More pairs… a pair of steampunk romances; oddly enough, neither is first in its series.
Touch of Steel by Kate Cross.
As is traditional for steampunk, this is set in the Victorian era; but our heroine is one Claire Brooks, formerly employed by the Company, America’s secret organization. Claire blames her brother’s recent death on the Company, and is now in Britain tracking down the man she believes is guilty. Unfortunately, he shoots her and escapes, leaving her to be caught by the Wardens, Britain’s equivalent to, and sworn enemy of, the Company. Their doctor patches her up, and she’s released to the company of handsome Alastair Payne. Will she be able to convince him – and the Wardens – to let her continue her quest for vengeance? Cross writes a steampunk world where the mores are much closer to millennial than Victorian, and the clothing, with combination waistcoat-corsets meant to be worn on the exterior, is pure modern steampunk than anything historical. The scenes of sex and violence are both infrequent but detailed and, in the case of the sex, passionate. The characters are fine, but it’s not for those who prefer gentle reads. On the plus side, Cross’s contemporary steampunk vision includes lots of great devices, a multi-ethnic cast, and many women in positions of power – doctor, inventor, director of the Wardens – that would most certainly have been reserved for men in a more historically faithful vision. I really appreciated this part, even if my personal background leads me to want my steampunk worlds to be a little closer to our world in other matters – I don’t want myself to go back to Victorian social codes, but part of what makes that period so interesting is watching people navigate them. This is the second in the series; the first was Heart of Brass. The third, Breath of Iron, is due out in August.
Moonlight and Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape.
This is one that Overdrive, our ebook catalog, recommended to me when I was trying to teach an elderly patron how to use library ebooks I’ll cheat a little here and include the official description:
Engineer Winifred “Wink” Hadrian has been in love with Inspector Liam McCullough for years, but is beginning to lose hope when he swears to be a lifelong bachelor. Faced with a proposal from a Knight of the Round Table and one of her closest friends, Wink reluctantly agrees to consider him instead.
Because of his dark werewolf past, Liam tries to keep his distance, but can’t say no when Wink asks him to help find her friend’s missing son. They soon discover that London’s poorest are disappearing at an alarming rate, after encounters with mysterious “mechanical” men. Even more alarming is the connection the missing people may have with a conspiracy against the Queen.
Fighting against time–and their escalating feelings for each other–Wink and Liam must work together to find the missing people and save the monarchy before it’s too late…
This is a really sweet romance; I love the simmering for years before the plot gets going and Wink decides to act on it. The details of the world are closer to my ideal steampunk, with closer to historical mores and otherwise accurate fashions modified for steampunky needs, like hat veils that filter out the coal smoke. The conspiracy against the Queen part of the plot carried along fine until the very end, when it wrapped up lickety-split in just a few pages. I’ll note, too, that the cover does a fine job of conveying that we’re in a steampunk world, but a) Wink would never, ever go out in public in just her corset and b) that doesn’t even look like the pale red-haired girl described in the book. There are several other books in this series, including Photographs and Phantoms and Steam and Sorcery. It’s good frothy steampunk fun.