52 in 1 Bonus Book: Heart of Steel

Is that sword in your--oh, yes, I see. It IS a sword.

Is that sword in your–oh, yes, I see. It IS a sword.

For the second bonus book, I read Heart of Steel, the second book in the Iron Seas series by Meljean Brooks. This wasn’t actually from the Vaginal Fantasy group’s list, but I enjoyed the world in the first one enough to buy the second in the series.

I liked this book. I like Brooks’ style in general, and in this story we follow the captain of the Lady Corsair and Archimedes Fox, one of the few beta males I have ever encountered in a main role.

Allow me to illustrate the difference between an alpha and a beta with these handy-dandy gifs, featuring Dean and Sam from the show Supernatural.

Dean is an alpha male. Possessive, aggressive, confident (to the point of ruin), physical, materialistic, traditional gender roles. The only emotions they tend not to repress are anger and lust.

Sam is more of a beta male. More careful, more cerebral, able to express emotion when it’s appropriate or control it when appropriate, less bothered by taking on non-traditional gender roles, tends to not want external displays of masculinity.

Alpha males tend to see betas as weak, pushovers, something to be trampled over while they go after what they want. Intimidation is one of their better skills.

Beta males are not weak, they just don’t see the need to prove themselves to every dipshit who comes around questioning their manhood.

Alpha males (and I’m generalizing all over the place, keep that in mind) tend to think that having multiple chicks = extra points on their stud-o-meter, but keeping them around is totes optional, and don’t really care whether or not the chicks in question agree with that idea or not.

Beta males tend to prefer quality over quantity, and would rather be in a more serious relationship. Or perhaps that’s just what they tell themselves, because they’re huge losers (say the alpha males).

Mostly I wanted an excuse to use a bunch of gifs because they’re funny.

But back to the review now. I really liked the dynamic going on between Yasmeen and Archimedes. Despite the treasure-hunting and pirating and airships and gliders and explosions and zombies, it felt like a better relationship than the main couple in the last book. There was no sketchy rape-y-ish vibe going on between them at all. Imagine that, a successful and entertaining dynamic that had nothing to do with vanquishing the resistance of someone’s maidenhood or forcing anyone into a dark room where they had no one to support their decision not to have sex. AND YET HERE WE ARE.

Two people who know what they want and have very specific ideas about how their lives are going to go, who are competent at their chosen professions and quite happy doing what it is they do, even when those professions are in conflict. In the end, they feel more like partners than your standard romance ever manages to cook up. Yasmeen is very, very good at her job – so much so that part of the plot is Archimedes suffering the realization that he can’t really offer her anything tangible. She can fight, she has contacts, she can get herself places, she can make her own money; truth be told, he has to scramble to keep up with her. I think part of what he comes to realize is that she doesn’t want someone trying to protect her or making sure he’s indispensable by holding something over her head. She wants someone who WON’T jump in like a gallant idiot when she’s doing just fine and screw up her plans. It’s not easy to keep up with her, and a lot of men can’t help trying to out-do her in order to prove they’re superior ALL THE TIME. Can you imagine how annoying that would be?

And of course, the world-building continues to be made of interesting and awesome. Two thumbs up, seriously.


About crankyfacedknitter

We are a motley collection of cats, cranks, nerds, geeks, hobbyists, humorists, writers, caffeine addicts and one knitter. We have many offspring, but admittedly, most of them are imaginary.
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