Reviewed by: Amanda
Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars
Freddie Murcheson knows her place, and a tinker’s workshop isn’t it. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where she wants to be. She’s happier sneaking around as Fred Merchant, fixing clockworks and small machines, than she is at high tea or a society ball.
After his embarrassing showing in the Steam and Sky Rally, Barnabas Smith-Grenvile accepts what he thinks is an exciting assignment as an agent to the Crown. Turns out it’s almost as embarrassing as the Rally: he’s supposed to watch over Freddie and keep her out of trouble.
It doesn’t take long for Barnabas to discover what Freddie’s really up to. His job really does become about keeping her out of trouble, because they pair have stumbled right into it. Someone’s taken over the opium smuggling routes deserted by Lord Orm, and if they’re not careful, they’ll find out whom it is…but may not live to tell about it.
After two excellent outings, Dryden stumbles a bit with this third book. Gilded Lily is as detailed and nuanced as the other two, full of geekery and witty banter, but it’s missing something. Vibrance, I think. Barnabas and Freddie are pleasant and likeable, but neither are terribly memorable. It’s funny, because Barnabas’ ordinariness is part of what made him suitable for the assignment.
There’s a few plot lines to keep track of, and they tie together well enough. Freddie is determined to find out what her father is up to. She suspects it has something to do with the undersea station located on the other side of the English Channel, and when she’s not tinkering, she’s trying to figure out how she can steal one of the submersibles. The Navy is puzzled over why their seismographic device is under attack, and if she could just get a closer look, she might be able to figure out why. Barnabas is often just along for the ride.
Despite the multiple plot threads, there’s not a lot of action. When they do finally discover who is causing the destruction, it’s not fully explained. Maybe it’s because they don’t understand it themselves. Whatever the reason, I found the lack of closure annoying.
The nice thing about the series so far is you don’t necessarily have to have read the previous books to understand what’s going on. That may not be the case anymore—I have my suspicions as to who the next hero and heroine will be, and if I’m right, you’re going to want to read Gilded Lily first. A bit of a misstep, but still an enjoyable read.
Sexual content: sex