I’ve been a fan of the Proper Romance Series since Shadow Mountain published Julianne Donaldson’s Edenbrooke back in 2012. The whole concept was almost like a dream come true. A whole line of romance books where I wouldn’t have to worry about skipping a sex scene? Yes, thank you!
However, when Nancy Campbell Allen wrote the first Steampunk Proper Romance, Beauty and the Clockwork Beast, I was a little skeptical. I had never read steampunk before. I was already so in love with the regency books they were producing that I wasn’t quite sure why they felt the need to change it up. Still, I gave it a try, and I loved it. It only took me a few chapters to realize that I had a new favorite genre. After all, I’ve always loved historical, sci-fi, and fantasy, and this like having all three of them squished together. I mean, I loved it so much that I went out and bought a steampunk-style pocket watch the next week. Whoops.
So when Kiss of the Spindle was released as the second in the series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. So I patiently waited until my little small town library had it, then I patiently waited on the hold list, and then I patiently rushed over to the library and READ THE HECK OUT OF THAT BOOK.
Friends, this is not some rescue-me princess book where the damsel is rescued by the loving prince at the end. No, this is the story of Isla, a doctor and entrepreneur in a man’s world. She takes on and provides counseling for werewolves as a living. She just happens to be cursed by her sister to “sleep like the dead” every night from midnight to six. But Isla isn’t about to pine away and wait for someone to rescue her. Nope, she blackmails her way onto an airship, flies across the ocean, treks through the Caribbean jungle barefoot, faces a witch, and coincidentally finds true love along the way.
Because that’s how Isla does Isla. Not to mention the throwing knives she keeps hidden in her corset.
Besides creating an incredibly strong female protagonist, Nancy Campbell Allen totally nails the whole world-building thing. I haven’t read a book that transported me to another setting so fully in years. The culture? The technology? The magic? All so believable that it was almost painful to put down the book knowing that I can’t just go hop on an airship for the weekend. Not to mention her clever nods to the classic fairytale. Some didn’t even click for me until the end of the novel and I just had this awesome moment of “OH! THAT’S why she did that! Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant!”
As for downsides to the book, my main complaint comes up in a lot of my favorite romance novels. The protagonists’ obliviousness to the other being TOTALLY IN LOVE with them is unbelievable. BUT since that seems to be a trademark of the genre it’s not too devastating of a flaw.
RECOMMEND: YA-Adult fans of Historical Fiction, Romance, or Steampunk
CLEANLINESS: Clean as whistle!