3 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
Kiss of Steel is a steampunk adventure that borders on the edge of supernatural romance. There is a quite a bit of imaginative steampunk setting, and there are many interesting facets to the world, but the dominant feature of the story is the protagonist’s love life, and the love scenes teeter on, then careen over, the edge of what I would consider pornographic. This is a the first in a series of novels, but I didn’t feel like that contributed negatively in any way to the book. The plot actually makes a good deal of sense, and aside from the protagonist’s love interest having an instant magical attraction for her that doesn’t make any sense, the plot is logical and comes to an eventually satisfying conclusion without any horrible cliffhangers or contrived plot points. If you are a fan of steampunk or fantasy and also like romance, I would definitely recommend this book, as it is one of the better examples of this type that I have read, although my experience isn’t that vast.
Honoria Todd is on the run from the council of vampires that rules all of England. With her ailing brother and little sister in tow, the best she can do to almost make ends meet is to live in the most destitute part of London. When she gets a mysterious summons from the vampire underworld boss of her new home, she has no choice but to acquiesce. She soon finds her heart torn between a new passion for this man and a desire to hide her past to protect her family.
Honestly, the title Kiss of Steel did set alarm bells off in my head, but I found the promise of a good steampunk adventure too much to pass up, so I halfway convinced myself that this would just be a romantic sub-plot to a general adventure story. As the relationship between the protagonist and her love interest got increasingly passionate and sexually explicit, I cringed and found myself skimming most of the sex scenes to get to the rest of the story. I halfway convinced myself each time that now that the relationship had been consummated there wouldn’t be any need for more sex, but apparently there’s always a need for more sex, much to my chagrin. I just wanted a bunch of fighting with a steampunk backdrop, so I was somewhat disappointed. If the prospect of liberal amounts of explicit sex scenes wouldn’t detract from your reading experience by all means get this book.
I actually really liked the setting in general. There’s a melding of aristocracy and vampirism that I hadn’t seen before that I found interesting. There isn’t quite as much clockwork technology as I would have liked, but what is there is interesting and has implications that should prove even more interesting in later books. I found it a little odd that this is a Victorian England with no mention of colonies, trading, or really any industry other than draining blood for vampires, but I guess everything set in the time of industrialization doesn’t have to feature that principally in the plot.
The characters are all right, but not inspired. The protagonist is a little hollow other than her British sense of propriety, but at least she has very clear motivations, and most of her activities center on fulfilling them. The love interest seemed a bit like an infantile deranged oaf to me, but from my limited exposure, that appears to be congruent with the genre.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
I’m not an expert on this genre by any means, but Kiss of Steel holds up well compared to anything similar I have read. I would say that it is very close in quality to Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate series, starting with Soulless. Kiss of Steel has a quite a bit more explicit sexuality, but the settings are fairly close and the protagonists are similar.