SCARLET DEVICES: a Hotter Penelope Pitstop

Scarlet Devices

Scarlet Devices CoverSteam and Seduction #2
by Delphine Dryden
Feb 4, 2014
Kindle/Mass Market Paperback 304 pages

E-Galley provided by publisher via Net Galley for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions granted herein are my own except as noted.


Delphine Dryden Penguin/Berkley

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Fresh from university, Eliza Hardison is determined to crusade for workers’ rights until her cousin Dexter, the Makesmith Baron, prevails on her to represent Hardison House in the American Dominion Sky and Steam Rally.

The competition is fierce, but only one opponent really matters to Eliza. Dexter’s protégé, Matthew Pence, was always like a big brother to her. But now she’s grown up, and Matthew has made a break from Hardison House with his own business venture—and made his own entry in the rally.

Matthew intends to win while keeping Eliza safe on the perilous route from New York to San Francisco. As the threats escalate through treacherous skies and uncharted American wilds, though, Eliza and Matthew must work together, discovering a bond deeper than either could have imagined…but is winning the rally more important than winning at love?

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop
The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Fair Use.


When I was a young girl, in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a Hanna Barbera cartoon called the PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP.  It was sort of steampunk, with an Around the World in Eighty Days  vibe.  But what was unique about it, as a cartoon at that time, was that the heroine was an independent woman traveling around in her little race car.  Not so uniquely, everything was pink and she was pretty much shaped like a short Barbie doll.

This book, and the quest to be an independent woman in a man’s world, reminded me a lot of that cartoon from my youth.  But it is not that it was cartoonish at all. Instead it was a well thought out story with complex world building, a good romance and fully developed characters.

The cover would be fabulous except there are NO TRAINS in the story. I’m not sure trains even exist in Dryden’s world.  What do exist are steam powered cars, roadsters really, and personal flying devices somewhere between a hang glider, dirigible and balloon.  Unlike many steam punk pieces SCARLET DEVICES doesn’t rely on a different set of physics involving ether and magnetos. It’s just still set back in the Victorian period and has a different political structure but, as far as I could tell the geography and most of the cities are the same.  As in our 1800s, the world is filled with technological improvements and the story deals with the facilitation of transcontinental travel. .

Actually. Dryden did a great job world building here and, even though this is the second book in the series it does stand alone quite well.  The sexy times do not start on page one, and they are hot hook ups but not really kinky.

The characters are interesting and even some of the supporting characters are fully sketched.  Both Eliza and Matthew are very three-dimensional, intelligent, noble and sexy characters.  Neither is the standard issue!  The direction of the story is predictable, but it is a romance so the outcome is rather ipso facto. How you’re going to get to the foregone conclusion is where the story is found. And theree is a lot of story, much danger, adventure, and heroics.  The villain is not well developed, other than to demonstrate that he is mad, but while he is important to the plot, he plays a small part in the pages of the book.  Dryden does an admirable job creating a romance where the characters all grow through their travail and gain understanding as well as love.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND SCARLET DEVICES.