Noble Metals is a steampunk romance set in the backdrop of the Klondike gold rush. The steampunk elements are downplayed in favor of the M/M romance aspects and the ending is a bit rushed. But problematic for me was a slew of very flat or shallow characters who failed to engage me in their adventure.
Story: Robert came to Seattle to strike a gold claim with his brothers. But days of debauchery and gambling whittled their funds away until they were destitute. Desperate, Robert takes up prostitution to make money to once again attempt the Klondike trek. He meets a scientist, John, he pays him for a night in a room. Robert offers to take John up the Klondike so John can use his special machine to detect platinum amongst the gold deposits. But the two are followed by others who want to use the machine for their own goals. Protecting the machine, making the dangerous journey up to Dawson City, and not succumbing to a mutual attraction will take all their will and strength.
Both Robert and John talk similarly and I had a hard time distinguishing a Chicago scientist from a Montana rancher. It meant I never had a good feel on either character and therefore didn’t understand their attraction, which felt a bit too insta-love. All the people (a complete male cast) were pretty shallow or one dimensional. As such, there was nothing original or unexpected in any of the actions.
But most problematic for me was the logic and believability of the plot. For one, in a lawless town like Seattle at that time, why bother threatening Robert to steal John’s device when the bad guys could have just waltzed in at any time and done it themselves? It was hard to take any of the villains seriously after that, especially after Robert was threatened twice in places where someone just had to conk a sleeping professor over the head and take the machine. As well, the idea of a male/male prostitute, even in an alternate universe as with steampunk, really didn’t ring true. Worse, Robert suddenly deciding he could be a male prostitute to service male miners, without having had any experience or desire in that direction in the past, also was off-putting. There were no emotional repercussions to his situation and he shrugged it off that it was preparing him for John.
I ended up skimming through a lot of the book. I didn’t feel a sense of imminent danger or adventure at any time through the story. I didn’t feel connected or engaged as a result and just ended up hurrying to finish it.
It is by no means a terrible book but I also feel it really lacks sophistication and depth. It is a light and airy read but I honestly prefer to spend my time with a book that has a more mature plot and characterization.
Reviewed from an ARC.