Review: Moonlight & Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #4
Length: 176 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: October 22, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

London, 1859

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…

Moonlight & Mechnicals, even without being part of Cindy Spencer Pape’s awesome Gaslight Chronicles (see reviews of Steam & Sorcery and Kilts & Kraken) just by itself matches up what has to be one of the ultimate steampunk couples: the hero is a werewolf and the heroine is an engineer. Talk about awesome.

But the story does this pairing proud, as well as the previous bits we’ve seen of the Hadrian family-by-love that engineer Wink is very much a part of. Although that would be Lady Winifred Hadrian to the likes of you or me. But in Steam & Sorcery, Sir Merrick Hadrian rescued her, and the rest of her adopted siblings from the worst part of London, in the middle of fighting vampyres.

Wink’s ladylike exterior is just that, an exterior. She’s seen the worst that life has to offer. And just because she could become an idle society twit, doesn’t mean she’s constitutionally capable of it. Wink is still a genius engineer. And even though women can’t become actual Knights, she’s very much a valued employee. Her skills are too valuable to waste. But just because Wink has a career of her own doesn’t mean she doesn’t also want a home and family of her own. The only problem is that she’s been in love with Inspector Liam McCullough for years. Since the day he and Merrick rescued her, in fact.

Wink thought that Liam was waiting for her to grow up. That wasn’t it. She’s 24 now. Definitely grown up. Liam is swearing that he’ll never marry. A childhood filled with nothing but beatings, combined with the strength and temper of a werewolf, have left Liam afraid to let anyone close. Especially Wink.

Liam should have seen his protectiveness as a warning sign that it was already far too late for him. Instead he tries to help another man court her. And if this sounds like Cyrano de Bergerac, it should, and with similar results.

But while Liam is trying to avoid romantic entanglements with Wink, there is Order business that they must deal with together. People in the poor districts of London are going missing in alarming numbers, at the same time as mysterious sightings of mechanical men. It’s either magic or machinery, and that means trouble. There’s also a plot against the Crown, and the two things may be connected.

Can they solve the mystery of the missing citizens, discover the plot, save the Queen, and figure out what’s stopping them from being happy together, before it’s too late? The race to solve the mystery is every bit as enthralling as the romance in this adventure.

Escape Rating A: A werewolf, an engineer, a mechanical dog, and shades of Cyrano de Bergerac courting Roxanne. How much more fun could this story have gotten? Add in a dastardly plot to bring down Queen Victoria using mechanized men that sound a lot like something straight out of Doctor Who, that’s how!

The love story is the plot, and it goes from sad to happily ever after so, so well. Liam’s reasons for not wanting to marry do make sense from his perspective. He’s totally wrong, but completely understandable. And Wink’s attempt to settle for something less is heartbreaking for everyone, but necessary to provide Liam with the appropriate kick in the arse.

The anti-Monarchist plot makes a terrific mystery. Very convoluted, and kept me guessing right up until the end on some of the particulars.

This story ends on an absolutely lovely note. The point about the family that you make being as much, or possibly more, important than the one you are born to, particularly for Liam. <sniffle>


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Kilts & Kraken by Cindy Spencer Pape

Format read:  ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #3
Length: 89 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: June 4, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

Magnus, Baron Findlay, longs to bring the wonders of the steam age to his remote island home, but his hands are full fighting the vicious kraken ravaging the coast. When he’s swept to sea during battle and washes up on the shore of an isle in the Hebrides, he is near death.
Struggling to establish herself as one of the first female physicians in Edinburgh, Dr. Geneva MacKay is annoyed when The Order of the Round Table sends her north to care for an injured highlander. To heal him, Geneva escorts the handsome warrior home, just in time to defend the villagers from another onslaught.
As the attacks escalate and they work together to fight off the threat, neither Geneva nor Magnus can resist the overwhelming attraction between them. But as their relationship deepens, a new threat arises-from within the village itself…

Steampunk has two sides to its equation. On one side of the scales, technology went a different path from our history, and parts of it developed sooner than in the world we know. The obvious sign of the change is the prevalence of airships in Victorian England. But there are other technologies that work as well, often teletext or some other fast communication.

What balances those scales? Usually a form of magic. In Spencer Pape’s world, some people have arcane powers. And the things that go bump in the night are real. Vampyres are just hungry undead. And they stink. Werewolves are people who get furry every once in a while.

