Review: Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook

heart of steelReviewed by Jen

Book after book, Meljean Brook constantly impresses me.  She is so insanely creative and talented. Her world-building is complex and fascinating.  But even better, she creates characters that are so well drawn, I feel like I know them. I care about them.  And one of the things I love most is that they are all so different from one another. She never takes the easy way out or uses an archetype to scrimp on character development; each character is unique with individual strengths, foils and idiosyncrasies, allowing me to see them as real people with emotions that matter –and make sense.

All that being said, I was kind of lukewarm with The Iron Duke, largely because I wasn’t a big fan of the hero.  So I wasn’t in a hurry to read this second book in the Iron Seas series.  Pfft. Silly me.  Obviously, I enjoyed this one much more…. for all of the reasons listed above and more.

The romance surrounds adventurer Archimedes Fox and airship captain of the Lady Corsair, Yasmeen.  The two have a rocky history in that she killed his father a long time ago –and he hid his identity from her aboard her ship not so long ago.  But as the story begins, he has hired her again to take him on a dangerous journey.  Through a series of complicated events involving two thefts and the destruction of her ship, the two end up partners on a shared mission of revenge and recovery.  Their journey takes us on an exploration of this fascinating world, its geography and its history. But for me, that was all just the backdrop for the progression of their prickly relationship.

Yasmeen is clearly the alpha of the two.  She is tough-as-nails. She doesn’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to handle her business, from simple swagger to barroom brawls to flat out murder.  She has to be hard.  She’s opened herself before and paid the price. So she has resigned herself to having a heart of steel in order to survive and thrive in the life she has made for herself.  Underneath all that, though, is a real woman. She is not immune to the charms of a man who knows how to court her properly –and certainly not one who falls in love with her.  She is badass, yes, and that is not at all diminished by her softer emotions, which I totally love.

Archimedes is beta, but he is no weakling.  He is still 100% man, even without pounding on his chest or having to foist himself in the drivers seat at all times. He is essentially the antithesis of the Iron Duke.  His motivation for pursing a relationship with Yasmeen was interesting, and though I thought it was resolved a little easily, I liked it.  I liked him and how he treated her.  I loved how secure he was in his own masculinity, and how he never felt the need to take the lead when Yasmeen could do it better.

The sexual tension in this book was outstanding.  There is a lot of delayed gratification, which means it’s not as sexually indulgent as some of Brook’s other books.  But the tension was so tight, it kept me constantly aware of the sensual thread running through the relationship. In other words, I didn’t feel the lack.

Overall, I thought it was very good. In honesty, there were some times I got a little bit lost in some of the history lessons and in the geographical and political elements of the worldbuilding. –It’s very dense.– I had to let some things fly over my head. But it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.  This book was designed to be read after The Iron Duke and it does make reference to some events in this story, but not so much that you couldn’t enjoy it as a standalone.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Heart of Steel
by Meljean Brook
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Berkley


  1. Janhavi says:

    I am not much of a fan of Iron Duke either- as you said, I also dislike the hero. But I absolutely love Heart of Steel- its easily my favourite of the Iron Seas. Kraken King probably comes second to this. Have you read the epilogue novella Tethered? I actually like that even better than Heart of Steel.

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