Friday, September 23, 2011

Full Steam Ahead by Nathalie Gray

TITLE: Full Steam Ahead
AUTHOR: Nathalie Gray
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 57k)
GENRE: Steampunk erotic romance
COST: $4.00

Racing sailboats is Laurel Benson-Desmarais’s life, but when she runs into a freak storm in the middle of a race, she finds herself thrown into a world she’s not sure isn’t one giant hallucination. Flying boats, acid oceans, a terrifying monster race determined to exterminate humanity…none of that hits her quite as hard as the captain who isn’t convinced she’s working with the enemy. Phineas Hamilton is driven, enigmatic, and unsure what to think of this smart-mouthed woman who shares the same coloring as their foes. But he has little choice but to trust her, and to hope the attraction flaring between them never sees the light of day…

I love Nathalie Gray. I haven’t read a story by her yet that I didn’t really enjoy. She writes tough heroines and broken heroes, with some gritty, fantastic action thrown in for good measure, and I can’t get enough of it.

This one is no exception. Laurel is in the middle of a boat race when a freak storm literally changes the world around in her. She finds herself caught by an anchor from the sky, hauled out of the sea as it eats away at her boat. After getting dragged up through the clouds, she ends up on what looks like a flying boat, with a crew dressed up in funny Victoriana-style clothing and tools and weapons she’s never seen before. The captain and crew think she’s an enemy. Apparently, her blonde hair and blue eyes match their coloring, though her size does not. When the ship comes under attack and she helps them out, however, the captain is forced to accept her, at least for the time being. There’s no place for her to go without causing a scene, though, so he agrees to let her stay on board to help keep her safe.

Laurel is resourceful, strong, and smart-mouthed, quick with a comeback and refusing to take crap from anyone. She stands up to Phineas, the captain, from the start, even not knowing what is going on around her. I loved her scrappy nature and fearlessness, especially when paired opposite his almost prim and equally fearless behavior. He’s enigmatic at best, but very sexy in spite of his recalcitrance to act on their attraction. They play beautifully off each other.

If you’re looking for a sex romp, you’re not going to find it here. Sure, there are hot scenes in the book, definitely erotic, but it takes a long time to get there. The first half is packed to the gills with action and world-building, with the romance playing second fiddle. That gave me time to get to know Phineas and Laurel better before they leapt into bed with each other, though. I appreciated that. I also think it helped to believe in their HEA, because I was more committed to both of them as people first rather than as romantic foils.

It’s not perfect – the steampunk world sometimes feels a bit too generalized to truly stand out – but Gray is turning into one of my go-to authors. I should just go to one of her titles any time I’m in a drought. I always find an entertaining, fantastic read.


9/10 – Heavy on the action, gritty and fun


8/10 – An odd dichotomy of prim and violent that strangely enough worked for me


8/10 – Spunky and smart-mouthed, maybe too smart-mouthed

Entertainment value

9/10 – I’m a fan of Gray’s particular brand of characterizations and eroticism; this one is no exception

World building

8/10 – Some great world-building, though the prevailing sense that it could’ve been a pirate book instead of steampunk never really went away



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