But what about the rest of the uncanny beasties? Them too. In our history, kraken are the stuff of legend. But so are the Knights of the Round Table.

In Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles, the descendants of the Knights of the Round Table are still protecting Great Britain. And in the north of Scotland, there’s an island that is getting attacked by kraken, one right after another. Even it’s hereditary laird, Magnus Findlay, who may wear a kilt but looks (and fights) just like a Viking berserker, can’t seem to stop them.

If you’ve got good magic, you’ve got bad magic. Like witches. The laird is tied to the island. It’s part of his power. But if he can’t leave, he can bring modern technology to Torkholm. Until a kraken attack sweeps him far away, all the way to the mainland, where the healing power of his homeland can’t save him.

But the healing power of Dr. Geneva McKay, daughter of the Knights, can keep him alive until his men get him home. And once there, her medical knowledge and her ability to see things as they are, upsets the local herb-women who don’t want anything to change. Ever.

She might even change the heart of a man who has sworn that he’ll never try to marry a woman from the mainland again. Not after his first wife threw herself off out a window rather than stay isolated on Torkholm another minute.

And why would bringing roads to this tiny island cause the kraken to start attacking, after 100 years of quiet seas?

Escape Rating A-: I can’t say that I didn’t know exactly who was bringing the kraken, even the first time I read the story. It’s pretty obvious. It doesn’t matter. The important part of this story is the love between Magnus and Geneva, and the conflict they face about what to do about it. Magnus absolutely must stay on Torkholm, and Geneva won’t stay for anything less than love. But she has a medical practice in Edinburgh, and a life there. Magnus is rightfully afraid to bring another mainland woman to his remote island, after his disastrous first marriage.

The opposition forces were, well a bit obviously witchy. And bitchy. They liked being the most important females because they had healing skills, and wouldn’t have wanted a real doctor on the island, but the attacks started long before that. Some people really, really hate change. Something that is still true.

At least, no one can call up sea monsters. About that recent hurricane…


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Moonstone and Miss Jones by Jillian Stone + Giveaway!

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: Mass Market Paperback, ebook
Genre: steampunk, paranormal romance
Series: Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator #2
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Kensington Brava
Date Released: September 25, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

A master of paranormal deduction—and paramour seduction—Phaeton Black has a knack for bumping into things that go bump in the night, from ghoulies and ghosties to long-leggedy beauties…

Mooning For The Moonstone

Barely escaping the clutches of a succulent succubus, Phaeton Black returns to London only to get sucked into another unearthly scheme. Professor Lovecraft has been tinkering with the secrets of life and death, replacing body parts with the latest mechanical marvels. To succeed, he needs to tap the power of the fabled Moonstone—and he needs Phaeton’s help. Of course, Phaeton would prefer to investigate the more interesting body parts of Miss America Jones. Perhaps, bringing his lady friend along for the ride won’t be to too much trouble…

Shanghaied In Shanghai

The bewilderingly beautiful and bountifully gifted daughter of a Cajun witch, Miss Jones is always up for an adventure, especially with Mr. Black as her traveling companion. But when Phaeton is mysteriously shanghaied in Shanghai, America thinks he’s run out on her. Stranded in the Orient—and steaming mad—she’s prepared to look under every stone for the missing detective. The case has put them both in the most compromising positions, but this time, Miss Jones is on top and Mr. Black is at the bottom…of a truly infernal plot.

Pardon me while I have a screaming case of “middle book syndrome”. ARRGGHHH!

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about the book. The Moonstone and Miss Jones is another darkly seductive delight in the adventures of Phaeton Black and American Jones. The difference between this story and their first adventure, The Seduction of Phaeton Black (see review here) is that in this second story the emphasis is more on the steampunk, the darkness and the mystery.

Don’t get me wrong, Phaeton and America are still very much taken with each other, but in this story they finally figure out that they are actually in this thing together, and are not mere ships passing in the night. The story is still steamy, but Phaeton’s finally figured out where to moor his boat. So to speak. His problem is going to be keeping things anchored. Literally.

Those visions of strange beings and and dangerous fantasms that Phaeton has had all his life? They are sendings from a parallel reality, and that reality is starting to come unraveled. Along with our own. Of course, Phaeton is the key. Along with a little present that the Egyptian goddess Qadesh gave him at the end of his previous adventure. Everyone thinks this “Moonstone” will solve all their problems.

Too bad for Phaeton that he’s the only one who can use it. Precisely because he doesn’t want a damn thing from it except to be left alone with America and their ‘pea in the pod’. There is much too much power at stake for that to happen.

