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Review: Touch of Steel by Kate Cross

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Touch of Steel
Author: Kate Cross 
Release Date: Dec. 4, 2012
Publisher: Signet
Clockwork Agents #2
ISBN: #978-0451238825
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Format(s): Paperback (352 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher
About the book:
The Wardens of the Realm are a group with extraordinary abilities, dedicated to protecting England from any threat. But in this steam-powered world, there’s a fine line between enemy and ally…
Reeling from her brother’s death, beautiful American spy Claire Brooks has vowed revenge on the member of The Company who she believes to be responsible: Stanton Howard. But when she chases the man to London, Claire is captured by the Wardens of the Realm and placed in the custody of the Earl of Wolfred, the dashing Alistair Payne.
Seeing the prospect of retribution slipping away, Claire convinces Alistair that she has defected and will help him take down The Company. As they travel via steam liner, Claire and Alistair must pretend to be engaged. Claire can’t deny the growing attraction she feels for her pretend husband, but when Howard is finally within her reach, she will have to decide whether her true loyalties lie with The Company or with her heart
What Una is talking about:
As a recent convert to the world of Steampunk, I may not understand it all, but I do love it!  Ms. Cross’s latest installment in the Clockwork Agents series, Touch of Steel is just as mesmerizing as the first book, Heart of Brass.  If you want to just jump in on this book, feel free, but the connections of the characters will be stronger if you read the first book.  Plus, it was a great read.
Touch of Steel begins with Claire Brooks, a Company agent following Stanton Howard, another agent with the Company – one she believes killed her brother.  The Company has done nothing to punish him so she takes it upon herself to avenge her brother, Robert.  Racing along the rooftops, both suffering gunshot wounds, Stanton gains the upper hand and throws Claire off the roof and gets away.  Claire’s fall is broken by a passing carriage and she is taken into Warden custody.  Her only hope to stay alive and get back on Stanton’s trail is to appeal to a fellow former agent and friend, Luke.
Alistair, an agent with the Wardens and the Earl of Wolfred, is recovering from being almost killed by an enemy spy.  It seems Alistair tends to be attracted to the wrong women, and this last one almost succeeded in killing him.  When his best friend, Luke, Lord Huntley, finds himself in a tight spot between an old friend’s cry for help and his wife, Alistair steps in to help.  When first confronted with Claire, Alistair’s ingrained distrust and dislike for the Company is strong.  However his bias is challenged as he and Claire work on this mission together.
I thoroughly enjoyed Touch of Steel.  The romance was passionate and woven nicely into the race to catch the killer.  The intrigue that Alistair and Claire engage in together (and with each other) is enchanting.  Ms. Cross’s storytelling is gripping while mesmerizing. All of the little devices and creations enhance the rich Victorian-esque world.  I love the juxtaposition between the stifling British society and the role of the female agents.  It could be very convoluted but I find it is not.  I enjoy the mannerisms and etiquette being in contrast at times to the action at hand.  
Although some major plot points were fairly easy to figure out, I still enjoyed the way the story played out.  Alistair and Claire’s connection and their precarious positions were not magically wiped away.  Even though the resolution came quickly, it was not without its danger or anxious anticipation.  Touch of Steel is a fabulous sequel to Heart of Brass. Considering the closure of the novel, I am intrigued to see what the next novel in the Clockwork Agents will bring. 
Unas Rating:
Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)


Purchase Info:
Touch of Steel (Book 2)
Reviews in the Series:
Heart of Brass (Book 1)
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