If you like romance and history, Maid of Steel by Kate Baker is a must-read. It’s set in 1911 and follows a woman’s journey to Queenstown, Ireland, and her subsequent entanglements, not just with an unexpected love, but also with her ideas for the future. Here’s what to expect from this book of suffrage.
1. Troubled Yet Driven Characters
We get the perspectives of three characters. Emma is the main heroine, travelling from New York to Queenstown – her grandparents’ birthplace – to heal from a tragic incident that scarred her inside and out. She’s also passionate about the suffrage movement, which she tries to establish in Ireland.
Thomas is a thriving hotelier in Queenstown, but he’s also a man trapped in a loveless marriage. However, his mind and heart are awakened by Emma’s arrival.
As their love grows, his wife Alice is determined to succeed as an actress by any means necessary, which never includes Thomas. In fact, she openly resents him on the rare occasion that she’s home and not on tour.
But there’s a reason for her behavior, a secret of her own, which leads her to become one of the most interesting characters in the book. Her compelling turn was quite sudden, however, so a few more chapters with her perspective would have been a good idea.
2. Themes of Entrapment and Freedom
The story and its whole cast illustrate different forms of entrapment. Bigotry, cultural norms, social class, and marriage are the main culprits discussed.
But Maid of Steel is also about freedom, good and bad. In fact, the book plays with a range of comparisons.
For example, some people strive for liberty through violence, while others through smarts and kindness. Some manage to escape their reality through grit and sacrifice – others reach for dreams and lash out when their efforts don’t bear the fruit they really want.
Other themes to look forward to in this historical romance include literal and psychological journeys, sapphism, and the military life.
3. A Tale of Suffrage
Firstly, the suffrage aspect of Maid of Steel brings in loads of historical references, as well as discussions of feminism and inequality. There are several moving moments about the injustices of gender roles.
Furthermore, this theme adds an intriguing subplot. We see Emma’s wins and struggles as she champions the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society. Not only that, but her ideals influence her development as a character, especially when it comes to key decisions she’s forced to make.
4. Historical Intrigue
The biggest twist in this story is towards its end. Any reader with knowledge of… a particular historical event (I won’t give it away!) will feel their gut clench for several tense pages.
I found it a very clever use of history to tell a mostly fictional tale. Take inspiration from such books, and nurture your understanding of the past alongside other good hobbies for authors.
5. Rich and Smooth Narration
Finally, all of these elements come together with style and grace. The narration is beautiful, moving, and full of personality.
A minor downside is the existence of errors and inconsistencies here and there. But they barely affect the story, which is great overall.
Maid of Steel: Book Review Conclusion
This voyage is both emotional and exciting. It has romance and intrigue, as well as twists that pull heartstrings and strain nerves. Maid of Steel is a very satisfying read from start to finish.
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