But in the process of chasing after the evil-doers, keeping the world from unraveling, and guarding America, Phaeton discovers something that he never expected. He has friends. Real, honest to goodness friends. And a life worth fighting back from hell for.

Escape Rating B+: The Moonstone and Miss Jones is a completely wild ride into not just steampunk, but also parallel universes, the potentials of H.G. Wells time-machine, a little homage to H.P. Lovecraft, and the value of friendship, all wrapped into one. And it’s a cracking good adventure.

Read The Seduction of Phaeton Black first. This story starts pretty hard on the heels on that one, at least as far as continuity is concerned. Phaeton and America had a romantic idyll in between, one that’s interrupted by Phaeton being shanghaied in Shanghai, but the stories crack straight on from one to the other.

There are several interesting side-stories that I would love to see developed revolving around some of the Nightshades guarding America. The smoldering romances there have tons of potential.

I can’t believe I’m going to have to wait until next summer for book 3, The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter. I want to magic it up from the future and read it now, dammit!


Win Phaeton’s most charming charm bracelet. And find clues to the Moonstone’s hiding place in this modern, edgy take on the traditional charm bracelet created by Ana Karolina, a 19-year-old Mexican born designer who made her debut at Nordstrom at the ripe old age of 17. This silver-plated chain bracelet makes skulls and bugs look oh-so cool!

Win one of five copies of The Moonstone and Miss Jones (ebook or print-winners choice)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Skies of Steel by Zoe Archer

Format read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, Mass Market paperback
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: The Ether Chronicles #3
Length: 100 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Released: October 9, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

In the world of The Ether Chronicles, the Mechanical War rages on, and appearances are almost always deceiving . . . 

The prim professor
Daphne Carlisle may be a scholar, but she’s far more comfortable out in the field than lost in a stack of books. Still, when her parents are kidnapped by a notorious warlord, she knows she’ll need more than quick thinking if she is to reach them in time. Daphne’s only hope for getting across enemy territory is an airship powered and navigated by Mikhail Denisov, a rogue Man O’ War who is as seductive as he is untrustworthy.

The jaded mercenary
Mikhail will do anything for the right price, and he’s certain he has this mission—and Daphne—figured out: a simple job and a beautiful but sheltered Englishwoman. But as they traverse the skies above the Mediterranean and Arabia, Mikhail learns the fight ahead is anything but simple, and his lovely passenger is not entirely what she seems. The only thing Mikhail is certain of is their shared desire—both unexpected and dangerous.

The Mechanical War is a damn big war. If the first “world war” were fought, just a bit earlier, and with “ether” instead of guns and tanks (and still a few horses), would you get something like the war that Archer and Rosso have envisioned in their Ether Chronicles?

In this third glimpse into their fascinating construct of man/machines, airships and ether-powered horses (after Skies of Fire (review) and Night of Fire (review)) we see a totally different place and perspective. Skies of Fire showed the good guys (the Brits) and the perspective of those who serve her. Night of Fire switched to the Western U.S., but again, showed us folks wearing uniforms and/or badges fighting the good fight.

Skies of Steel gives us rebels. Han Solo as a bionic rebel and completely mercenary Man O’War helping a female Indiana Jones to ransom her parents from the desert warlord who kidnapped them.

Let  me explain…in this steampunk universe, the process that makes a man into a Man O’War, a man/machine, infuses his body with the metal telumium, and permanently bonds him to his airship. And absolutely vice-versa. So when Mikhail Mikhailovich Denisov goes rogue from the Russian fleet, his airship goes with him. He’s not the only rogue Man O’War, but governments don’t like to talk about their rogues. (Mikhail is also the man with the mohawk on the cover of the book. He likes the style. Really.)

Daphne Carlisle is an anthropologist who prefers studying cultures in the field to the academy. She may look like a simple academic, but she’s anything but. She’s equally deadly with a gun, or a deception.

Daphne deceives Mikhail over and over. Only one thing remains true. She will say, or do, absolutely anything, even the seemingly impossible, to save her parents. After the first lie is revealed, he should abandon her, take his ship, and leave. There is no profit in this fool’s venture for a mercenary.

But he stays and helps her anyway. With all her deceits, with all her tricks, Daphne has done one true thing. She has kept him from being bored and lonely. Her true quest to rescue her parents challenges him to find his own true heart, if it still exists.

