Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Release Date: 11/01/11
Length :  13 Hours 23 Minutes
Genre: Steampunk
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Trigger Warning : Illusions to child trafficking

Meljean Brook opens the door to an alternate universe that is as much about gadgets, airships and curiosities as it is about freedom, adventure and revenge.

For centuries England was controlled by the Horde, an advanced civilization who used nanoagents and a tower to control the emotions and lives of the English people.

Ten years ago a ruthless pirate, Rhys Trahearn (pronounced  johan by the audiobook narrator) destroyed the tower, saved England and was canonized as The Iron Duke. Even in this time of peace not all is well in England, especially when a dead man is dropped on The Iron Duke's doorstep.

Inspector Mina Wentworth is on the case.  Zombies, daring rescues and general swashbuckling follow as Mina and Rhys search for answers.

First the good. I thought the world Meljean built was amazing. In the first 20 pages you know where you are and what the conceit is. The rest of the story fills in little details here and there as needed and you just want to know more. She creates a world that is both horrifying and wondrous with its possibilities.

The bad. . . the romance. And to be honest the titular Iron Duke.

Inspector Mina Wentworth is half-Horde and half English, she has to fight prejudice and hatred to do her job, a job she is pretty good at. So, when she arrives to help Rhys  he's all like  . . . I WANT YOU NOW. . . and she all like "Um. . .no. "  and that's about all there is for a large part of the book.

Rhys meets Mina twice (in the midst of her investigation) and he instantly decides that he wants to take care of and have kids with her. He just wants her. He seems genuinely confused when Mina keeps turning him down. She  has a job that requires a lot of focus and that's her priority.  I think she's supposed to come off as closed off, but to me she just seemed focused.

This is his reaction when he just wants to kiss her ;

To interject there is an earlier elevator scene where she "grabs his cods" in order to get him to leave her alone. Is he REALLY the hero ?

He very quickly wants to buy her affections and she says no explaining that :

"I don't have a man. . .  but you have nothing to offer me, sir. I answer to no one. I must make due only for myself. Can you offer better than absolute freedom?:

See, she wants freedom not you chaining her down.

I reread and maybe I missed it but after Rhys has blackmailed/not blackmailed her into going on a voyage with him she starts falling for him and I have no idea why. As the reader I think I was supposed to want them to be together but I just couldn't.

There is a scene where Rhys misunderstands Mina turning away from him  during a physical encounter. He 'accidentally" forces himself on her then apologies for his confusion.

 and then

You see the Horde forced it's people into mating "Frenzies" something that seems to have scarred Mina , not that Rhys cares. This is later "justified" because Rhys used to be a child sex slave he explains he would never intentionally rape someone, I just didn't buy this justification.

There few more scenes that go along these lines. I mean is this what people call forced seduction ? Is this like an older romance trope ?

The thing is Mina and Rhys are interesting on their own. They have a lot to deal with in this new world. Rhys with his fame and iconisim; Mina dealing with her mixed blood and family's needs. I wanted more of their background as characters not love interest. Like what day to day life is like for Mina as a half-Horde and something interesting is revealed about Rhys anatomy (no it's not what you think) that I wanted to explore.

This book has some unfortunate implications because the Horde conquerors are most likely Asian, as the Horde seems to be a reference to Great Khan of the Golden Horde. I think that it is problematic to make hero or savior of the story white and the evil oppressive characters a traditionally marginalized group.

I hope the other books will show a different side to The Horde and maybe we will get to dig into more of their history.

Faye Adele does the audio, she's a new narrator to me and I liked the reserved melancholy voice she used for Mina. Her performances  weren't booming or particularly varied.

I give this book high marks and would rec it because of the world building and characters. But the confusing plot and romance is what made this a two star book for me.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Along Came A Duke by Elizabeth Boyle (Rhymes With Love #1)

  • Release Date: March 26th, 2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Publisher: Avon
Along Came a Duke is a historical romance with the heart of of a modern day romcom. Tabitha Timmons has come into a large inheritance that can get her out of her evil aunt and uncle's grasp, the catch is she has to marry a man pre-picked out for her. The only problem is she can't stop thinking about the trouble making Duke of Preston.

Tabitha is the usual sensible country girl who doesn't' want to be saved and Preston is your basic rake (he bankrupts a man) with a heart of gold (he literally saves a box of kittens or puppies or something). They fit the tropes to a T and personality wise they felt like place fillers

Boyle has a very distinct writing style. Her dialogue and style felt very of the time and she makes sure to use the slang of the era as much as possible. I could make a drinking game over how much the phrase "Good God" "bit of muslin" ad "cry off" are used.

As the characters work and scheme to get Tabitha out of her arrange  marriage and to her true happy ending I found a lot of the character types I 'd expect to see in a romcom. The supportive best friends, dog with great comedic timing , overbearing parental figures and affable spare fiance.  My favorite trope being the bromance Preston shares with his constantly hungover gambling scatter brained friend, Roxley, who is always on the run from his fussy aunt.

I couldn't unsee this when characters said "Good God"
The book has a leisurely pace to it, I usually like a lot more shenanigans in my plotting, but what kept me listening was Susan Duerden's performance on the audiobook. Scribd has a whole feature on her and I wanted to find out why. When I first heard her narration I thought she sounded a but stiff,but on second listen I realized her performance sounded nothing like her narrating voice. I like how she laughs and sighs when the text calls for it. Duerden makes the difference between a good narration and a great performance.

I like the side characters and Duerden's performance so much I can see this series being my go-to car audiobook. Something light and mellow I can enjoy on the commute home.

I'm not sure why this series is called Rhymes With Love. I mean the heroines names are alliterations and the titles are derived from Nursery rhymes, but I don't see the connection within the story. I guess it's just good marketing ? Either way, I'm sold.

Side Note

The heroine actually wears the dress on the cover. I always like that.