Review: A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious (Steam Guardians #1) by Mary Wine

August 10, 2012 Review 6

A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious

(Steam Guardians, #1)
by Mary Wine

Genre: Steampunk |
Excerpt: Yes | Book Trailer: No
Reviewed by: Julia | Source: Netgalley

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca; August 1, 2012
  • ISBN-10: 1402264801
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402264801


Okay – A few good points, but with significant flaws. Library/swap/borrow if you want.

Sexual Content

Sex scenes.


Janette Aston is fascinated by all things scientific, and couldn’t care less that her thirst for knowledge is regarded as unladylike by Victorian society. Enthralled by the Illuminists, a group of individuals committed to scientific discovery, she sneaks into their headquarters and is caught by Darius Lawley, an Illuminist Guardian. The attraction between the two is instant and magnetic.

When the Illuminists realize Janette is a rare Pure Spirit who can harness the power of crystals, she’s targeted by a rival society, the Helikeians. It’s up to Darius to protect her for the sake of science and love.


After struggling with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series all week, I am coming to the realization that I like steampunk more as a flavor added to other story lines than as a genre all on its lonesome. Gail Carringer’s gorgeous Parasol Protectorate series mixes steampunk with fantasy and regency romance, Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series is almost indefinable with the gritty mix of apocalypse, technology, and history, and my expectations were high as A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS started out as light, fun, historical romance with familiar class boundaries being drawn along fanciful technological lines.

Wine piqued my interest by reframing the tension between aristocrats and working class from a steampunk perspective (with scientists as social outcasts), and I really wanted to like Janette for her ability to defy convention and social pressures.  It quickly became apparent, however, that the romantic elements of A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS were very “old-school”.  As characters, Janette and Darius don’t deviate from their roles of “plucky heroine” and “dominating hero” when interacting with each other, and that dynamic quickly became rather boring.  And with a heroine named “Janette”, the hero can’t keep saying, “Damn it!” without it getting very distracting. But those moments of humor were appreciated, more so than the endless refrain of warnings and defiance batted back and forth between the hero and heroine.

I’m willing to sacrifice deep characters for chemistry, but that element of A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS didn’t work for me at all.  The first sex scene was a flop, mainly due to some word choice issues (which is nit picky, I admit).  But in the second sex scene Darius crossing from alpha to alphole, which killed my interest in the romance once and for all.

With the characters that didn’t hold any surprises, sexual chemistry that fizzled, and a rather simplistic steampunk world of magic rocks fueling warm showers and cars, A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS didn’t meet my expectations.  Still, it was well written enough that fans of old-school romance may enjoy this lighter side of steampunk.

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6 Responses to “Review: A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious (Steam Guardians #1) by Mary Wine”

    • Julia

      It is a very cute cover, especially considering how steampunk can be hit or miss.

  1. Braine

    I stopped midway because like you, I started to get bored with the story. At least I’m not alone.

    • Julia

      Hi, Braine! I made it through to the end, but it was touch and go for awhile. A very cute premise, but not enough surprises to keep me going. I don’t think you missed out on anything in the end.

  2. Tee Morris

    Good morning, Julia.

    We (Pip and I) are sorry to hear that our Ministry series is not your “cup of tea,” but we do thank you for reading our books. Due to the sheer amount of books published in a single year, we appreciate all our reviews, both praising and critical. Thank you for spending some time with us, and perhaps we can grab your attention next time. :^)

    • Julia

      Hi Tee! I wrestled a bit with PHOENIX RISING (which I picked up to prepare for my review of book 2), but now I’m a few chapters in THE JANUS AFFAIR , as soon as I finish it the review will be out. Suffragists are evaporating at the moment, so I’m definitely excited to read more.