After all, what mercenary would keep going on a job with no profit? Unless he’s pursuing something completely different?

Escape Rating B+: The terrific part of all the books in this series so far have been the two leads, and Mikhail and Daphne are no exceptions. They are fantastic. Mikhail’s increasing ennui, his boredom, his heartbreak at the loss of his family and purpose in life, while still feeling oh so responsible for his ship and crew is intense. He can’t let anyone down, but he’s already let himself down, and he’s not sure what he’s living for.

Daphne is desperate and courageous in her desperation. She doesn’t fit into the academic life, she belongs in the field. She’s so capable! She never needs to be rescued, what she needs is a partner.

The rescue of Daphne’s parents, all the different tasks Daphne and Mikhail had to perform, that was fantastic. (It also would have made an awesome video game!) You could feel them knitting together as a team.

But what did bother me a bit was the insta-connection in the beginning of the story. We never do find out why. They fall into instant rapport with each other. The other stories in this series were “second-chance at love” scenarios, where this one seemed to take the insta-connection as a short cut. (Maybe it’s the Han and Indy thing. He fell in love with himself after all!)

But I still raced through the book and can’t wait for the next one in the series, Nights of Steel. Next month.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Night of Fire by Nico Rosso

The Ether Chronicles is a cooperative steampunk venture, or is that adventure, between writers (and real-life spouses) Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso.

The first book in the series, Skies of Fire, took place in more traditional steampunk territory, assuming there is such a thing as tradition when it comes to a genre as “new-fangled” as steampunk. It’s set on the European side of this alternate, steam- and “ether”-powered world war and it’s written by Ms. Archer, as will be the third book.

Mr. Rosso is responsible for Night of Fire, set in the U.S. West. Less traditional, not just for steampunk, but in general. The West of the late eighteenth century was the frontier, with wide-open spaces and people who didn’t want to be hemmed in.

There’s a war going on, and men are called away from their homes to fight against the Hapsburg enemy. Just as happened in real history, particularly in World War II, when the men are called away in large numbers, women fill roles that used to be reserved for men. And some of them find that their new roles suit them much better than the ones they would have traditionally found.

And some men think that this new assertiveness fits those women better than the old traditional roles ever did.

The  Army has also given Tom Knox a new role in life. In Thornville, he was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The US Army has made him not just a soldier, but a leader. It’s given him purpose and responsibility. The Army doesn’t care where he came from, only how he conducts himself. And he’s not a boy any more.

The war has brought him near enough to Thornville to visit. To find out what happened to the girl he left behind. Rosa Campos’ father ran him out of town, said Tom wasn’t good enough for his daughter. And he was right, then.

Now is different.

Now, Rosa is the Sheriff of Thornville. She’s the only one man enough for the job, in spite of her father’s protests. The first thing Tom sees when he rides back into town on his ether-powered “horse” is Rosa fighting off a band of roughnecks, who aren’t just hooligans testing the “lady lawman”.

They’re the front for a completely different threat, one that’s going to literally gobble up the entire town, if Tom and Rosa don’t set aside three years of simmering resentments and disappointments and face the threat together, instead of fighting each other.

About that simmering…the fire they sparked between them before Tom left still burns as hot as ever, but they can’t afford the distraction. Distraction will get them, and everyone around them killed.

But once they defeat their mutual enemy, if they survive, can they find any feelings left for each other beyond lust, disappointment and pain? Did they lose their chance at happiness by not fighting for it hard enough, all those years ago?

Escape Rating A-: There are three stories going on in Night of Fire, and all of them are terrific. One is the war, and for background on the war with the Hapsburgs, read Skies of Fire by Zoe Archer first. It’s tremendous fun, especially if you love steampunk. The information on what ether and telumium (the mineral that makes it all possible) are is there.

The second story is the Western “save the town” story. The sheriff needs to fight off the evil mining corporation that planning to swallow up the good ranching land and the good ranching community. This tale stands the usual trope on its head by having the corporation plan to literally swallow the town. Only in SF or fantasy (or one of their cousins like steampunk)!

Third, of course, is the romance. Tom and Rosa are doing the second-chance dance. They loved before and war has given them another try. They’ve grown up; they weren’t the people they were before. They didn’t fight hard enough before, they weren’t ready. This time, the stakes are much, much higher, but they’re much stronger. But they’ve got a lot of internal resentments to overcome, as well as the obvious external forces arrayed against them. It’s one hell of a fight.

