When Cari Silverwood asked me (quite a while ago – I hold my hands up here) if I would be interested in reviewing STEEL DOMINANCE, the third book of her Steamworks Chronicles series, I was intrigued. BDSM steampunk is not a genre I normally read (let’s face it, it’s not your standard run-of-the-mill romance genre), but the fact that she referenced Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas world when talking steampunk made me think twice. It’s rare when I come across a fantasy romance where I completely buy into the fantasy elements. Like wallpaper historicals, a lot of fantasy romances come across as “wallpaper fantasy” for me – they’re just there as background and you can easily lift and drop the romance into another setting without losing anything.
A brilliant researcher, Sofia must unravel the ancient puzzle of the Clockwork Warrior or her career will be in tatters. Yet the tomb of the warrior is in the dangerous city of Byzantium, inside the harem of the Emperor. She knew she’d have to pose as a slave—but not that her “owner” would be the incredibly bossy, gorgeous bodyguard she’s been assigned.
A life of military duty has left Dankyo unprepared for Sofia. He’s never met a woman quite like this. She’s smart and beautiful, and she’s something that he’s finding almost irresistible—despite the way she fights against masquerading as his slave, she’s submissive right down to the bottom of her soul. And that’s bringing out every dominant instinct in his body.
But even as he realizes she’s captured his heart, the city explodes into madness. Surviving seems impossible. Can love and a Dom who will never give up overcome sheer bloody-minded evil?
My attention was captured from the start – an assassination is an excellent way to kick off a story, even better when we’re then plunged into the main story leaving us as much as in the dark as the onlookers. The steampunk fantasy setting added an extra dimension (and imaginative clockwork creatures galore) to the story – and that wallpaper fantasy thing? Wasn’t an issue at all – I loved how romance and fantasy were intertwined in this book.
There was a high suspense factor throughout the book, although I did find it slightly frustrating that this was driven partly by a lack of communication (or possibly omission?) between Dankyo and Sofia. If they had actually talked more, the identity of the villains may have had come to light sooner, so yes, I wanted to shake Sofia at times (in her defence, I should say that she didn’t realise that she was in possession of significant information).
Romance-wise, STEEL DOMINANCE falls into the erotic romance category, even ignoring the BDSM elements. Add the BDSM side of things – and well. Vanilla this is not. However, while the “undercover as slave” setup had a lot of potential for BDSM play (and this was very definitely used), there was something lacking for me. I never quite understood the why behind Dankyo and Sofia’s D/s dynamic – maybe I needed more backstory, but I was just left thinking this was a very erotic romance.
All in all, I really liked the steampunk fantasy elements (in fact, I found myself wondering how Cari Silverwood would tackle a straight fantasy); however, Dankyo and Sofia’s romance, although extremely sexy, left me wanting a bit more. This is the third book in a series, but stands fairly well by itself – previous characters make an appearance, but didn’t take over the story. I do have a sneaky suspicion that Dankyo would have had more appeal for me if I had read previous books.
Note: Review copy provided by the author