Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dragons & Dirigibles (Gaslight Chronicles #7) by Cindy Spencer Pape

Captain Victor Arrignton is forced to return to land, when his brother and sister in-law are killed in an accident.  As the second son, Victor never expected to become the Earl but with a firm sense of duty, Victor attempts to establish a life at Black Heath and raise his niece Emma.  Victor struggles with his new role, particularly trying to raise Emma to be a proper lady. as she seems for more interested in mathematics and science. than learning the traditional womanly skills of stitching, music. and dance.  This task becomes that much more difficult when dirigible pilot Melody McKay. falls from the sky. after being shot down.  Now. Victor finds himself struggling to bust up a smuggling ring and deal with the this difficult woman, who challenges the very idea of what it is to be a lady.

Dragons & Dirigibles is a novella, coming in at a scant 125 pages and is the story of Melody Mckay, sister to Connor of Cards & Caravans.    Like all of the female love interests in this series, Melody is a very strong character.  Melody knows her own mind and will not be told what to do.  When Melody is found in a compromising position with Victor by Tom, Melody is adamant that Tom not interfere.
Melody came around Victor and laid a hand on his wait.  "Thomas Aloysius Devere, never take that tone with me again.  I am an adult and I make my own decisions.  Does it look as if I'm here under duress?"  She gestured at Victor's unbuttoned waistcoat.

Tom flushed. "No, of course not, but -"

"Do I need to tell Wink about this?  Or Caro?" Melody tapped her foot.

Victor knew he should intervene, take control of the situation, but right now, he was too entranced by the fiery creature by his side who seemed to be handling things just fine on her own.

"Look, Mel.  I'm sorry.  But you know this is a bad idea."  Tom looked u at the ceiling, as if requesting divine assistance.  "Let's just all go upstairs and forget all about this."

Forget? Every second of this interlude would be branded into Victor's mind until the day he died.

"Just walk away, Tommy." Melody's voice lower instead of rising.  "You're out of line and you know it.  Leave now, if you place any value on my friendship."
Of course, Melody is another in a long line of gently used protagonists, while her love interest, Victor, is an experienced lover.  This is yet another trope that is all too common in paranormal romance. In some ways, it undermines some of the strength that Melody has been given in this novel.

Aunt Julian also makes another appearance in this novel.  She and her lover Maggie, who is absent, are the sole GLBT characters in this series.  To date, I don't recall a book in which we actually see any real expressions of love between these two women.  Aunt Julian though is responsible for the advances of women in the order, is still very much a token side character, who has not really been developed.  She seems to pop in to remind us that she is a lesbian. 

Dragons & Dirigibles seemed to sway a little off topic to continue the angst between Tom and Nell, two characters we met in the first book in the series.  We were given a large obstacle as to why these two couldn't be together but I found it all a distraction and assume it's all part of a set up for the next book in the series.   I was however thankful to finally read about Nell and not have her exotic beauty described yet again.  That said, Cindy Spencer Pape continues to have a problem with race.

The antagonist in this book is Fleur, an Asian woman.  We are told that Fleur is simply a translation of her name and of course, Cindy Spencer Pape couldn't be bothered to give this character of colour a real Asian name.  Fleur is violent, cunning and cruel and unlike our gently used female love interest, willing to sleep with anyone to achieve her goal.  Juxtaposed to Melody, this of course a real problem and when you combine this with the fact that Melody quickly becomes a better maternal figure to Emma than Fleur, the racist element of the story cannot be ignored.  Fleur isn't seen as doing what she needs to do to survive, though her husband gambled away all of their money and left them broke.  Fleur is simply evil and quite honestly a dragon lady.  At this point, I really do wish that Cindy Spencer Pape would stop writing characters of colour into her novels.  Having her characters express disgust at slavery (which btw should be a no brainer) does not absolve the author for her racist treatment of Fleur.

As with any book in this series, you have to go into expecting a vapid paranormal romance with elements of steampunk thrown in.  If the aforementioned is the starting place, Dragons & Dirigibles isn't a bad book per say, it's just filled with the typical insta love and neatly packaged ending.  There is never any doubt from the moment that Melody lands on Victor's land that this will end in marriage. It's only a matter of how many obstacles Cindy Spencer Pape will throw in their way before they walk happily down the aisle.  It always feels as though this series is on the cusp of something great but it at this point, I would remiss if I didn't say that it feels stagnant and formulaic.  I know that the Gaslight Chronicles can so much more, it's only waiting for Cindy Spencer Pape to guide it in that direction.