A spy. An airship. And a broken heart.
After losing her husband to a rogue French agent, Charlotte Moncrieffe wants to make her mark in international espionage. And what could be better for recovering secret long-lost documents from the Palais Garnier than her stealth dirigible, Gossamer Wing? Her spymaster father has one condition: He won’t send her to Paris without an ironclad cover.
Dexter Hardison prefers inventing to politics, but his title as Makesmith Baron and his formidable skills make him an ideal husband-imposter for Charlotte. And the unorthodox undercover arrangement would help him in his own field of discovery.
But from Charlotte and Dexter’s marriage of convenience comes a distraction—a passion that complicates an increasingly dangerous mission. For Charlotte, however, the thought of losing Dexter also opens her heart to a thrilling new future of love and adventure.
This blurb came from the author’s website.
I have what can probably be described as a love/tolerate relationship with steampunk. There are a few authors whose steampunk I love and I tolerate the others I have tried. So when I saw that Dryden had a steampunk series starting I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk it. But then, I remembered that I have enjoyed what Dryden has written in the past, primarily erotic romance, so I decided to stretch my comfort zones a bit and give Gossamer Wing a try. I am glad to say that Dryden didn’t let me down.
From the opening lines, I knew that the steampunk aspect would be thoroughly incorporated into the world-building which allowed me to settle into the story. It also started off with an interesting piece of action that tied nicely into the body of the story. I found the first interaction between Dexter and Charlotte very intriguing. The history of written requests, the development of technology, and the difference between spelling out the how vs stating the requirement all kept me wondering how they would manage to get along in person. The twist Dryden provided to enable their meeting and “marriage” was a great play on a certain familiar historical trope.
The romance between Charlotte and Dexter was slow growing but full of spikes in intensity. The reluctant attraction that started in admiration for their respective strengths grew with Charlotte’s awareness of Dexter as a man not just as a faceless acquaintance. On Dexter’s side, he was aware of his attraction but kept reminding himself that this was not a true marriage until he finally decided to see if Charlotte was willing to explore expanding their relationship. One of the things I enjoyed with their relationship was that sex didn’t solve or miraculously equate to HEA. They had to continue to work for their happiness and to learn to trust each other making the ending that much more satisfying.
In addition to the romance, Dryden included layers of intrigue. Like any situation there is the truth, there is the best guess on each side about the truth/motivation of the other side, and there is what happens. The interweaving of those threads colored as they were with past events made the story even more interesting. I really didn’t know what some of the individuals were going to do until they did it which kept me invested in the rest of the story. I also thought it was fascinating to see how motivations could and did change throughout the story as facts were uncovered.
Towards the beginning of this review I mentioned how the steampunk elements were seamlessly integrated throughout the story. One aspect of the integration, which added a nice touch, was the realization that personal enhancements came with a cost. If the enhancements or replacement body parts were metal, in cold weather they might not function as well or they could potentially cause frost damage to the connection between the implant/enhancement and human flesh. Or when the enhancements were more sophisticated and used not for a body part but for one of the five senses, if there was a problem or the implant was disconnected the particular sense was gone not just muted.
There were several scenes in this story that I really enjoyed and bookmarked. One was the scene when they decide to take the next step and “consummate” their marriage. The discussion prior, logic used in the argument, and then the openness during really spoke towards the partnership Charlotte and Dexter were building. I also enjoyed one of the many discussions when Charlotte was insistent on keeping emotion out of their relationship because she was scared and didn’t understand what she was feeling. The last scene I wanted to highlight was the one in which Charlotte actually grew up. She learned some painful truths about herself, her first husband, and how much Dexter meant to her. I loved how she prepared and executed her grovel. Just like I loved how Dexter was abiding by her wishes as promised with their initial arrangement. He knew that she had to be the one to decide what kind of life she was going to live. I thought the way Dryden kept them in character even under pressure was admirable because I was sitting on the edge of my seat willing them to make their “marriage” a real one. I think I can safely say that I have found another steampunk author to add to my very slowly growing list.
I give Gossamer Wing a B.