Heart of Steel by Elizabeth Einspanier
Alistair Mechanus – half-human/half-metal cyborg, creator of the advanced laboratory complex in the bowels of Shark Reef Isle and future master of the world – is in love. Unfortunately, his emotional skills are a bit rusty.
Julia didn’t really want to go on a Polynesian vacation with her fiancé Jim. Tired of his possessiveness, superiority and controlling manner, she had actually planned to break up with him. She just hadn’t found the right moment to drop her bombshell.
When Jim shames her into a scuba excursion close to mysterious and forbidding Shark Reef Isle, she knows it’s a bad idea, but as is typical, her boyfriend simply won’t take no for an answer. The shark-like creature that attacks them rips off her leg and more or less cuts Jim in half. Yet when she regains consciousness, she finds that her leg has been replaced by new flesh that seems to function as well as the original. Her companion is nowhere to be found.
Dr. Mechanus’ first sight of the golden-haired diver lying naked on his operating table wakes something in his artificial heart, something he scarcely recognizes. All he knows is that he wants to make his lovely – visitor? captive? - happy. Her concern for her mutilated companion motivates Alistair to new feats of biological and mechanical engineering, in order to restore Jim to some sort of functional condition. His attempts backfire, however, as Jim resists mind control and focuses his technologically enhanced physical capabilities on destroying his savior and regaining control of Julia. Before long, it becomes clear that Jim is the true monster – and in fact, has been that way all along – while the brilliant, wounded mad scientist is an unlikely hero.
I absolutely loved this book. It’s original and funny, romantic and witty, full of twists you don’t expect as well as great one-liners. A modern-day riff on H.G. Wells’ classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, the book features a complicated, courageous heroine in Julia, an emergency medical doctor who suffers from anxiety and fights her tendencies toward obsessive-compulsive behavior. Ms. Einspanier does a fabulous job articulating the warring voices in Julia’s head, as she ponders the problem of escaping from Mechanus’ labyrinth and his island patrolled by “dire wolves”.
Meanwhile, the genius Mechanus is confused and clueless in the face of his burgeoning attachment to Julia. She triggers flashes of memory in which he sees another woman, one whom he clearly loved very much – and hears her screams. Who is the woman in his visions? What is the secret lying buried his heart of steel?
To avoid spoiling the delightful experience of reading this book, I won’t say anything more. If, like me, you appreciate a fresh take on romance and you don’t mind a bewildering mix of love, humor and horror, treat yourself to a copy of Heart of Steel .