Ava Morgan, $0.99
Fantasy Romance, 2013
We’re back in steampunk world in Ava Morgan’s The Lady Machinist, the first standalone entry in her series Curiosity Chronicles. You know the song and dance, I’m sure – Britain (here called New Britannia) is the center of the everything, what with it carving an empire and all, the French is at war with Britain, machines, guns, girl with magical violin stopping dragons in their tracks… wait, maybe not that last one. The series revolves around the agents o the Cabinet of Intellectual Curiosities or COIC. That’s COIC and not anything else your naughty mind may mislead you into seeing what you think you’re seeing.
Anyway, in this one, Rhys Cartret, our hero and one of the agents of COIC, is on a mission. Greece is famous for her mechanical clockwork soldiers, and Britain believes that a few of those in her armies may turn the tide against the French. Lady Lydia Dimosthenis doesn’t trust too many people after the death of her husband, and her first impression of Rhys boils down to, basically, cute but most likely untrustworthy. She and her husband created the first clockwork soldiers, and now she’s the only one who knows how to make more of those. Because of this, she holds an unusually high position of power in the King’s court for a woman. This and the fact that her late husband was heir to the throne, that is.
At any rate, the King is willing to negotiate with Britain because piracy in the island’s waters has decimated the economy to the point that the coffers are nearly empty. Rhys, sensing an opportunity, insists that Lydia comes along too with him and his crew back to Britain to help set up the first Union Jack robot factory. Well, if that’s the case, Lydia’s persistent – and unwanted – suitor who is also adviser to the King insists on coming along too. Will romance ever develop with such a baggage being lugged around?
There is nothing wrong with The Lady Machinist at all. The hero and the heroine are competent, capable people with decent chemistry, the story is well paced, and there is a good balance between action and drama. No rampant stupidity, no prolonged angst for the sake of angst, nothing like that. And yet, this story leaves me a bit cold. I like it, but I don’t find myself feeling enthusiastic and woo-hoo-hoo about it. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why this is the case. The action scenes are okay, but stops short of being exciting and thrilling. The romance is okay, but it never generates the electricity that could have made it one to remember. The author almost gets there, so to the speak, but she never quite makes it to that point where I want to jump out of my chair and wave some pom-poms around in excitement.
A big part of why this is the case could be due to the utter predictability of the story. The bad guys are exactly who they are made out to be, they behave exactly like generic villains, and their plotting results in drama that is straight out of cookie cutter paradise. This is especially an issue in the later half or so of the story, when these bad guys are in the spotlight to create trouble for Rhys and Lydia. This is quite a surprise-free read during those moments, and, as a result, the book is so easily set aside for more interesting diversions.
The Lady Machinist is a pretty decent read, and a good value for money considering how much it costs versus how little pain it inflicts. I just wish it is a little more… exciting.