Review: Sex, Gunpowder, and Saving the Day by James Cox

sex, gunpowder, and saving the dayRating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novella


Joshua Gentlemen is only a teenager when the dirigible he lives on is attacked, his father killed, his brothers taken, and he’s pushed off the side. He miraculously survives the fall, and is taken in by the lord of the island, Lord Peasley. Joshua is raised right alongside the lord’s son, Valence. Val is Joshua’s best friend and first love. But Joshua walks away in favor of learning the law and becoming a detective. He never stops looking for his brothers, but in the fifteen years since, he’s never found a trace.

When Joshua is called home, he’s there because Lord Peasley has been murdered. Joshua is determined to find out who killed his kind-hearted mentor. And when he sees Val again, Joshua’s feelings resurface. Val has always been his best friend, and he was Joshua’s first lover. Ever since that night, things have been awkward between them. But back together again, they quickly hash out their issues and are once again moving toward a relationship, even as Joshua and his partner, Detective Filch, try to find out who murdered Lord Peasley.

But as they investigate, they find that the lord was involved in much deeper things and that Peasley had been trying to find out the truth behind Joshua’s brothers’ disappearance. He’s uncovered how deep it goes, and when Joshua and Filch try to talk to the royals, the true depth of the plot is clear. There is an attempt on their lives, and Val barely makes it out alive.

In hiding, the three men find a common connection and together they begin a relationship. But they are determined to find out the truth and get revenge. They are a team, and together they go looking. But they find help in a surprising and unexpected source, the plot thickens and truths are revealed. And now Joshua, Val, and Filch need to make some decisions about what they are going to do next.

Two things you should know about this book are that it’s set in a fairly well-crafted steampunk world and it’s the first of a series. If you’re on board for that, then I have no problems suggesting you pick this one up. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and though I found myself having a few quibbles, I was also drawn into the world he created and find myself wanting to know what happens next.

This story is told through Joshua’s first person POV, and it works really well for the way the story is crafted. I’ll make mention here that I found the beginning, the prologue especially, to be a little choppy and disjointed, but the writing style and the narrative smoothed out fairly quickly and dragged me into the story. Joshua has a sense of justice and determination that I liked seeing. I liked him from the beginning, and I was engrossed in his story. I wanted to watch him reconnect and find love again with Val. I wanted to see him find his brothers. He was an engaging and enigmatic narrator and that went a long way for me.

Knowing it was the first of a series, I knew that I wasn’t going to have all my questioned answered right off the bat, and I thought the author did a really good job of walking that fine line of resolving plot points and creating more that would carry though the series. I was actually glad to see Joshua and Val resolve their miscommunications and jump into a relationship fairly early on. These two had known each other for fifteen years, and Cox did a good job about letting us feel their connection. So it didn’t feel like instalove so much as two guys who were finally talking due to the tragedy that befell them. I liked these guys together and thought they had good chemistry.

I wasn’t entirely surprised by some of the plot twists that came along, but again, Cox made things believable within his world. I thought the pacing was good, and though I would have liked some more explanation about certain points and a fleshing out of a few scenes that seemed glossed over, for the most part it flowed along just fine and kept me engaged.

The book wasn’t without its quibbles though. I liked Filch from the moment he set foot on the page and I really enjoyed the dynamic he had with Joshua. I wasn’t even surprised when he joined Joshua and Val in bed. It was written in a natural way that made sense for the characters and the story. But where I did have a problem was how quickly things got serious between the three men. Joshua and Val were committed, but after one night, Filch was all in too. I needed more. They definitely all had a connection and chemistry, but I needed more to understand why Filch was just as committed.

The world building was fairly well done as well, but I wanted more in that aspect as well. Cox did a nice job of giving the reader a sense of the world, and excelled at slipping in backstory and exposition where it needed without it feeling like an info dump. But there’s a certain feel to steampunk that was lacking a little bit here. I needed more than just steam-powered machines and dirigibles and automated bots thrown in. I would have liked to feel more grounded in the world, though this might be a personal preference. What was there was well done, but I wanted a little something more.

Overall, it was a nicely done story. I liked the characters and was engaged in the plot. Though the writing was a little uneven in places, on the whole it flowed well. I’m definitely intrigued about seeing where the story goes and how the author is going to tie up the plot points as the series progresses. If you’re looking for a series with an overarching mystery, reunions, sweet love, and steampunk, then I can recommend this one to you.

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