London Steampunk series by Bec McMaster
Even though I have always enjoyed a good love story, I used to avoid romance novels like the plague because I (like much of the non-romance-reading public) was under the misconception that they were little more than porn for middle-aged women. I imagined they were all about helpless ladies in fluttering nightgowns, swooning in the arms of some Fabio-like rogue. Then someone encouraged me to actually read one, and I will now shamelessly admit that I love romance novels, the sexier the better. It's bordering on addiction, really.
Bec McMaster's London Steampunk series had it all for me: it was sexy, action-packed, and had a take on the paranormal which I had not seen before (granted, I wouldn't consider myself widely-read in that genre). No helpless ladies here--these heroines kicked ass.
The Echelon--the men of England's aristocracy--have all willingly infected themselves with a 'craving virus', which gives them longer lives and enhanced physical capabilities, yet means they now require human blood to survive. Instead of marriage, most upper-class women come out with the hopes of becoming a 'thrall', entering a contract with one of these elite men to provide blood in exchange for protection and wealth. The fact that the ruling class is made up almost entirely of centuries-old, super-human killing machines is of course cause for concern to the everyday people of London. Not all members of the Echelon are behaving themselves, and revolution is brewing in the poorer parts of town. This series follows characters from every class, converging into one action-packed finale in Of Silk and Steam.
As is the nature of a romance series, the setting remains the same and you will probably see the same general cast of characters from book to book, yet the main hero and heroine are different every time. This series follows that pattern, yet there is an overarching plot pertaining to the revolution that you have to read the whole series to truly appreciate. These were the first romance books I'd read where I felt the side plots were just as substantial as the romance between the two leads-- take out a few of the sex scenes and you could shelve these in the fantasy section without anyone the wiser.
This was a series I had trouble putting down from the start, therefore it's earned its place on the Keeper Shelf.