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The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles) Hardcover – May 24, 2011

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About the Author

In her other life, Kady Cross is a USA TODAY bestselling author of over 20 books. She lives with her husband who shares her love for the slightly twisted and all things geek, and a houseful of cats with whom she shares all her secrets. When not writing, she’s either trying to create the perfect lip gloss or teaching herself to solder. She has a weakness for all things girlie, sugar skulls and boots. Her love of books and makeup borders on addiction. Visit her at www.kadycross.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

London, 1897

The moment she saw the young man walking down the darkened hall toward her, twirling his walking stick, Finley Jayne knew she'd be unemployed before the sun rose. Her third dismissal in as many months.

She tensed and slowed her steps, but she did not stop. She kept her head down, but was smart enough not to take her gaze off him. Perhaps he would walk right by her, as though she were as invisible as servants were supposed to be.

Felix August-Raynes was the son of her employer. At one and twenty years of age, he was tall and lean with curly blond hair and bright blue eyes. Every woman who saw him called him an angel. Most who knew him thought him the very devil.

The other maids in service had warned her about Lord Felix her first day in the house. A mere fortnight ago. He belonged to a gang of privileged ruffians known for their facial piercings and lack of respect for anyone else, especially females. She had been hired to replace the previous girl hurt by the young lord. Rumor had it that the maid had required serious medical attention.

Finley didn't court trouble, but part of her—that part that was going to keep her safe, yet get her fired—hoped he'd try something. It was horribly delighted at the prospect of the violence to come.

The rest of her was terrified. Were it not for the steel boning of her leather work-corset, she fancied her heart might slam through her ribs it was pounding so hard.

Lord Felix smiled, teeth flashing in the dim light as he stopped just a few feet in front of her, blocking the only route to the servants' quarters where she slept. The tiny brass bar that bisected his left eyebrow—and proclaimed him a member of the Dandies—glinted. "Hello, my lovely. I had hoped to run into you."

Finley hesitated. Maybe he'd move out of her way and let her pass.

Or, a voice in her head whispered—her voice—you could kick his teeth in. She lowered her gaze, not wanting him to see the bloodlust there. Silently, she willed him to let her pass. For his own safety.

Instead, he closed the scant distance between them.

"You're new, aren't you?" he inquired, moving closer. He was already much too close for propriety and there was no one around to make sure he didn't overstep his bounds. The light on the wall above them flickered as though attuned to the fluttering in Finley's chest. This close, she could smell stale ale, cologne and the undeniable oily scent of mech-boxing on his fine suit. Lord Felix was a great patron of the sport.

Though why anyone would want to watch automatons pound the gears out of each other was beyond her.

"Please, my lord," she said softly, wincing at the pleading in her tone. Please don't make me hurt you. "I wish to retire. It's late."

It was after three in the morning, to be exact. She would have been in bed hours ago were it not for the fact that the darling debutante of the house had demanded her pink riding habit be laundered for the morning. As Lady Alyss's maid, it was Finley's job to take the ensemble down to the laundry where the air was thick with hot steam and the smell of overheated gears. She had washed the clothing and set it to dry. Right now her blouse and short skirts were damp, and her feet were sweating inside her high, thick-soled boots. She wanted nothing more than to unfasten the many buckles and take them off, along with her corset. She was going to be up early to collect the habit for Lady Alyss to wear.

And now this annoying twit stood in her way. Finley didn't like it. The thing inside her truly didn't like it. She used to think of it as an imp on her shoulder, urging her to be naughty, but lately she'd come to think of it as less mischievous and more dangerous.

Dangerous to whoever threatened her.

Lord Felix propped a palm against the plaster by her head, turning so that he pinned her against the wall with his own body. "What's the hurry?" he asked, beer breath hot on her face. "Don't you like me?"

Finley held her tongue. If she opened her mouth she'd tell him exactly what she thought of him, and she needed to keep this employment. She needed to get out of this situation without either of them getting hurt.

He slid his other hand behind her, down her back to her backside and squeezed. "Don't you want to make me happy? Smart little girls want to make me happy."

Finley turned her head as his face came down toward hers, and narrowly escaped being kissed. His wet mouth landed on her ear instead. She shuddered. "Please, my lord. Let me go." For your own sake.

