Touch of Steel
Kate Cross

ISBN-13: 978-0451238825
Publisher: Penguin Group
Line: Signet
Release Date: Dec 4, 2012
Pages: 352
Retail Price: 7.99

Heat Level: Hot

The Wardens of the Realm are a group with extraordinary abilities, dedicated to protecting England from any threat. But in this steam-powered world, there’s a fine line between enemy and ally…

Reeling from her brother’s death, beautiful American spy Claire Brooks has vowed revenge on the member of The Company who she believes to be responsible: Stanton Howard. But when she chases the man to London, Claire is captured by the Wardens of the Realm and placed in the custody of the Earl of Wolfred, the dashing Alistair Payne.

Seeing the prospect of retribution slipping away, Claire convinces Alistair that she has defected and will help him take down The Company. As they travel via steam liner, Claire and Alistair must pretend to be engaged. Claire can’t deny the growing attraction she feels for her pretend husband, but when Howard is finally within her reach, she will have to decide whether her true loyalties lie with The Company or with her heart…



In the  follow up to Cross’ first Wardens of the Realm book, Heart of Brass, Touch of Steel follows a spy on the hunt for her brother’s killer.

We’ve got fight scenes, enemies to lovers, and betrayals. This book was delicious and the hero, Alastair Payne, is a wonderful male specimen. Alastair is no alpha male, but I admit to having a soft spot for him from the first book. His love was spurned and since then he’s made a few field mistakes, one that almost got him killed. He’s looking for a little redemption and a chance to make up for mistakes. I like Alastair because he’s loyal and not afraid to also give people the same second chance he would want.

Of course Claire Brooks is an agent of the Company. She’s turned her back on her organization seeking help from the Wardens in tracking her brother’s killer. Alastair is her unlikely partner and she can’t help but feel a little guilty about the idea of betraying him. Not to mention an attraction that’s drawing them together against their will.

It’s a wild ride from London to the open seas of the Atlantic, as both Alastair and Claire seek their quarry. I really enjoy the banter between the two. These are two tough as nails spies, and the gradual progression and camaraderie that grows as they travel together is easy to follow and grasp. Plus, there’s years of emotional damage done. Let’s face it you don’t choose the life of a spy just because you thought it would be fun. There’s usually some other baggage to add with the commitment.  Only Alastair and Claire find themselves sympathizing with each other, rather than believing it’s a game.

Instant attraction? Yes. Instant sex? No. Cross allows the tension to build, momentum to pick up in the action element as well as the romantic and that’s what makes Touch of Steel so much fun to read. I love a girl who wields a fan with knives. Get a load of the cover because that’s one of Claire’s favorite weapons. Alastair’s got some pretty cool tools up his sleeves as well, especially his augmented eyes that allow him to see in the dark.

Overall this book is definitely another top notch Steampunk read. I’m really enjoying Cross’ series and would love to see where she plans on taking the Wardens next.  If you like the Victorian world with a taste of the modern, along with women and men not afraid to get in a scuffle then Touch of Steel is worth a read. This book works well as a stand –alone, but I guarantee you’ll want to read Heart of Brass afterwards.

Reviewed by Landra