I think, if I had no knowledge of steampunk or historical England, I would have enjoyed Seducing the Assassin by Sorcha Mowbray. At least most of it. Unfortunately, I do have knowledge, and I have Google to verify what I think I know. Apparently, I know a lot more than the author.
Disclaimer: I know setting something in Steampunk Genre gives you leeway with historical accuracy. However, there are certain things that are adhered to with a fair amount of rigidity. Those tend to be the function and mores of the society in which the story takes place (whether it is Victorian England or the Wild West). So this story takes place in Victorian England, which Mowbray calls the New Victorian Era. She is apparently unaware of the fact that Eras are named after the monarch sitting the throne…and this is the reign of Queen Victoria, not Queen Victoria II.
Mowbray seems to not have researched anything. Let’s start with steampunk. Steampunk, is by default, a genre centering around the use of steam-based technology. She gets that. What she doesn’t understand was the use of steam didn’t replace the use of electricity (on the contrary–it’s actually WIDELY used in conjunction with steampower). There was never a steam vs. electricity because the two are not competing elements. It has always been steam vs. internal combustion (or diesel). What would happen if steam power had been developed instead of diesel? In Mowbray’s book, you have steam lamps (how does THAT work?) and steam intercoms (WHAT?!). It’s like she didn’t even bother to research simple mechanics.
The other point that glares back at me from every page is the lack of research into the way society worked. Mowbray uses “New Victorian Era” to explain away pretty much everything. It’s a catchall that, quite frankly, is insulting. The clothing is historically inaccurate (or in the wrong place–she seems to have confused saloon girl in Colorado with Madam in London). The use of modern slang by aristocracy is irritating (no, sexy was not a word the peerage would use in 1800s England). Mistresses visiting their patrons in broad daylight (single or not) would have been a huge no-no (but this is the New Victorian Era, and it is completely acceptable!). The final kicker is that Mowbray didn’t even bother to research the government. England has a monarchy. A parliamentary monarchy, but still, a monarchy. It is not a democracy. Terminology used to describe the US Congress cannot be applied to parliament.
The MC is also, quite possibly, the worst assassin I have ever read. She gets caught multiple times and botches knife fights like it’s her job. In fact, for an assassin that is not bothered by her previous kills, she’s shockingly soft-hearted. The disconnect between the character we are presented with and the past we are presented is so large that it ruins the character for the reader.
My suspension of disbelief was stretched to the max with the relationship between the two MCs, as well. She is not just a Madam, but a WELL-KNOWN Madam, and he is not just a peer, but an EARL. The chances of this working in Victorian society is beyond small into “NO”. The author does a good job of explaining how the engagement came to be, but she (again) fails to integrate the traditional views on engagement and marriage: That is, you could not simply break-off an engagement. You were basically viewed as married by time the question was asked, so using an engagement as a cover only to “break it off” later is also unrealistic.
All that aside, if I knew nothing about anything…I might enjoy this book (despite the fact that the MC is quite definitely one of THOSE SFPs–the ones who become damsels in distress). The characters are engaging, the plot is fairly well-thought-out. There were parts that were humorous. It would be a nice bit of fluff reading, IF I had no prior knowledge of steampunk or Victorian England. If you want to see how this book would fare on your scale of readability, feel free to click on the image below and check it out!