Heart of Steel -  Meljean Brook I really like it but I'm not that gushing like the first novel (which I reread prior to reading this book) and sigh... although the male characterization differ (alpha male in the iron duke; bad boy in this) but the female MC is fascinating. I like the play between Archimedes Fox and Captain Yasmeen. From the first novel, there was a sexual tension between both characters which went off the chart when Archimedes was enroute to Venice for Da Vinci treasures which he want to use for his debt. These were cut short when Yasmeen knock Archimedes off her ship into zombie-infested city of Venice. So, this book started with Yasmeen meeting with Archimedes's sister Zenobia to offer the news about Archimedes. Unfortunately, Zenobia was held hostage because previously Archimedes had dropped his supplies on Yasmeen ship within it was a Da Vinci's sketch which worth a king's ransom. Like a bad-ass woman she is, Yasmeen blasted someone's brain out in graphical description that would make any zombie salivate and vomitory for the still alive counterpart. Knowing everyone including her was at risk, she travel to another port (insert Final Fantasy 9 FMV) where she was trying to sell off the sketch. Unfortunately, our own steamy adventurer boy wonder, Archimedes Fox, decided to kidnap the infuriating captain and made her a deal about the sketch with a bit of persuasion, a poison-or-not clockwork bracelet. Forced to be in a brief period of bondage by an annoyingly irresistible former smuggler who kept taunting her, they exchanged funny dialogues between one another (kinda like Pirate King Elizabeth Swann and reformed Jack Sparrow) while we devour the mecha of the era of steam punkness with clockwork secret compartment, forgeries, exotic female assassins and etc, Yasmeen was again dosed with hallucinogen and stuck into a locked wardrobe when Archimedes decided not to trust Yasmeen with their bargain and escaped with the sketch.However when Yasmeen came to her senses, she found her entire crew were slaughtered, her ship burning and the forged sketch (Anyone watched White Collar?) were missing. The airship blown up on her leaving her with a shattered knee. Moments when Archimedes found himself with his beloved sketch, he left in hurry as soon as he heard the commotion from Lady Cosair. Conveniently, he forgot to leave with the sketch, hence giving an open opportunity to anyone who would come and steal from his room. Back to the port, Lady Cosair was in a burning heap and Archimedes went ballistic when he realized that he left Yasmeen unconscious when this happen and frantically seeking through the burnt corpses for her. Weeks later, he was often drunk and in full regret over his grieve over the captain when Yasmeen herself came back from the dead with a sword on his throat and started berating about his emoness and wanted answer on who he was running from. And thats just earlier chapter of this action-packed book. Its not a conventional romance or erotica but its an fantasy adventure first and romance the second. The characters were intriguing and somehow fit the psudo-industrial age settings. Airships were more prominent in this book, although Ms Brook didnt emphasize on the technicalities of the ships but she did capture the whole scene with a new revolutionized airship pirating. However if talking about realism, you can hardly find anyone to be as good as the Iron Duke in our real life. But Archimedes is what to be considered as a rational woman pseudo-fantasy of a man who understand her need. Archimedes was surprisingly romantic, he cared for Yasmeen and attentive to her hurt and feelings. He let her take charge of her life and somehow stood equal with her and can be a supporting character to his lady love. Archimedes was an alpha male of his own passion, he strive in adrenaline rush, dream of swashbuckling adventure. But he learn to crumble the womanly defences by being reliable and trustworthy. He did took charge when she was incapacitated and more oftenly, he get what he wanted in the end. He was an indicative genius master of manipulator and know when to push the buttons to everything. It might not be too far from being a realist but he certainly a basis of, what every woman worth her salt, desired the most.Strong female character, intelligent male character, intricate subplots and undertones made this novel a delight.