Series: Experiments in Love & Steel #1
on May 23, 2019
Genres: Romantic suspense, Steampunk
Source: the author
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Reclusive inventor Verity Calvert discovered a secret way to animate artificial bodies with captured souls. Once she has the means to perpetually power those bodies, she can propel her mechanical horses to worldwide fame. Or create something much more lethal. Her quest for a rare mineral to complete the battery brings her face to face with a clever detective over the body of a dead man.
When a customs agent is murdered in his warehouse, Scotland Yard assigns their best. Despite his perfect record, Detective Inspector Jacob Howell has grown cynical investigating the dark side of London, until he crosses paths with the brilliant and unexpectedly compassionate inventress. He senses she’s the key to this mystery, but to solve the case he must find her again in the overcrowded city.
Someone has learned Verity’s secrets. Someone willing to kill to stop her. Can Howell convince her to trust him before the murderer takes her life and her soul?
I received a review copy of this book from the author.
Compelling main characters, fascinating world building, and gripping suspense! Saving Verity pulls you in from the first page and never lets go.
I loved both Verity and Howell, and found them intriguing in their differences and similarities. Both are complicated, wounded people with a deep compassion and commitment, though their causes are very different. Both are hiding secrets… in Verity’s case, quite a few of them. And while both have connections to high society, neither is particularly comfortable with them. The attraction between them is evident very early on. In the general order of things, Howell’s status as a police detective would bar any relationship between them, but Verity’s background and scientific focus have led her to live a reclusive life outside aristocratic society, which makes their growing relationship more believable.
The secondary characters are also well-drawn, and some are engaging enough to make me wish we saw more of them. The adventurer and impressario Inigo Sharp, in particular, would make an interesting hero for a sequel.
Dickens’s worldbuilding enthralled me from the start. Many of the traditional elements of steampunk are present — dirigibles, automatons, and so on — but the science fiction/fantasy elements at the heart of the story are built on (or at least reference) the work of early “natural philosophers” (scientists) like Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle and the Victorian-era work of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. The equipoids that feature prominently throughout the book really captured my imagination, and I love that Dickens makes them beautiful as well as functional.
The plot is sufficiently convoluted that it kept me guessing the first time I read the book. The murderer’s identity was difficult to figure out among the possible suspects… but the murderer does not constitute the only danger to Verity’s safety. (Full disclosure here: I was privileged to be one of the beta readers some years ago. Before writing this review, I read the final version to refresh my memory and notice what had changed since my prior reading. I had forgotten enough details to be drawn in just as deeply the second time around, though I did remember the identity of at least one of the villains.)
You don’t have to love steampunk to enjoy Saving Verity. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historic romance, romantic suspense, steampunk or gaslight fantasy, or alt-historical mystery novels like Colleen Gleason’s Stoker and Holmes novels. ETA: The book is available through Amazon, in both Kindle and paperback.
Oh, and one final note: If the concept of powering automatons with captured souls disturbs you (as it did me), don’t worry; I think you’ll be quite satisfied with how things play out.
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I’m giving away two copies of Saving Verity!
I’m giving away two Kindle (US) copies of Saving Verity, one to each of two winners. I’ll choose the winner in two weeks. This giveaway is sponsored by The Bookwyrm’s Hoard.