“Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts” by Nancy Campbell Allen

I was looking forward to reading this novel. I started listening to Allen’s Steampunk Proper Romance novels last year on audio and took a quick liking to the first book, Beauty and the Clockwork Beast, which is influenced by both the fairytale Beauty and the Beast and the classic novel Jane Eyre. I liked the second book as well, but the third one wasn’t as engrossing as the first two. However, I was still interested in the series and even more so because the fourth book, this one, hinted at some Cinderella influences. Unfortunately, my reading experience with Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts was not as great as I thought it would be. I didn’t like it. 🙁

(Btw, I received an ARC through NetGalley to review, but my thoughts below are my honest reaction to the book.)


Paranormal; Romance; Historical Fiction; Steampunk


Steampunk Proper Romance, book 4


October 2020

Goodreads summary:

A steampunk retelling of Cinderella.

Emmeline O’Shea is determined to save the world—single-handedly, if necessary. A strong voice for societal reform, she is the natural choice to deliver a key speech at the end of the International Shifter Rights Organization’s week-long Summit in Scotland.

But when a death threat arrives at Emme’s home, she is immediately placed into protective custody, watched over by none other than her personal nemesis, Detective-Inspector Oliver Reed. The two have crossed paths many times, with disastrous results, but now they will have to work together in order to reach the Summit before midnight of the last day in order to ensure legislation is passed to protect the Shifter community.

As unseen enemies close in around Emme and Oliver, they struggle to reach Edinburgh by any means necessary, only to find Emme’s vindictive stepsister, Oliver’s vampire brother, and a dangerous political minefield awaiting them in Scotland.

Even more difficult is their own refusal to admit that the fiery animosity that once burned between them might be turning into the heat of romantic passion. Could a straitlaced policeman determined to uphold the law and an outspoken activist willing to break the rules ever find true love? Or will all their dreams shatter like glass when the clock strikes midnight? (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I really wanted to like this story. Although I didn’t like the third book of the series as much as I did the first two, I was still entertained by the story and wanted to know what would happen in the next book, this book, since it would be a Cinderella retelling and that’s my favorite fairytale. Unfortunately, the story, especially the protagonist, didn’t work for me.

As president of the London chapter of the Shifter Rights Organization, which seeks to protect shapeshifters, Emmeline Castle O’Shea does not allow anything to stand in the way of her goal to protect shapeshifters. However, when a letter is mysteriously delivered to her threatening bodily harm if she presents at an international conference on shifter rights, her mother convinces her to report it to the police.

Unluckily for Detective-Inspector Oliver Reed, he is assigned as Emme’s personal bodyguard for the week-long conference. Although the two share friends and navigate the same social circles, Emme considers Oliver her nemesis because he often breaks up the protests, rallies, and riots her Shifter Rights Organization holds. But Oliver is intent on doing his job despite Emme’s insistence that such security measures aren’t needed, and Emme is intent on attending the conference despite the threats to her life. Although the two are annoyed by each other, they soften as they navigate stressful situations together and find that they share many things in common.

Not my best recap of a story there, but that’s what happens for the most part. Basically, it promised to be a very interesting story but wasn’t, and I was majorly bored by it. It’s possible that the protagonist (Emme) is the reason for this because I did not like her and hated reading from her perspective. Oliver’s perspective was not much better because he (obviously) falls in love with Emme, so all he thinks about is how great she is, which I highly disagreed with.

Emme is supposed to come off as brave, independent, kind, considerate, and selfless. Her one fault, other than her immense stubbornness, is probably caring too much about others 😑. But her actions convinced me otherwise. She often came off as selfish and inconsiderate because her focus is always her goal — to give her presentation — not necessarily to help others. And her attempts to be seen as stubbornly independent often came off as her taking unnecessary chances that could get her or others hurt and actually resulted in her getting a broken ankle and stranded on a beach with Oliver with no backup plan. She just came off as an annoying, silly character.

What really annoyed me was that she doesn’t take the threats to her life seriously. I understand that she doesn’t want to believe the reality of the situation, but even after she acknowledges this, she still does not take the danger seriously and does not consider that her family could be harmed. I mean, if a letter that threatens grisly, bodily harm is mysteriously delivered to your bedroom in your family’s house and no one knows how it got there, surely that means the people living in the house could also be in danger. I like that Emme wasn’t cowering in a corner afraid to go anywhere or do anything, but she could at least be sensible, exercise some caution, and realize that security is direly needed for herself and that her family may also be in danger.

I was also disappointed that this wasn’t the Cinderella retelling I was promised. The story wasn’t as heavily influenced by the fairytale as the previous books were. Sure, Emme has a horrible step-sister and an insufferable step-father and missed parts of the conference (a.k.a. “the ball”), but those were the most prominent similarities to the fairytale. I think the plot’s focus on Emme’s intent to give her presentation overshadows any hint of the fairytale that aren’t as prominent as those three I mentioned. With the previous stories, I didn’t need to read the synopsis to tell what fairytale influenced them, with this one, I’d need to.

And sadly, I didn’t like certain aspects of the writing either. I think this is weird of me because I liked the writing in the first book and found it very atmospheric too. But I listened to the first three books on audio and read the ARC of this one, so I wonder if that difference has something to do with why I’m annoyed by some aspects of the writing now. What got to me were the MANY times a character’s lips “twitched” into a smile or some other expression. I don’t know why, but that really irked me, lol. I also was annoyed that the letter containing the threat was often referred to and always called the “Bad Letter.” I don’t think I’d have minded if it had happened once or twice, but it became annoying after a while because we don’t get to read the letter and aren’t told any specifics about it, so why mention it that many times?

I sometimes like when enemies become lovers, but the development of the romance in this was not convincing. I think it happened too quickly. I guess the only things I liked were the descriptions of the clothing and learning more about the shapeshifter population and the politics within it. It wasn’t the worldbuilding I was hoping for, but it sufficed.

Overall: ★★☆☆☆

I disagree that it’s a Cinderella retelling because the references to the fairytale are too little. And the protagonist was too annoying for me to like the story much.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

If another book is published in the series, I’ll most likely read it, but I just can’t get on with this one. However, if the synopsis really interests you, then do you and read the book, but I recommend the first three books instead.

You don’t need to read them in order because they all focus on different characters. The first one was really good — Beauty and the Clockwork Beast —and I enjoyed the second one as well — Kiss of the Spindle. The third one — The Lady in the Coppergate Tower — was okay but has a witty automaton that was very entertaining, so I recommend it too.


8 thoughts on ““Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts” by Nancy Campbell Allen

  1. This doesn’t sound great, it seems like the author is trying to tell us one thing about her character but then showing something completely different–that’s so frustrating. Sorry it was such a bummer.


  2. Bummer that this was a bummer! Lol. I’d be annoyed by twitching lips too. I’m sure repeat phrases are harder to catch in editing vs spelling/grammar, but still. Things like that tend to stick out to me too and when I notice I also get annoyed.


    1. Sometimes repeated phrases go past me but other times, like with this one, I can’t look past it. I kept wondering why his lips twitching so much and if the person actually smiled or whatever their lips were twitching toward.


  3. Sorry it didn’t work for you! In my experience retellings are tricky and for me seem to work only rarely… But you did enjoy the rest of the series, so maybe it’s just a temporary dip in quality?


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