Set in an alternate-history England, the Horde had attacked England using nano-technology. The nano-agents were hidden in sugar and tea. Once activated, the Horde used the nano-agents to override the will of whomever had ingested them, basically making people into RC cars. The Horde ruled over England for two hundred years until their RC tower was destroyed by pirate Rhys Trahaearn. Rhys was granted a dukedom for saving the country.
Wilhelmina (Mina) Wentworth is a police inspector. She is called upon to investigate a body found at the home of Rhys, known as the Iron Duke (no, REALLY known as the Iron Duke, he's referred to as such at least once a page). Upon arrival at the house, she inspects the body, meets the duke (who is all WHOA I MUST MAKE YOU MINE), decides that Rhys wasn't involved in the murder, and goes on her merry inspecting way. Also, Mina happens to be half-Horde and is publicly scorned by EVERYONE on account of her being a half-breed. Mina investigates the murder, Rhys finagles his way into the investigation and makes repeated attempts to get into Mina's pants, Mina rebuffs him, there is a kidnapping, some zombies, another murder, a kraken, a giant conspiracy, some sweet hot loving, and some weird emotional dependency. The End.
I don't want to give away too much of the story and it's really difficult to summarize (there is a LOT of plot going on up in here). But my first reaction when I finished? HOLY SHIT-ON-TOAST this book was fucking awesome. It's got pirates, zombies, nano-technology, airships, bionic EVERYTHING, and a kraken. Meljean Brook, will you marry me? Please?
Once I stopped squeeing and started breathing properly again, I tried to think about this objectively. So, the setting is awesome, the writing is pretty tight, and above all, it's interesting. Mina is a really well drawn character. She had emotions, real motivations, and self-awareness. She didn't just exist for/because of the hero. On the other hand, Rhys, as much as I enjoyed him, was centered almost entirely around Mina. Most of his thought processes revolve around getting Mina in the sack. And most of his motivations are directly related to getting/keeping Mina in the sack. Mina's affection towards Rhys seemed to grow outwards from physical attraction then to admiration then to fondness and THEN to love. But Rhys never seemed to have a thought that didn't include Mina. EVER. I don't really buy the whole "Men think about sex only and always" so Rhys sometimes felt sort of two-dimensional. His back story is really sad and while it did add some depth to his character, he seemed more like a prop for Mina than an individual. My biggest problem was that he was kind of rapey. He was just so goddamn persistent that Mina was going to shtup him and then he actually assaulted her. She had valid reasons for saying no (not that there are invalid ones, NO is plenty reason) and he just steamrolled her. This made me angry at the book and then ANGRY AT ME for enjoying the book. Because rape is really not cool. Even if it is resolved between the characters at some point.
The next biggest problem? The Horde was basically the Yellow Terror with robots. Really, what the fuck? I realize that this was supposed to be a fictional threat, because duh, the Horde had nano-weapons, but? The Yellow Terror was really a thing. And while technically the sentiment behind that propaganda is no longer prevalent, people still kind of feel this way? Like everyone who complains about outsourcing work to China? Or who talk about JUST HOW SMART AND DEDICATED THOSE ASIAN KIDS ARE? Anyway, I get the whole xenophobia thing, but I feel like the purpose the Horde served could have been accomplished by another plot device.
And there were not enough zombies. There are NEVER enough zombies.
Romance is a major part of this story but I don't think it really fits well into Paranormal Romance as a whole. If I had to call it something, I would say it's Science-Romantasy. Hardcore Sci-fi fans or Romance purists need not apply. But I say read it. Read it twice.
The Iron Duke, A Novel of the Iron Seas by Meljean Brook