Wow. Next time some author describes their book as a "Romance," I really need to ask some follow-up questions before I say yes. Technically, Renwick said "Steampunk Romance," and I figured it'd be something like The Parasol Protectorate or The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. And it was. But with a whole lot more time on the love story -- and a whole lot more description of what a couple of consenting adults consented to.
The central technology -- the titular Golden Spider, is just great. One of the niftiest pieces of Steampunk tech that I've run across. I have no idea where Renwick is going with it, but I'm pretty sure she's going somewhere based on the title of the series. Other than that -- and a couple of other examples of medical technology -- the technology and whatnot are pretty standard-issue Steampunk. Oh, and there are krakens everywhere -- I liked that.
Medical student and borderline-scandalous daughter of a member of the gentry, Amanda, is being blackmailed by her father into marriage -- he'll let her go to school as long as she gets married. Her prospects aren't that bright (if you ignore those who wouldn't let her study/practice medicine). Lord Sebastian is one of her professors, as well as a leading medical researcher -- and a secret agent for the queen -- he's a busy guy. They're both incredibly attracted to each other, but squabble almost instantaneously and continually. Is it a law that every Steampunk romance start with two people being attracted to each other and sniping constantly while denying said attraction?
Anyway, this one plays out just as you'd expect -- but maybe a little faster.
The adventure/mystery is pretty fun, but the solution is pretty obvious, and the rest is pretty predictable. But the characters' interaction makes up for most of the predictability. In addition to Amanda and Sebastian, we have another prospective suitor or three for Amanda, Sebastian's much more interesting and/or obvious action hero partner, Amanda's family, and another scientist or two. None of these characters are great, but Renwick uses them well, and the result is fast-paced and entertaining.
Again, this is a romance, so certain things are going to be accentuated. One of those things, it seems, is sex. There was a lot more of it than I was prepared for (but, I want to stress, that's on me) -- and unlike the last few books I've complained about with excessive bedroom activities, Renwick's scenes are worth reading -- well, okay, skimming. I'm not sure why she didn't think her characters deserved a little more privacy, but what're you going to do?
I had a heckuva good time reading this -- and I expect the same would be true of fans of Gail Carriger, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, Kady Cross, or a handful of other authors I can't think of at the moment. Renwick drinks from the same wells as the above -- but she's her own author, don't expect a carbon copy. If you can handle Steamy Steampunk, give this one a shot.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post -- you have my thanks, Ms. Renwick.