cover image Gilded Lily

Gilded Lily

Delphine Dryden. Berkley Sensation, $7.99 mass market (296p) ISBN 978-0-425-26579-6

Dryden’s convoluted third Steam and Seduction steampunk romance (after Scarlet Devices) is a thematic muddle. Mechanically-minded Frédérique “Freddie” Murchison and novice spy Barnabas Smith-Granville team up to investigate mysterious underwater occurrences. While Barnabas’s real mission is to keep Freddie out of trouble, she earns his assistance with the oceanic mystery by offering to help him search for his missing brother. Their investigation leads them to a secret underwater base and an experimental submersible, and brings them into conflict with smugglers and Freddie’s own autocratic father. The natural chemistry and clever interplay between the main characters create a sweet, satisfying romance that drives the emotional heart of the story. However, the overarching plot is a mess. Elements left over from the previous entry lack emotional weight and are resolved too simply. Dryden’s incorporation of nautical adventure brings Jules Verne to mind, but she fails to achieve his literal or metaphorical depth. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Sanford J. Greenberger Associates. (June)