When I came to write this review of Laurann Dohner’s Melting Iron, I realized that what I remember most about the reading experience is a sense of disappointment. You know why? Because when I read that the hero is a cyborg, I imagined mechanical body parts used in sex. Resistance is futile. The fact that there’s a whole society of such beings – this is the third in the author’s Cyborg Seduction series – suggested some interesting world-building as well.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t live up to that potential.
It begins with two women, Dawn and Cathy, in a holding cell after their shuttle is seized by off-world cyborg pirates with gunmetal-colored skin. Three other women have already been taken away, and these two have no idea what’s going to happen, though Dawn fears the worst. She believes cyborgs kidnap humans to steal their body parts, so right at the start, I figured these cyborgs weren’t likely to be half-mechanical creatures.
There’s a lot to like about Dawn; she’s thirty-six, a welder and extremely gutsy when dealing with her captors. However, a huge cyborg called Iron foils her attempt to destroy his ship and takes her as his personal prisoner. She makes a deal with him – if he agrees not to let Cathy be harmed, Dawn will willingly sleep with him.
I enjoy a good captor/captive dynamic if the captive can hold his or her own, but both Iron and Dawn are reduced to blandness when they’re with each other. She has no particular goals or plans, so it’s as though she knows being his prisoner will work out fine in the end. After they have sex for the second time, she even tells him, “If you own me, then I own your ass right back.”
This is… actually not how captivity works. As for Iron, I think the author was going for the strong silent type, but he comes off as more bemused and/or cowed by Dawn’s attitude. He gives in to her constantly – agreeing to get her an entertainment unit so she won’t be bored, allowing her to speak to another prisoner, and so on. I lost count of the number of times she calls him an asshole, and she even manages to get the better of him in a fight, knocking him unconscious!
Meanwhile, the most he does in token protest is to sleep elsewhere after they have sex, which makes this the first book I’ve read where the slave ends up driving the master out of his own quarters. Dawn’s reaction to his post-coital abandonment is to feel hurt, which would be great if they had a believable relationship. This isn’t the case. They do have detailed sex, but there is zero tension because they cut to the chase at once and are so physically compatible. There are occasional moments of conflict, such as when Iron tells her he wants her to have four children with him – I nicknamed him the Sperminator—but nothing significant comes of these before it’s time for the next sex scene.
The other disappointment was the world-building. Dohner tosses a bone to the science fiction aspect of the romance by saying the cyborgs have “new technology and implants” in their heads, but this doesn’t play any real role in the story. Plus, it’s all tell and no show. I wasn’t expecting his fingers to turn into vibrators – not that this would have been unwelcome, mind you – but the cyborgs are basically humans with grey skins and wannabe-badass names like Steel, Ice and Flint. I slogged to the end of Melting Iron, but wouldn’t recommend anyone else do likewise.