HIDDEN IDENTITIES, SCANDALOUS SECRETS…
Frederique Murcheson’s introduction into society hasn’t gone smoothly—some would even call it a disaster. Only Freddie considers her debut a success. Her scheme to become a makesmith has gone off flawlessly. The only thing that could upset her plans now would be if someone discovered that brilliant tinker Fred Merchant is, in fact, a lady in disguise.
Wooing a spoiled heiress is not exactly Barnabas Smith-Grenville’s idea of high espionage. However, considering his brother disappeared on the job, supposedly into the most iniquitous of opium dens, he cannot expect much better. At least the assignment will afford him time to search for his brother, whom he suspects is in spy-related trouble rather than a drug-addled haze.
But when Freddie proves to be both irresistible and the key to the answers he seeks, Barnabas finds himself not only entwined in a scandalous mystery involving lethal submersibles and deranged dirigibles, but also in a dangerous game of the heart…
Dryden's convoluted third Steam and Seduction steampunk romance (after Scarlet Devices) is a thematic muddle. Mechanically-minded Fr d rique "Freddie" Murchison and novice spy Barnabas Smith-Granville team up to investigate mysterious underwater occurrences. While Barnabas's real mission is to keep Freddie out of trouble, she earns his assistance with the oceanic mystery by offering to help him search for his missing brother. Their investigation leads them to a secret underwater base and an experimental submersible, and brings them into conflict with smugglers and Freddie's own autocratic father. The natural chemistry and clever interplay between the main characters create a sweet, satisfying romance that drives the emotional heart of the story. However, the overarching plot is a mess. Elements left over from the previous entry lack emotional weight and are resolved too simply. Dryden's incorporation of nautical adventure brings Jules Verne to mind, but she fails to achieve his literal or metaphorical depth.