by Nico Rosso, historical/fantasy (2012)
Avon Impulse, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-06-220111-9
Nico Rosso's Nights Of Steel is the fourth entry in the series called The Ether Chronicles. This one has a story that stands alone, however. Just know that this is a steampunk story, set in the Wild West in an alternate time where bounty hunters take to the skies to hunt their targets down.
The story is pretty straightforward. Anna Blue and Jack Hawkins are the best bounty hunters in California, so it's inevitable that their paths collide often in the past. There is a healthy rivalry between them, and one that will only become more intense when they both go after the same target in this story: a reclusive inventor called Dr Franklin Song. Also hot on Dr Song's tail is a rogue Man O' War, however, so things are going to heat up alright.
This one reminds me a lot of those fun pulp fiction stories in the good old days, when it's all about the thrill of the chase and the joys of flirting with disaster. This one has an unapologetic kick-ass heroine, however, so it's she and Jack on level playing field here. I like the dynamic between these two because Anna and Jack are equals instead of one being the smarter and more capable one. Anna can be quite cocky about her abilities, but since she can deliver what she promises, I'd say more power to her. Jack is a capable hero too, and he's just one of those action heroes that just do his thing instead of trying so hard to be an alpha male. Both of them bond on an emotional level first before they take off their clothes, and I like that.
The pacing is fine in this story, although I have to admit that the love scenes are inserted in a context that has me going, "Wait, people actually feel randy in such a situation?" The confrontation with the villain is a bit of an anticlimax after all that build up about how deadly this enemy is, but still, the chemistry and the relationship between Anna and Jack make up for any shortcomings in the action drama department.
Nights Of Steel is, all in all, too much fun.
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