I picked this book up at the library because of the steampunk aspects. It is set in a steampunk type universe- an alternate 19th century England which can’t be called Victorian because the queen is named Alexandra- with advanced medicine and mechanical men, but the steampunk aspects are definitely background, not the main event. It’s actually a paranormal romance between a human woman and a… well, not quite a vampire yet.
In McMaster’s world, the need to feed on blood is caused by a virus. The infected can live for many years with accelerated healing and enhanced speed and strength, but ultimately they succumb to ‘the fade’, where they turn pale, lose their hair and also lose control of their minds. These demented monsters are what the people of this world call vampires. The upper class keeps tight control of the virus; they only allow members of the elite to become infected because of the advantages it provides for decades. The infected are known as ‘blue bloods’ because of the color their blood becomes after infection- a little play on our own use of the term!
Blade is a rogue blue blood who runs the Whitechapel district, the part of London that is home to thieves, prostitutes, murderers and fugitives from the law. Honoria is one of those fugitives, running from an evil duke who basically feels he *is* the law. In addition to keeping herself hidden, Honoria has to protect and feed her younger sister and brother- a brother with a secret of his own.
What happens between Blade and Honoria is fairly predictable: they meet; they are both disagreeable even though they are irresistibly drawn to each other sexually. But they aren’t childish about it, thankfully. They keep secrets from each other but not as badly as most romance characters. Their relationship makes progress throughout the book rather than waiting until the very end. And Honoria is honest with herself about how she feels, rather than going through 200 pages of denial.
There is a lot of action and some unexpected events. The world building holds together. I enjoyed the book a lot, although I have to say that if I had read about what Honoria’s nipples were doing one more time I might have screamed. I will read the next in the series if I see it at the library. There is a LOT of sex in the book, but it’s pretty well done.