And I wish the story had been a bit longer. This was an awful lot of stuff to pack into 100 pages. I loved it. I would have loved it more had there been a little more of it. Which means I can’t wait for the next one.


Review: The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone

The Seduction of Phaeton Black is just that, an extremely seductive story. And not just for the steamy sex. What seduces about Jillian Stone’s first foray into this cross between paranormal and steampunk is the way in which she mixes the darkly decadent underbelly of London during what we think of as the prim and proper Victorian era with evil spirits, misplaced Egyptian gods, and steam-powered wonders.

And the very, steamy sex. Lots of it.

Phaeton Black begins the story as a discredited Special Agent for Scotland Yard. In other words, he’s been recently sacked. His theory about the Ripper was discredited. He believed Jack was a blood-thirsty spirit. The Yard was certain Jack’s motives were more, well, earthly.

Phaeton was right, but there wasn’t any way the Yard could acknowledge that fact. And too many of Phaeton’s fellow officers didn’t want to. He’s generally right, and generally insufferable about it. He’s also seen a few too many uncanny things, and not always been able to cover it up.

Being able to investigate the paranormal makes those whose viewpoints are rooted in the here and now a bit nervous.

So does Phaeton’s marked fondness for absinthe. The Yard chalks his report about the Ripper being a hungry spirit up to the “green fairy”, and gives him the sack. When another problem outside the ordinary raises its ghostly head, the Yard drags him out from the hole he crawled into.

His new apartment in the basement of a brothel. Typical Phaeton.

The heroine of this adventure is America Jones, half-Cajun witch, in search of the pirate who stole her father’s shipping company. She needs Phaeton to help her steal it back. Legally this time.

With the powers from the witchy side of her heritage, America turns out to be the bait that Phaeton needs to entrap the hungry spirit the Yard has sent him after.

Ms. Jones wants Phaeton’s connections to the Yard to help her bring down the pirates, and protect her while she hunts them. And while they hunt her.

Their plan is to use each other to achieve their mutual aims. And then walk away. He’ll catch his killer. She’ll get her company back. If they manage to enjoy each other along the way, that’s just a way to pass the time.

Phaeton Black has never known what love is. Not in any form. He certainly doesn’t expect that this American chit he intends to use is going to teach him.

Or that she will be his salvation.

Escape Rating B+: The world that Jillian Stone has created in The Seduction of Phaeton Black is a seduction all by itself. Phaeton Black is one of those especially debauched anti-heroes who hides everything he feels behind a facade of worldly charm and flippant, often rude, remarks.

He acts like a user of everyone and everything around him. But it IS mostly an act. A coping mechanism.

America Jones is also coping. She’s lost everything she every knew, and using Phaeton Black is the only way she thinks she can get it back. And survive.

The spirit world is using both of them. The Egyptian gods are haunting London. Why not? Why shouldn’t one or more of them have been transported along with Cleopatra’s Needle and all the other ancient relics the British “liberated” (read that as looted) from Egypt. what a marvelous plot-twist!

The Egyptian gods need an assist to get back home. But gods don’t request help, they demand it.

The story was fantastic. Both literally and figuratively. Steam power, Egyptian gods, spirits, familiars, and Jack the Ripper. And pirates added for spice. What a ride! Including airships.

The way that Phaeton and America use each other, yet resist their mutual pull towards any emotional attachment, draws the reader towards their story just as they are drawn towards each other.

Phaeton’s and America’s story continues in The Moonstone and Miss Jones. It needs to continue. I can’t wait to read the next book. It looks like there are many adventures ahead.

Skies of Fire

If the British Admiralty is sending airships to fight the Hapsburgs, then this must be steampunk. And damned fine steampunk indeed!

Zoë Archer’s latest book, Skies of Fire, is that steampunk, the first tale of The Ether Chronicles. It’s that “ether” that powers those airships. Along with something, or rather someone, who has been transformed into a “Man O’War”. And no, Ms. Archer was not referring to the horse.

In this alternate-19th century, a scientist has discovered a rare element: Telumium. Telumium is amazing. One of its byproducts is ether, which powers the airships, and ether rifles, and ether-based lights. Another, even more amazing, property of Telumium is that it can be bonded to a human being, creating a super-human, a Man O’War. A Man O’War’s strength is what literally powers his airship.

