The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1) by Meljean Brook
After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.
But when Mina uncovers the victim’s identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.
I put off reading this book for a while. The bare chested model on the cover combined with the word duke inspired images of some regency rake romance set in a steampunk world. But then Meljean Brook won the Romantic Times 2012 Editor’s Choice Book of the Year award for RIVETED, the third novel in the Iron Seas Series. So my curiosity won out and I decided to start the series.
There were moments when I thought THE IRON DUKE would be worthy of the hype but those moments were few. The novel takes place in a traditional steampunk setting with very little to distinguish it from other steampunk worlds. In Brook’s world, The (Mongol) Horde has taken over the the majority of the world by secretly infecting sugar and tea with nano agents that enter the blood stream and allow The Horde to control a person´s body. The Horde uses this technology to keep the populace docile and compliant except when they need the population to increase. During these times The Horde induces a sexual frenzy in all infected individuals forcing them to have sex repeatedly and with anyone. After years under The Horde’s control England is liberated by Rhys Trahaearn, a privateer, and he is subsequently awarded a title and lands. Subsequently he is give the name The Iron Duke by the adoring throngs of liberated citizens.
Mina Wentworth, a detective in the local police force, is stoic, dedicated and brave. Mina is sent to investigate a murder at The Iron Duke’s estate. Mina’s physical countenance reflects her mixed blood heritage (her conception the result of a Horde induced frenzy that involved her noble born mother) and instantly provokes mostly negative reactions from the those around her.
The novel has several story lines but I enjoyed the crime solving aspect the most. Like a gruesome treasure hunt, each clue leads you to a more horrific event. But I must confess that I had trouble keeping up with the names of all the characters. So many of the characters were one dimensional. Brook’s style is choppy and curt. I found myself having to re-read sentences several times in order to understand what she was trying to say. This writing style lacked sophistication and depth at times leaving the novel feeling like a dime store serial.
Perhaps the most troubling part of this book and really the reason why it is so disappointing is the author’s reliance on repeated instances of rape as plot devices. Just startling. I truly cannot imagine what Brook’s was thinking when she wrote those scenes into the novel. The heroine protests, verbally says no repeatedly, physically shuts her body down, but, the Duke ignores all these direct commands to force himself upon her because he must “have” her. Repeatedly. He even uses her brother’s kidnapping as a means of forcing her to have sex with him in exchange for rescuing him.
I really can’t recommend this book because ultimately the novel’s plot propagates the idea that rape is Ok if everything else works out in the end.