Princess Alice Windsor is well aware of her cousin, Prince Edmund's penchant for mischief, so when he hops into the time machine at the Time Travel Institute, she quickly follows to keep him out of trouble. The best friends are transported back to the Victorian era in the weeks leading up to the Great Exhibition of 1851, where they encounter Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, their great grandparents several times over. Upon their arrival, Edmund leaves Alice alone for a while, during which time she chances to meet the Prime Minister and one of his closest allies in Parliament, Grayson Kentfield, Lord Swinton. Alice and Grayson immediately hit it off and before she knows it, their lives become intertwined. Between her and Edmund, Alice has always been the level-headed one, but whenever she's around Grayson, her heart always seems to take over. Soon she finds herself head over heels in love with the handsome Earl, but she knows that the relationship cannot possibly last. Alice suspects that Edmund is about to leave a dinosaur-sized footprint in the historical time line, and as soon as she figures out what he's up to and puts a stop to it, she'll have to return to her own time. But Grayson has other ideas and isn't about to let Alice get away so easily.
Victorian Scoundrel was my first steampunk romance, and I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The steam-powered machines were seamlessly woven into the storyline, so that I hardly noticed the oddity of their presence in the historical setting. Time travel also played a big role in the plot with the author exploring the ramifications of time travelers doing things that might alter the time line which is something I always enjoy thinking about. There was a decent dose of history too, with real-life personages, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, their three oldest children, and Prime Minister John Russell playing secondary roles. Prince Albert and his work organizing the Great Exhibition of 1851 was a pivotal part of the plot. Readers even get a two-for-one on the romance element. I can say without reservation that the romance was truly romantic to me, and it's been a while since I've read a book where that was true. The sexual tension was wonderful, and while there were only two moderately descriptive love scenes between one of the two couples, they were very sensual. Everything just melded together into a fun, engaging story that was really a pleasure to read.
Instead of having only two main protagonists, Victorian Scoundrel has four and all of them are very likable. We have present day fictional royals Edmund and Alice. They and their families are in part patterned after the current, real-life British royals and share the same surname. Both Edmund and Alice have difficulty dating in the present day, because they can't seem to find anyone who isn't gold-digging or simply looking for the prestige that would come from being seen with a royal. They both desire to find relationships with partners who like them for themselves, so for them, traveling back in history where they can pretend to be commoners is a treat. Edmund (ala Prince Harry) is an adorable red-head who is thoroughly charming but has a penchant for getting into mischief. His cousin Alice is the level-headed one who follows Edmund back in time to make sure he stays out of trouble, but then can't resist the pull of her heart toward handsome Lord Swinton aka Grayson who I loved too. He is a real gentleman who truly cares about people. He is working with Prime Minister Russell to pass an alternative fuel bill that would cut down on the coal dust and soot that blankets London. What I appreciated most about Grayson was that he was a highly intelligent man to figure out what was going on with Alice and Edmund all on his own by simply putting the clues together. While I would have to say that Alice and Grayson's relationship was the primary focus of this story, Edmund certainly wasn't left out in the cold in the romance department. He got his own love interest in the form of the Prime Minister's daughter, Kiera, a sweet young woman who is a bit selective about her suitors but finds a kindred spirit in Edmund.
Victorian Scoundrel was a nice easy read, but sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered. The pacing was pretty snappy with the plot moving right along, while the dialog was sharp and sometimes witty. I really enjoyed the environmentally conscious, "go green" theme. There was just enough adventure and intrigue to keep me engaged. The conflict was pretty minimal as there are no actual villains in the story. Those who act a bit underhandedly only do so for the greater good. Occasionally the author used an odd word choice which didn't seem to fit as well in context as another word might have, and I found it a bit curious that she chose to use the modern word for certain things rather then its historical counterpart (eg. purse instead of reticule, glasses instead of spectacles), but since this is a fantasy story I decided to let it slide. The only real complaint I have is that the author does have a tendency to overuse certain character gestures such crossing arms, pursing lips and raking fingers through hair. Normally I like details like this but the frequent repetitions could be a bit grating. Otherwise, Victorian Scoundrel was a really enjoyable story. Ms. Burkhart even managed to throw in a big twist and a cliffhanger ending that has me already eagerly looking forward to the next book in the Windsor Diaries. I wanted to growl in frustration when I found out that it's not due to be released for another year. Perhaps in the meantime, I'll have to check out some of the author's other works.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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