by Stephanie Burkhart
GENRE: Steampunk Romance
Jocelyn Dunkirk is not your typical Victorian lady. She dresses in leather, wears goggles, and is not afraid to get a little grease under her fingernails. Gentlemen avoid her like a dirty rivet.
Richard Windsor, the Prince of Wales, travels through time to claim Jocelyn's heart, but if it isn't one challenge, it's another. He determines to be a constant, steady presence in her life, hoping to prove he'd make a worthy husband.
Jocelyn's facing a bucket full of problems. The prime minister wants her to assist in ending a coal strike before it cripples the nation while her father attempts to recover from a serious injury. Will Jocelyn's dedication to her country and family ruin the one chance she has at love?
Jocelyn inventoried her belt in case she needed to flash her gizmos and toys to make a point. Her gadgets could be very intimidating to men not used to them. Then she double-checked her schedule. She had the rest of the rain soaked day and tomorrow. She frowned. Better to get it over with. If only the knots in her stomach would subside, but if she learned anything from her father, it was better to tackle a problem sooner rather than later, rain or shine and she was now committed to this one.
Taking a peek in the mirror over her dresser, she frowned. Her hair was all frizz.
Grabbing a ribbon from the small container on the dresser, she put it up in a bun. It wasn't her neatest work, but it would do. Satisfied, she raced downstairs, joining Richard and Sergeant Eastman in the foyer.
"Are you sure you want to go now?" Richard crossed his arms. "You should rest. There are lines under your eyes."
She waved her hand in the air. "Now's the time to strike -- while the coals are hot or the rain is wet, depending on your point of view."
Richard placed his hands on his hips and looked her over from head-to-toe.
Jocelyn pursed her lips. "What now?"
"You're exasperating, frustrating, infur--" His tone remained light as he helped her into her overcoat.
"I've heard it all, I assure you. Do you want to stay with your brother?"
"Not on your life. Ed can keep Mrs. Riddle plenty of company and I don't want to miss out on the adventure of a lifetime."
She cracked a grin despite herself and flung open the door. Mr. Riddle waited with the horses, protected by a heavy coat. The rain was lighter now, but still steady. Jocelyn hoped it would taper off soon. She grabbed the leather reins, tugged, and the horses trotted away. Unfortunately the driver's seat proved cramped with Richard and Sergeant Eastman both insisting on sitting with her, neither willing to budge.
The trip proved soggy, but Jocelyn made good time. Mr. Riddle's directions were spot on and Jocelyn's memory hadn't failed her. She turned onto Rosewood, avoided a puddle and spied a long, brick building with grey smoke spitting out of the chimneys. Jocelyn parked the carriage next to the stoic façade and her companions helped her secure the horses to the hitching posts. Jocelyn extended her brass and iron umbrella, up to her ankles in mud. Once the horses were tied up, Jocelyn approached the entrance. She grabbed the iron knocker, and pounded on the door. Richard and Sergeant Eastman stood on each side.
"I hear ya!" a gruff voice said, pushing the unwieldy door open. "Who might you be?" He gasped for breath between yellow stained teeth and narrowed his dark eyes, giving her the once over. Thank the rivets her overcoat hid most of her unusual dress.
"I'm Lady Jocelyn Ridgecroft. The prime minister sent me to meet with the miners regarding the coal strike."
"You're a day early."
"I've had a change of plans."
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A Lady Never Lies by Stephanie Burkhart is part of the ‘Windsor Diaries’ series that features intrepid time-travelers from the royal family and those who become enmeshed in their adventures. A tragic accident puts Jocelyn Dunkirk and her future in jeopardy, and Richard Windsor’s return to the past is complicated by his obligations to both the woman who has captured his heart, and the kingdom that he is to rule someday. The future of energy production is still altered and there are hints that more forces are at work than the Windsors had planned for, including a nosy newspaper reporter named Jack Brandon and the professor’s son, Jonas Byron. One way or another, the Windsors’ attempt to change the society back to the way it was is well under way…or is it?
This is another imaginative steampunk tale that continues to speculate on the effects of time-travel and the way society would change if it was dependent on a different form of energy. The intriguing inventions that are described make one wish that they still existed and the flowering relationships between the Windsors and those they encounter continue to mature. It gets a little confusing keeping track of who is from which era and I think a legend would be useful, especially since some characters are referred to by one name and then another, plus the necessity of setting up the leading couples of subsequent series gets a little awkward as more characters are added to the time-traveling jaunts.
I love that the women have such pivotal roles and are not consigned to secondary positions, despite the strictures imposed by society’s mores. It would probably be difficult to read this story as a stand-alone, because there are so many threads connecting to the other tales, but it is great to get updates on the progress of the other couples. The author does a nice job of evoking the atmosphere of historical England as it works through the growing pains of industrialization, and she provides thought-provoking scenarios of ‘what-ifs’. I think that the landscape is getting a bit crowded with the displaced time travelers and I am curious how things are going to be ultimately resolved but, given the epilogue to this story, I doubt that is going to happen in the near future…or is that the distant past?
A copy of this story was provided to me for review