Desert Isle Keeper
My Lady Quicksilver
Somehow, I read Of Silk and Steam, the final book in Bec McMaster’s fabulous London Steampunk series first, then moved onto the Blue Blood Conspiracy series, so thanks to the TBR Challenge, I’ve been slowly catching up with the books I missed. My Lady Quicksilver is book three and is every bit as good as those that preceded it, boasting a tightly-written story with plenty of intrigue and high-stakes action, a steamy antagonists-to-lovers romance, excellent world-building and a strongly drawn set of central and secondary characters.
While each book could be read as a standalone (the central storyline and romance are concluded in each book), there’s an overarching plotline that runs throughout the series, so I’d advise starting at the beginning with Kiss of Steel. There will be spoilers for the previous books in this review.
Sir Jasper Lynch, Master of the Nighthawks – London’s (sort of) police force, which is made up of rogue blue bloods (those not of the nobility who became accidentally infected with the craving virus) – has been given just three weeks to track down and arrest the mysterious Mercury, the leader of the humanist movement believed responsible for the recent bombing of the Ivory Tower, the seat of the Echelon’s power. With two weeks left until the deadline – and knowing that the price of failure to deliver will be his life – Lynch has very little to go on, until he connects rumours of a smuggling operation with the humanist movement, and makes plans to intercept the next shipment. On a dank, foggy night down by the river, he and his team await their moment to strike – but they’re spotted and all hell breaks loose. During the fight, Lynch almost captures Mercury – who escapes into the enclaves beyond the city walls. The enclaves are dangerous places – especially for a blue blood – but he follows anyway and quickly corners his quarry and makes a startling discovery. Mercury is a woman. A woman who attracts him and repels him in equal measure. They circle each other metaphorically, testing each other’s mettle with the thrust and parry of their conversation until, after sharing a heated kiss, Mercury sticks Lynch with a hemlock dart and disappears.
Rosalind Fairchild took on the mantle of the humanist cause espoused by her late husband after his death some eight years previously and her secret identity is known only to a select few. She was not, in fact, responsible for the bombing at the Ivory Tower; a breakaway faction of mechs planned and executed it and Rosa tried to prevent it, to no avail. Her main concern now, though, is her younger brother Jeremy, who was duped by Mordecai, the mechs’ leader, into delivering the bomb. Rosa doesn’t know if Jeremy is dead or alive and is desperate to find out – and she decides the best way to get the information she needs is by taking a position as secretary to Sir Jasper Lynch at the HQ of the Nighthawks. She presents herself at Lynch’s office as Mrs. Marberry and talks her way into the job – her no nonsense manner, her gumption and her ability to look him in the eye (not to mention her pretty face and soft curves) convincing him to give her the position on a trial basis.
Searching for Mercury isn’t Lynch’s only priority. The recent gruesome murders of two blueblood families – by a family member seemingly gone berserk – are mystifying and completely random, and Lynch has no real clues to go on.
The plot is engaging and well-executed as is the romance between Lynch and Rosa which is full of the sizzling sexual tension Bec McMaster writes so well. Lynch is another of her swoonworthy heroes; handsome (of course!), honourable, intelligent and tightly controlled, he comes across as somewhat cold at first, but is gradually revealed to have a dry sense of humour and a vulnerability he keeps ruthlessly hidden. Rosa’s backstory is heartbreaking; she and her brothers lived on the streets for a while after their mother (a thrall) died, until she was taken in and trained as an assassin and spy by her father, the evil Lord Balfour. In the eight years since the death of her husband, Rosa has never looked at another man – she just hasn’t been interested – and her attraction to Lynch infuriates her. She hates blue bloods and he, as the Master of the Nighthawks, answerable to the even more hated Prince Consort, is the worst of the lot. But as she works alongside Lynch as Mrs Marberry, Rosa begins to see a different side to him and to see him as a man of compassion, with emotions he works hard to keep at bay. She realises that she’s been wrong in tarring all blue bloods with the same brush and that some of them are actually capable and desirous of doing good.
The author sets up the conflict early on, and then drip-feeds information about the characters and their backstories, slowly revealing the truth about these two flawed and damaged characters, their loneliness, their guilt and their determination to do what they believe to be right. The sparks fly between Lynch and Rosa right from the start; it’s an attraction neither of them wants or can afford, but it won’t go away, no matter how hard they try to ignore it. The staid and principled Lynch is very much in lust with Mercury, but is also falling for Mrs Mayberry; he struggles with the fact he’s attracted to two women, while Rosa is unable to resist him, even though she knows she’s heading for trouble.
My Lady Quicksilver is another gripping read in what is one of the best series of paranormal romances of recent years. Lynch and Rosa are fully-formed, three-dimensional individuals with flaws and insecurities who, despite their difficult pasts, have grown into strong, determined individuals who will do whatever they must in pursuit of their goals. The sexual chemistry between them burns up the pages, the banter is excellent and the romance is both tender and sexy as hell (chess, anyone?! Phew!)
If you haven’t read this series yet, then do yourself a favour and get started. You can thank me later ;)