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Review: The Iron Duke, Meljean Brook

In this alternate history world, a steampunk version of Victorian England has just defeated the Horde, a barbarous group of people who controlled English citizens by means of nanobots. The nanobots could force people to do their will, until the Iron Duke, Rhys, takes down the controlling tower in a mad, suicidal act. Mina, half-Horde and a product of the Frenzy, is also a detective inspector, and finds herself on a collision course with the duke when a dead body is dropped on his doorstep without warning. Unexpectedly they find themselves on a quest together to save Mina’s brother and, eventually, England, but all Rhys really longs for is to possess and protect Mina for the rest of his life.

I am in two minds about this book. The world was indescribably awesome. It’s fantastic and logical at the same time and I just loved spending time in it, uncovering the little bits and pieces about it, and I really can’t wait to learn even more about it in future books. I found it a little confusing at first but soon figured out everything that was happening; it’s just the perfect combination of Victorian society, technology, and Brook’s own imagining.

Unfortunately, the romance fell flat for me, and when I say flat, I mean really flat. I didn’t like Rhys. I hated that his sole objective in life was to possess Mina and he’s bound and determined to do it regardless of what she says, feels, or actually wants. He does some things to her that made me uncomfortable and I couldn’t forgive him. The rest of him was fine, it was just his behavior towards Mina and this attitude of possession that I really didn’t appreciate. I know some women like that, but I am very much my own person and this sort of thing turns me off a book quite a bit. (I’m thinking of Twilight and how Edward creeps me out but everyone else loves him.)

Mina, on the other hand, was fantastic. She’s nuanced, she’s clever, she kicks butt but she’s vulnerable – basically, she’s everything I like in a heroine. She’s also not stereotypically beautiful, but is instead the very picture of society’s oppression. She’s had a lot to deal with and it’s not men falling over her in the normal way, either. I loved that the world Brook created had a place for determined, ambitious women and doesn’t relegate them to the sole duties of marrying and having children. In fact, Mina doesn’t think she’ll have either of those things, so instead of mooning over men, she’s busy filling her life on her own. She wouldn’t even have mooned over Rhys if he wasn’t so determined, at least I don’t think so.

The Iron Duke is not my favorite romance, but it does have a great world and a nice, twisty plot alongside the romantic one. For those two reasons, I’d still recommend it, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next one stacks up. Meljean Brook is very popular in the romance world, so I am more than eager to try her books again and see how we get on.

I am an Amazon Associate. I purchased this book.

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