Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-377-5
Romantic Suspense, 2016
Eve Devon’s Heart of Steel is book two in the multi-author series Steel Hawk. I have not read book one, Jane Beckenham’s To Love a Thief, but that one is a historical romance concerning some ancestor of the heroine, and this one can stand alone pretty okay. It took me a while to get my bearings before I reread the whole thing again, though, so I suspect it may be better to read this series from the first book on.
Steel Hawk is a security company, and there are in-story comparisons to Stark Industries. Add to this the fact that our hero Adam Steel is in love with his PA, and the only reason I don’t fully suspect that this is just an Iron Man fanfiction, with the serial digits filed off, is the lack of some dude in a tin can of mass destruction showing up to pulverize everybody. The PA is – brace yourself – Honeysuckle Hawk, who is definitely not a porn actress contrary to what you may think. She resigns because she has secrets, he insists that the two of them go on one last assignment – at least for her – to protect a priceless diamond, and the usual shenanigans happen.
Meanwhile, Rufus de Burgh, the bad guy plots and broods because, when he was a kid, he was poor and his mother was an embarrassment, constantly raving about how “they” had taken her son away from him. Rufus was convinced that she was mad… until the day when the men in white coats took her away, and she made it clear that the lost son was not Rufus but Rufus’s twin brother. Apparently there was some kind of royal conspiracy. The adult Rufus discovers that his mother was right all along – he has discovered his twin brother, who has lived in luxury while he toiled and suffered in poverty. So, he now wants revenge…
Adam and Honeysuckle – oh god, can I call her something else? – are perfectly fine characters in their own right. They are not groundbreaking, but they have chemistry and they don’t do anything too stupid. The thing here is that the author raises up some fuss about their respective secrets, but when they are revealed, my reaction boils down to: “Wait, why are they making such a huge fuss about this again?”
And that is a problem because their brooding and hand-wringing only underscores how little they have to complain about when it comes to life. Compare them to Rufus, and I have a story where I can’t help seeing where the villain is coming from. I may not want to publicly condone what Rufus is doing, and I actually think Rufus isn’t as smart as he’d like to think he is, but this is one story where I don’t mind rooting for the villain to succeed in his plans. It’s the bourgeoisie in me, I guess – down with the upper class!
I don’t have any objections to Heart of Steel; it is a pleasant, charming read, although the suspense can be such as I am often ahead of the good guys when it comes to figuring out Rufus’s next step. I just wish the good guys have more genuine vulnerabilities, instead of coming off as pampered types grasping at straws just to seem vulnerable. Right now, I am rooting for Rufus, and he’s not even that good a villain. Which should tell you how compelling the main characters are to me, snort.