His lips fastened on her neck instead. Nausea rolled through her stomach and then suddenly stopped as she felt his palm against the striped stockings that covered her thigh. He wasn't going to cease. He wasn't going to let her go. He was going to take what he wanted, because that's what rich young men did to girls under their control.

But she wasn't under anybody's control. Not even her own. She could feel it fracturing as something deep inside fought to get out.

Finley brought both hands up and pushed hard against his chest. He flew backward, hitting the opposite wall with enough force to crack the plaster.

Lord Felix stared at her, in both shock and outrage. "You nasty tart," he snarled as he brushed dust from his sleeves. "Like a bit of the rough, do you?"

"You've no idea," Finley heard herself reply coolly. "But make no mistake, my lord, I do not like you, so keep those damn hands of yours to yourself."

The young man's face reddened and his eyes shone with anger. "Bitch. No guttersnipe servant talks to me that way." He straightened and took a step toward her, shrugging out of his purple velvet frock-coat. "Someone needs to teach you a lesson."

She didn't see the blow coming, but she certainly felt it when it hit. Her head jolted back under the force of his fist, striking the wall. Lights danced in the darkness of her eyes as pain shot through her skull. But she did not pass out.

It would have been so much better for Lord Felix if she had.

She could feel blood trickling from her mouth and she wiped at it with the back of her hand. Vision finally clear, she saw that Lord Felix had also removed his waistcoat and was now rolling up his sleeves. The excited glint in his eye told Finley exactly what kind of lesson he intended her to "learn."

Something inside her stretched and pulled—still fighting to get out. There was no point in denying it anymore. She had been raised in a loving home with her mother and stepfather—a kind and honest man who doted on them both. He would never dream of such violence—no good man would.

But Lord Felix August-Raynes was not a good man. And it was time someone taught him a lesson.

The warm rush of familiar power brought a slight smile to her battered lips. She gave up all attempts to keep it reined in. It was the only way she'd survive this night with her virtue and bones intact. It was as though she was watching herself from a perch on the ceiling—all she could do was observe as her other self took over. Her boots shifted on the bare floor, right foot forward, left foot back and pointed out. She raised her fists.

"Coming back for more, eh?" Felix grinned at her. "I like a little fight in my girls."

She grinned at him, causing blood to dribble down her chin. "Then you're going to love me." The voice was hers, but deeper and throatier than she'd ever heard before. It was a dangerous voice, and even Felix paused at the sound of it.

Finley, however, did not pause. She drove her fist right into her attacker's throat. He staggered backward, eyes wide with shock as he coughed and choked and struggled for breath.

She bounced on her feet, waiting for him to recover. She should run and hide. She should be gasping in fear, lungs constrained by the tight lacing of her corset. But she wasn't afraid anymore and she wasn't about to run. She was going to…

But first, a little fun. She hadn't hit the bully as hard as she could have. She was going to let him think he stood a chance first.

When Felix recovered enough to come at her again, she was ready for him. He swung and she ducked, landing another punch to his kidneys. When he doubled over, she grabbed his head and brought her knee up fast. Unfortunately, the layers of skirts she wore softened the blow. He struck her in the stomach, knocking the breath from her, and then hit her in the face again. She fell to the floor, rolling just in time to avoid being kicked by one of his boots.

She'd never been struck before—not like this. She'd never felt as though someone meant to kill her—or didn't care if they did. She gasped for breath against the polished wood floor, rolling again when he struck out with his foot once more. She moved faster than she should have, the pain from his blows already easing.

He called her all kinds of horrible names—guttural and nasty sounding. But instead of making her feel awful or frightening her, they only made her want to hit him all the harder.

She pulled herself to her feet. Her stomach and face ached, but not like it should have. It never hurt like it should.

Her hands grabbed Lord Felix by the front of his shirt. She pulled him toward her, hard, and smashed her forehead against the bridge of his nose. There was a snapping sound just before he screamed. Finley thrust him backward, satisfaction tickling her when she saw the blood coursing down his face.

He was good and mad now. He raised a hand to his nose, and when he saw the blood on his fingers, he made a growling sound in his throat. She'd ruined his pretty face and now he was going to make her pay for it. She smiled. Or rather, he was going to try to make her pay for it.

He came at her again, like a bull. Finley didn't think, she simply reacte...

