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Book Cover C2’s review of Skies of Fire (Ether Chronicles, Book 1) by Zoe Archer
Steampunk Romance published by Avon Impulse 17 Apr 12

Do you like larger-than-life heroes and stealthy lady spies?  Airships? Explosions?  Zoe Archer’s latest book – and new series kick-off – might be just what you’re looking for.

Skies of Fire sweeps us away to a slightly different version of 19th century Europe than we’re used to.  England is at war with the evil Hapsburgs and not only do ships patrol the seas but airships patrol the skies.  The airships are under the command of Man O’ Wars – mentally, physically powerful men who have metal implants that make them more…stronger, faster, more aggressive, sharper sense, even physically bigger.  The Man O’ Wars have a symbiotic relationship with their airships – the metal implants generate energy that the ship collects and uses for power.

Captain Christopher Redmond is a Man O’ War and commander of the HMS Demeter.  After a run-in with the enemy fleet, Christopher manages to get his ship and crew to safety and finds something unexpected – a British distress signal flashing from a barn deep in enemy territory. The last person he expects to find is the woman who left him without a word three years earlier.

Louisa Shaw is a Naval Intelligence operative.  She has been working deep in Hapsburg territory looking for a new munitions plant she heard rumors about.  If Louisa can find and destroy the plant before it starts mass production, countless lives will be saved.  The last person she expects to have to look to for assistance is the man she ran out on in the middle of the night years before.

Will Christopher and Louisa find the hidden plant?  Will they be able to destroy it and escape with their lives?  And will they be able to move past the issues that drove them apart last time or are they doomed to live separate lives forever?

Talk about a roller coaster ride, faithful reader!  The story starts and doesn’t slow down – and it is full of twists and turns along the way. The world Ms. Archer is building is fascinating and has lots of little throw-away details that make it seem very real.  Plus, we get lots of explanations that are woven nicely into the story so it doesn’t feel like info-dump.  Christopher is lovely – a true hero, even.  As in, he’s won battles and stuff.  😀  Plus, he is a genuinely good man, dedicated to serving his country (and dedicated to Louisa, if she agrees).  And Louisa is kick-ass!  A smart, independent, competent heroine that doesn’t try to be masculine but doesn’t use feminine wiles, either – those are hard to find sometimes.  Louisa is good at what she does and knows it and she is as dedicated to serving her country as Christopher.

If you’ve never tried steampunk romance, I highly recommend checking out Skies of Fire.  It is fast paced and engaging and fun with characters that jump off the page.  And the next book in the series is set in the American west and was written by Ms. Archer’s husband, Nico Rossi.  I can’t wait!

CSquareds C2 IconGrade: A

Summary:Man made of metal and flesh

Captain Christopher Redmond has just one weakness: the alluring spy who loved and left him years before…when he was still just a man. Now he’s superhuman—a Man O’ War, made as part of the British Navy’s weapons program—and his responsibility is to protect the skies of Europe. If only he could forget Louisa Shaw.

A most inconvenient desire

Louisa, a British Naval Intelligence agent, has never left a job undone. But when her assignment is compromised, the one man who can help her complete her mission is also the only man ever to tempt her body and heart. As burning skies loom and passion ignites, Louisa and Christopher must slip behind enemy lines if they are to deliver a devastating strike against their foe . . . and still get out alive.

Read an excerpt.