Review: Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster

Posted April 30, 2013 by Jen in 4.5 stars, Paranormal Romance, Rating A, Steampunk Fiction Tags: , , ,

Heart of Iron
Author: Bec McMaster 
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks
London Steampunk #2
ISBN: #978-1402270307
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Steampunk
Format(s): Paperback (448 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher/ NetGalley

About the book:

      In Victorian London, if you’re not a blue blood of the Echelon then you’re nothing at all. The Great Houses rule the city with an iron fist, imposing their strict ‘blood taxes’ on the nation, and the Queen is merely a puppet on a string…
      Lena Todd makes the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a sympathizer for the humanist movement haunting London’s vicious blue blood elite. Not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger, and the one man whose kiss she can’t forget…
      Stricken with the loupe and considered little more than a slave-without-a-collar to the blue bloods, Will wants nothing to do with the Echelon or the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds a coded letter on Lena—a code that matches one he saw on a fire-bombing suspect—he realizes she’s in trouble. To protect her, he must seduce the truth from her.
      With the humanists looking to start a war with the Echelon, Lena and Will must race against time—and an automaton army—to stop the humanist plot before it’s too late. But as they fight to save a city on the brink of revolution, the greatest danger might just be to their hearts…

What Im talking about:

      I want to open my review with a brief mention of Tarnished Night, a free novella from Ms. McMaster. You can find out how to download the novella HERE (for a limited time). This novella takes place two years after the conclusion of the first book, Kiss of Steel, and a year before Heart of Iron. Although one does not need to read the novella to understand the current release, there is a “prologue” to Heart of Iron found at the conclusion of the novella that adds a lot of value to the book. I highly recommend reading it first. With three years between the first two books, both the novella and the accompanying prologue do much to fill in the gaps, creating a smoother, richer transition from the first to second book.
      Will Carver, protector of Blade – master of the rookeries, is a verwulfen with a bounty on his head. Known as the Beast of Whitechapel, he helps Blade keep order, something Will cannot find within his own life. For more than three long years he’s desired Ms. Lena Todd, but knows he can never have her, and that fact drives him crazy every day.
      Meanwhile, Lena has moved back to live with her (secret) half-brother, Leo Barrons, a blue-blood member of the Echelon. Fleeing life in the rookeries after Will rebuffed her advances a year ago, she attempts to make her way through society, playing their games in hopes she will find a place to fit in. But when she learns about the Humanists, a group interested in overthrowing the ruling Echelon, she begins to help the illegal society – hoping someday she’ll find some sort of happiness.
      It comes as a complete shock to both Will and Lena that the Prince Consort and four of the more “liberal” members of the council of Dukes want to form a treaty with the verwulfen clans of Scandinavia, and they want to enlist the help of Will to smooth the waters. In exchange for his aid, the council is willing to change the laws regarding the treatment of verwulfen. In order to learn proper etiquette and fit in, Will ropes Lena into tutoring him – bringing the pair together almost daily.
      Heart of Iron is a suspenseful tale of political maneuvering among the classes with a paranormal twist that ups the ante. To try and describe the complexities and nuances of the blue bloods (pre-vampires), verwulfen and human factions in this review would be a great disservice to this book; however, it is not so intricate that one cannot easily read and enjoy this tale.
      The entire mix of intrigue created an exciting read. I was leery of everyone except our main characters – but most especially of the slimy Alaric Colchester, Duke of Lannister. His intensions for Lena are anything but honest and pure, and I was on edge every time Lena thought he was near. Adding to the tension are the Humanist leaders who may or may not be threatening Lena with her brother’s life so that she’ll betray Will and her own heart. Knowing that this threat put Lena in an impossible situation in which she would have to destroy Will or see her brother hurt created a stressful circumstance. I enjoyed every moment!
      Although the suspense makes Heart of Iron a thrilling read, it’s the budding romance between Lena and Will that make this book such a wonderful story. The pair long for each other, but each has a set of expectations and rules that govern they stay apart. For years, Lena would “test the waters” with flirtatious games – wanting Will to respond, but fear of rejection, or even acceptance, keeping her distanced. There was no honesty for so long, that when the barriers started to crumble, it was intense. Frankly, Will broke my heart a few times during the book, especially after Lena would open up her heart and he’d push away. Normally that kind of behavior in a romance is a turn off for me. Yet, Ms. McMaster spins a beautiful broken web that grows stronger over time. There are so many interactions between the pair that I just adored. Ms. McMaster was able to convey every emotional moment with such clarity that I laughed and cried right along side the characters. The lead up to the conclusion was an emotional masterpiece – bringing me to tears as the entire gang from Whitechapel came together.
      The back and forth nature of Will and Lena’s relationship created intense sexual tension. Their first real kiss was passionate and needy and so wonderful. With every encounter, the heat ratcheted up a notch, and I swear my face flushed for a few moments.
      Once again, Ms. McMaster ends her story with a bang that leaves this reader anxious for more. Although the primary story within Heart of Iron comes to a satisfying conclusion, the events of the climatic ending will have substantial impacts to the Echelon, verwulfen, humanists and our friends in the rookeries. Add to that an interesting epilogue, and I am hooked, wondering what will happen next.
      Overall, I found Heart of Iron extremely well-written and highly entertaining. The story hit highs and lows, causing me to laugh, my heart to race, and I even shed some tears. Will and Lena’s developing love was sweet and passionate. Their sexual tension was palatable. Even though the pair kept secrets, and I was frustrated with the number of times Will pushed Lena away after she opened her heart to him, it didn’t ruin the story. Rather it surprisingly enhanced the overall outcome and made for a richer love story. The layers of mystery were complex but didn’t weigh down the progress of the plot. And although the story isn’t over, Heart of Iron had a fulfilling conclusion. I cannot wait to read My Lady Quicksilver, coming in October.

My Rating:

Loved it – enthusiastically recommend (A)

Purchase Info:
Heart of Iron (Book 2)

Reviews in the Series:
Kiss of Steel (Book 1)
Tarnished Knight (Novella, Book 1.5)

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