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Product Details

  • Series: Steampunk Chronicles (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Teen; Original edition (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373210337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373210336
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (235 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Mel Rose on August 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
SPOILERS
The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross is a paranormal steampunk novel where Finley has this "thing" inside of her, a sort of Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde problem. This "thing" has given her more than enough trouble with her employers, but has saved her from the most recent problem with Lord Felix. Running away from that problem, she runs right into Griffin King. Literally. He offers to help her control both sides of her and a place to stay in his place with his friends who are also gifted. All he asks is her trust. But things start to take a different turn when The Machinist appears and causes trouble for Griffin and his friends and their trust is tested.

When I heard about the plot of the story, I thought it would be pretty interesting. It's different, it's steampunk, it's Victorian times, it's not the same and it has a beautiful cover. But things aren't always as good as expected. Because it's still your stereotypical paranormal romance. Just back in time instead of modern day.

When the actual story started taking place, it didn't make any sense to me whatsoever. It was jumbled, a mess, and all over the place. Things didn't make sense, things were lost, nothing was explained... it was just bad. And honestly, it was more of a modern day/futuristic feel transported back to Victorian times. Think I'm making things up? They have "cell phones", "flashlights", "motorcycles", tattoo guns, and so much more. I almost wanted to scream that Kady should have just stuck with modern times if she's going to do all of that.

And Finley was practically bipolar, but that was probably because of the two personalities. She was either too dull, boring "nice" girl or she was the "bad" Finley who was much more entertaining. No matter which one she was, she was a Mary Sue.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Rhiannon (YA Ninjas) on June 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Girl in the Steel Corset is a novel brimming with potential. Steampunk YA is rare and exciting, and the technological/paranormal Victorian setting provided plenty of opportunities for rebellion and girls kicking butt. The Girl in the Steel Corset also presents a protagonist with a slight Jekyll/Hyde problem, which could be fascinating and thrilling in equal measure.

Unfortunately, The Girl in the Steel Corset is also a novel where nothing happens. Its plot and integral relationships all move along at a speedy pace, but the reader is always left feeling as though they're missing something, and anticipating excitement that never actually materializes. Every time it looked like we were finally about to reach an interesting interaction or an exciting twist, the narrative seemed to steal it from us at the last second. When Finley has to stay in the home of the charismatic but potentially dangerous badboy, Jack Dandy, I gripped my Kindle tighter in anticipation of at least one entertaining conversation between the two characters, but she leaves a few pages later without anything of note (even worthy of a side note, a footnote, a little star) occurring. When the protagonists simultaneously solve a major mystery and find themselves precisely where they shouldn't be, the resulting scene is skipped over and later summarized for the reader, leaving the impression that nothing interesting ever occurs.

Finley is a sweet but ultimately dull protagonist, at least when her "good" side is in control. Her "bad" side, on the other hand, had a wonderfully fun personality, but it is mostly lost once Finley learns to control her different sides.

This novel is also obsessed with love triangles.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Cinnamon on August 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After reading a whole slew of horrible reviews of "The Girl in the Steel Corset," I had mentally prepared myself for a train wreck. Well, I confess: the novel didn't turn out that badly for me. It wasn't exceptional, but it didn't enduce fits of hair-tearing frustration, mostly. Perhaps I've been desensitized by the unhealthy amount of mediocre YA I've been reading lately.

The characters here are pretty much your standard set of YA heroes, although Finley managed to annoy me quite a bit more than the average heroine. That girl, for the life of her, just doesn't seem to be able to make up her mind about anything. "Oooh, Griffin is so handsome. But wait, Jack is hot, too. I'll just blame my attraction on the two warring parts of my personality!" No. Just no. And guess what? In case one love triangle isn't enough, we've got two! Aren't you excited? Ugh, at least the two triangles don't overlap. Imagine what a mess that would make. A love hexagon?

The background of the novel comes across as completely random. There are beasties that have cool powers and are apparently harvested from the center of the earth and machines that do your chores or suddenly turn evil and just attack people. Add the Aether, a spiritual plane inhabited by the dead, to all that, and you've got an overload of fantastical elements that don't really coexist nicely with each other.

"The Girl in the Steel Corset" does not succeed in distinguishing itself from typical YA despite its steampunk flare and gorgeous cover. However, it is still a notch above a lot of YA out there simply because it presents the stereotype in a slightly altered package.
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