said, the story is still very romantic (especially the ending) and the lovin’ hot!

Usually, I am a very hero-centric romance reader. But in The Iron Duke, it was Mina that I connected with most (not that Rhys isn’t delicious. He is.) Mina is my kind of heroine. She’s capable, strong-minded (but not afraid to show her soft spots). She is also extremely loyal, loving and willing to die for those she loves. It wasn’t just Rhys that she was afraid to have, she expressed a desire to be a mother but she stopped short of committing to it because she did not want any child of hers to go through the same hardships. The bigotry she faced and how she had to guard her heart and adjust her heart’s desires because of them really got to me.

Finally, a romance is only as good as its hero and Rhys Trahaern is a memorable one. Rhys is 100% Alpha. He hates corrupt government and hypocritical people. He is driven and used to getting what he wants. But he never treated Mina in any didactic way; he was in fact very sensitive to her needs. He had it in his power to force Mina’s hand into several situations but he always made it so that it was her decision and that was extremely honorable and all the more lovable. I found Rhys to be a bit enigmatic, his declarations towards Mina aside, but he has sexy gold earrings and looks rogue in goggles so he’s easily forgiven :)

The Iron Duke is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I read the last chapter as least five times! I cannot wait for the next Iron Seas installment. Hope you will enjoy it just as much as I did.


Overall: 4.75 stars
Sensuality:  4 (Steamy)

For a complete understanding and definition of the ratings, click here

*I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small (and I mean very small) referral fee for purchases made using a link on this blog. I don't use Amazon to earn money, I use it because the widgets are cool, easy to use, and serve my purposes to showcase books & such with minimal effort, but most importantly they have great prices and offer both new and used items. As a book addict I love that I can find just about anything I want in one place. If you are going to purchase a featured book anyway, and you know you won't pay more by using the links on this blog than you would by visiting Amazon on your own, I will be eternally grateful for supporting this blog by using the links, and don't forget that the referral fees from your purchases will sponsor the "Reader Rewards" giveaways :)


Artemis October 14, 2010 at 8:55 PM  

Great to see you here and a wonderful review. I'm hedging on reading this one, but I do like sci-fi. And steampunk seems to be right up my alley. Maybe if the library gets it in.......

Scorpio M. October 14, 2010 at 9:42 PM  

Hi Artemis,

From the library, from a friend...if you get a chance to read this one. Do. I really think it's a fresh new take on romance. :)

Thanks for commenting!

And thanks again to Booklover for hosting me. :)

Anonymous,  October 17, 2010 at 12:39 AM  

Have read several reviews of this one, and all have been good. Hope the library gets it in.

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