Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that have been waiting on the ‘to be read’ pile for however long, and are finally getting an airing.
This week I’m revisiting The Dirigible King’s Daughter, a steampunk romance published in 2016.
It’s clear Harriet Hardy, a supporter of the Suffragette movement, is not a woman to trifle with nor underestimate. We meet her as she loads the pistol she keeps in her reticule, before meeting a client. She owns and runs the property letting business left to her by her Uncle Humphrey. Harriet and her mother were left destitute after her father’s disgrace and subsequent death years before and if not for Uncle Humphrey, Harriet dare not think what might have happened to them.
Her experience the previous day when, showing Alderman Fitch round one of her houses, made Harriet very thankful for, and glad she carries, her pistol. A woman alone can never be too careful. The Alderman made improper advances and refused to take no for an answer. When Harriet took her pistol from her bag as a deterrent, the Alderman was amused, not believing she could, or would, use it. Harriet was obliged to discharge her pistol harmlessly to prove him wrong.
As she shows Viscount Ripley round the same house the next day, the Alderman along with two police officers, arrive at the front door accusing Harriet of attempted murder. She makes her escape with the aid of Viscount Ripley, who offers a solution to save her reputation. Harriet is astonished to realise who he is… and that he is a dirigible pilot, as her father was.
‘But that’s ridiculous! I had absolutely no intention of killing him.’
‘We can discuss that at the station, Miss Hardy. I must insist that you come with me.’
Her legs suddenly wouldn’t hold her. As she started to sink to the floor, Charlie was there, his arm around her waist. There was a surprisingly strong smell of carbolic which was most peculiar but, as the room was spinning rather wildly, there wasn’t time to work out where it came from.
‘Get a chair, man.’
The authority with which he spoke vaguely surprised her. ‘Charlie?’ That couldn’t be her voice, could it? She never sounded that weak and feeble.
This is completely different to Alys West’s first book, Beltane, which I loved, but is none the less enjoyable. I must admit I hadn’t come across the word dirigible before and no idea it was another name for an airship.
The subtle steampunk elements are woven into the story well and the dirigible flight scenes make great reading. Harriet is a worthy heroine, courageous and likeable, and I was rooting for her all the way. She’s had a lot to overcome but is very determined and independent. The manner and circumstances of her father’s death left her and her mother in dire straits and changed their lifestyle completely. They were forced to moved house, and chose to settle in Whitby, just as Bram Stokers’ Dracula became all the rage, which helped with Harriet’s business. But just when things begin looking up and there’s hope in Harriet’s future, life throws her a curve ball. A very well written and enjoyable romance.
About the Book
When Harriet Hardy moved to Whitby, newly famous from Mr Stoker’s sensational novel, she thought she’d left her past and her father’s disgrace behind her. But then an amorous Alderman and a mysterious Viscount turn her life upside down and she’s never been more grateful that she doesn’t leave home without her pistol.