Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Date begun: November 1st, 2011
Date finished: November 2nd, 2011
This is the second book in Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series, and while it can be read as a stand alone, a lot of the world building is established in the first book, The Iron Duke, as well as the first encounter of the protagonists of this book, so it's definitely better if you read that one first. Also, while the covers for these books are beyond awful, I promise that they are actually REALLY REALLY good. It's why I buy them as e-books, so I can avoid embarrassment on public transport.
Yasmeen is the legendary mercenary captain of the airship Lady Corsair, and refuses to cede authority to any man. When adventurer and explorer Archimedes Fox tried to threaten her and take control of his airship, she threw him over the side, into waters teeming with zombies. Now she has to tell his sister, the woman who's made him famous writing about his adventures, that Fox is most likely dead. As Yasmeen also killed the woman's father, she is not really looking forward to the encounter.
I'm spoiling very little by revealing that of course Fox is only mostly dead. He survived the horde of zombies, and now needs to get the very valuable da Vinci sketch he left on the Lady Corsair from Yasmeen, so he can pay off an old acquaintance and hopefully no longer be trailed around the world by assassins. He doesn't mind at all that Yasmeen killed his father in the past, he's grateful, frankly, and now feels that she would be the perfect woman for him to fall in love with. Having had his emotions smothered and blunted under Horde control, he's now determined to live life to the fullest and feel every emotion at its strongest, and he believes loving Yasmeen and probably having his heart broken by her would be a glorious adventure. As they need to travel through Europe together, avenging the deaths of her airship crew and trying to reclaim his stolen sketch, while looking for treasures and running from zombies, falling in love with the temperamental mercenary shouldn't prove too difficult.
The Iron Duke first established the world of Brook's Iron Seas - a Victorian era where the Mongol hordes took over huge amounts the world with their advanced technology, enslaving people with the use of nanobots in their blood stream. The oceans are filled with giant armor plated megalodons and krakens, much of Europe and parts of Africa are teeming with mindless zombies. Having been trained as a warrior, Yasmeen learned the hard way that most men could not be trusted, and felt threatened by her independence, self-sufficiency and strength. While her former lovers would desire her, they could not accept that she held the highest authority on board her own ship, and frequently tried to dominate her in front of her crew. Archimedes Fox is not such a man. He's attracted to Yasmeen because she is strong and capable and could quite possibly kill him if he so much as looked at her the wrong way. He's a thrill seeker and adventurer, and getting the dangerous and deadly Captain Corsair into bed would be his greatest achievement. He has no wish to outrank her on a ship, he just wants to be with her.
A lot less angsty and grim than the previous Iron Seas novel, Heart of Steel is an adventure romp. There are kidnappings, sneaky attempts at poisoning, witty banter, double crossings, explosions, bar fights, revenge quests, adventure, zombie attacks, huge amounts of sexual tension (the couple don't do anything but throw amazing quips at each other until the latter half of the book, they don't even kiss until the last quarter or so). I think I actually even preferred it to the Iron Duke, and can't wait until the next one comes out.