In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gas lit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.
I am a real sucker for a book with a gorgeous dress on the cover. I bought the first Luxe book by Anna Godberson purely based on the gorgeousness of the cover - haven't ever read it, but had to have it. So from the first day I saw the cover to The Girl in the Steel Corset I knew I would have to get it. It didn't hurt that it is a steampunk novel, which is something that I hadn't read, so there was a point of difference as well that made me more interested
There is therefore a certain irony in the fact that I ended up with a galley with a plain print cover (no image at all), not long after I had downloaded the egalley. And, really that whole paragraph is an analogy for my feelings on the book - so pretty on the outside, but kind of plain and lacking depth on the inside.
Sixteen year old Finley Jayne has a dark secret - she has a dark side that gives her impressive strength to fight and defend herself. When she flees from her latest place of employment after being treated very badly by the young lord of the house that she was employed in, she runs into (literally) and is taken in by Griffin King, Duke of Greythorne and his friends, Emily and Sam.
The Duke is not your normal peer of the realm. He is heavily involved in important research originally started by his father and investigation into a number of fascinating areas, including a series of puzzling and seemingly unconnected crimes that are being blamed on a mysterious person known only as The Machinist.
Bringing Finley into the house unsettles the already established relationships. Finley initially trusts no one, mainly because she is terrified about her own dark side. Sam distrusts Finley intensely and when he finds out what happened to him when he was attacked by automatons he feels betrayed by Emily and Griff, and Griff's aunt knows exactly what Finley is, and more importantly who she is and how her family is connected to Griffin's deceased parents, and she doesn't like it either.
All this distrust is not helped when Finley gets to know one of the major players in the London underworld - Jack Dandy. Jack was meant to be the big tough man of the underworld, a man who inspires fear, but who has a heart of gold where it comes to Finley. For the most part though, Jack felt to me like a bit of a characiture - too two dimensional to offer up a real alternative for Finley.
Now, the fact that there is a potential love triangle forming shouldn't be too much of a surprise given that this is a YA novel. When an American cowboy is added into the mix, there is a half hearted attempt to bring a second love triangle into the mix as well revolving around Emily.
With all the key players in place, the group must learn to work together in order to work out exactly that The Machinist's dastardly plans are and of course, save the day.
There were parts of this novel that I did enjoy - I loved the cameo appearance by Queen Victoria, I liked some of the descriptions of the clothes and then all the steampunk inventions were interesting although some of them were far too obviously derivative of modern technology, but there were times when they also felt like a flimsy attempt at world building, especially when relied on too much.
In terms of the physical book, I thought that the chapter page treatment was really nice, and so it is really a very pretty package when you combine it with the cover.
Whilst this is the author's first novel under the name Kady Cross, she has published a number of romances under the name Kathryn Smith (and I think I saw something about another pseudonym as well). It therefore surprised me a little to see that the chemistry didn't really feel all that strong between the characters.
If I had to summarise this book in just a few words I would say that it was an uneven start to a series that may develop into something more interesting in due course.
Thanks to Netgalley and to Harlequin Australia for the review copies.