Skies of Fire
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Avon Impulse
The Ether Chronicles #1
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Format(s): Paperback (224 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Author/Publisher/Edelweiss
Man made of metal and flesh
Captain Christopher Redmond has just one weakness: the alluring spy who loved and left him years before…when he was still just a man. Now he’s superhuman—a Man O’ War, made as part of the British Navy’s weapons program—and his responsibility is to protect the skies of Europe. If only he could forget Louisa Shaw.
A most inconvenient desire
Louisa, a British Naval Intelligence agent, has never left a job undone. But when her assignment is compromised, the one man who can help her complete her mission is also the only man ever to tempt her body and heart. As burning skies loom and passion ignites, Louisa and Christopher must slip behind enemy lines if they are to deliver a devastating strike against their foe . . . and still get out alive.
Our action-filled story starts with our brave Man O’War Captain, Christopher, and his ship, Demeter, waged in a sky battle with enemy airships. It’s Her Majesty’s Royal Navy against the Hapsburg (aka Huns) troops, and the odds are against the British. Although Christopher is completely engaged, his mind wanders to thoughts of his lost love, Louisa – the woman who left him three years prior.
Christopher’s vessel survives the skirmish only to end up in enemy territory, alone. After successfully hiding from the enemy, Christopher notices a distress signal coming from a nearby village. The crew prepares for and makes a daring rescue of the British Intelligence officer who was ambushed while undercover. The agent is none other than the captain’s long lost love, Louisa.
Right at the start of the book, the reader is tossed into heavy action. The scenes are intense and exciting, leaving little room for long, purposeful world-building. Instead, the reader enjoys an almost “on-the-job training,” learning bits and pieces of this steampunk world through the storyline. It’s extremely effective for allowing the reader to get caught up in the plot and become emotionally invested in the characters. Once the initial action quiets some, Ms. Archer takes time to fill in bits and pieces of her world. For example, in the beginning we are told that Christopher is a Man O’War … a man who has been physically altered with metal plates of telumium implants. These implants power the batteries and ship. But it isn’t until later that we learn more about what it really means to become a Man O’War. The concept grabbed my attention in the beginning, and the further explanations later quenched my thirst for more information.
With Louisa on board and Christopher determined to help her with her mission to destroy a hidden munitions operation deep in enemy territory, the pair must confront their past so that the mission can be successful. The close quarters, coupled with their possible and probable deaths while attempting this mission, heighten the tension and emotions – creating an ideal situation for some HOT and needy reunion sex! It also allows for the couple to quickly get over issues and move forward.
I love that although Christopher and Louisa have been apart for three years, both never let go of the amazing friendship and love that connected them. I enjoyed learning more about the couple as they each recalled pieces of their past lives together via both internal recollection and also via shared memories. It paints a warm picture without the need for lengthy backstory or flashbacks. It is evident that their love was mutual and deep, even though Louisa left him after he proposed.
The couple work extremely well together. They are each amazed at the other’s abilities to perform their duties (Man O’War and spy). They offer help one another, but back off when they recognize the other’s expertise. They understand each other’s strengths and never try to overrun the other. They both worry about the other, but again, trust the other to be able to handle the situation. Their mutual admiration is contagious.
The Ether Chronicles is an interesting concept – Zoe Archer wrote this first story, and her husband, Nico Rosso, wrote the second book, Night of Fire. The second book takes place in the United States, whereas the first takes place in Europe. The third book, Skies of Steel, is due out in October, and is written by Ms. Archer – and is back in Europe. It appears as if the books are loosely related – perhaps all taking place in the same world, but not following the same characters. I look forward to finding out!
Overall, I found Skies of Fire an enjoyable read. It is a lovely romance with an historical setting and a steampunky feel. There are equal parts wartime spy thriller, action-adventure, and love story. The book has a great tempo – moving seamlessly between the interpersonal stories and romance to the intensity of wartime. For those looking to test out the steampunk waters, or if you just want an entertaining story, I recommend Skies of Fire.
Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)