Christopher Redmond captains HMS Demeter, and his small gunship is trapped and looking for a place to repair behind enemy lines when he catches the glint of an SOS from a British agent. Literally a glint: the signal is being sent by mirror flashes, and only his enhanced sight could have caught it.

Even while hiding from the enemy, Redmond is duty-bound to retrieve that agent, so he drops the jollyboat with a small crew. He puts himself on that jollyboat, knowing the agent must be in desperate straights.

The agent is desperately in need of rescue. And is the last person Christopher Redmond expected to find in the Carpathian Mountains. Or anywhere in his life again. Louisa Shaw is the only woman he ever loved. But when he asked her to marry him, three years ago, she left him, without a work, without a note. He underwent the transformation to become a Man O’War not long after. But he never stopped loving her, even while he sometimes hated her.

Christopher always knew Louise was a member of British Intelligence. Even that she was one of their best field agents. He just wasn’t expecting her here.

And Louisa wasn’t expecting Christopher, either. She still missed him. She always had. But he had wanted a wife, even though she had told him from the very beginning that she would not marry. She had panicked, and run.

But she followed his career and had even memorized the layout of his ship. She just hadn’t expected him to be the one who rescued her. Hadn’t expected him to have changed so much, and yet, not changed at all.

They had to work together, in spite of the lingering wounds and the growing tension between them. Louisa held vital intelligence about a munitions factory behind enemy lines. A factory that must be destroyed at all costs.

But first, it has to be found.

In the midst of searching for that factory, can Christopher and Louisa find their way back to each other?

Escape Rating A-: It was great to see some steampunk with a British background for a change! There’s been a recent run of Wild West steampunk (cowpunk!) that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but the change of scene was good.

The relationship between Christopher and Louisa isn’t just hot (although it is) but is also believable. The way the author makes them fight through their bitterness and betrayal, fight each other, and work so hard for their reconciliation is intense. Their second chance has to be hard-won, and readers need to see it to buy into it.

I was dying to figure out where in the alternative timeline this war fit in, and couldn’t quite figure it out. Drove me crazy. Is this an alternate to the Crimean War, making it the 1850’s? When did the telumium discovery taken place? Inquiring minds get caught on these niggly details.

I read this all in one gulp. I wish the next book in the series, Night of Fire by Ms. Archer’s husband and fellow romance writer Nico Rosso, were available now instead of in July.

The Watchmaker’s Lady

First there was steampunk, and now there’s clockpunk. And is it ever cool.

In the hands of an author like Heather Massey, it is also very, very hot. Hot enough to melt anyone’s circuits.

In Massey’s latest novella, The Watchmaker’s Lady, the “lady” in question is a combination of clockwork bits, metal parts, and a lifelike porcelain head. Or is she?

As the story begins, Matthew Goddard is one lonely watchmaker in the midst of New England in 1840. In our terms, he’d be a geek or a nerd. He enjoys fiddling with clocks and watches, and while he would like to marry and have some female companionship, he’s not interested in someone who wouldn’t provide interesting intellectual conversation as well as stimulating sexual escapades.

But Matthew is nothing if not resourceful. On one of his regular parts-buying expeditions to the local general store, he spies a mannequin’s head in a scrap heap. To Matthew, that dusty and bedraggled bisque face represents the woman of his dreams. Possibly literally.

Matthew acts as if “Isabel” requests that he take her home with him. He bargains with the shopkeeper for her head, and returns to his home in a lather of expectation. He lavishes care on the life-size and eventually life-like porcelain head, holding long conversations with “Isabel” as he washes her face and combs out the tangles in her long dark hair.

Matthew treats her as his lover, even as his wife, to the point of fashioning a body for the head. In fact, increasingly complex and complicated bodies, first from straw, and later from brass and clockwork mechanical parts.

However, Matthew Goddard is only a clockmaker; he works for his living. Creating Isabel’s body out of brass and parts is expensive. And in their intimate conversations, Isabel tells Matthew that she wants clothing as well. As a single man, Matthew has no socially acceptable method of purchasing female clothing, not to mention ladies’ “unmentionables”!

But Matthew is adept at creating small mechanical objects, clockworks in other words. And in that time and place, many ladies suffered from what was then called “hysteria”, an imbalance of the so-called “female humors”. Matthew creates a secret business in vibrators, which he demonstrates to a select clientele. His clients pay him in articles of clothing, which he uses to dress Isabel.

Everything is fine, until one of his clients wants more from Matthew than he is willing to give. She spills the beans to her husband, selectively edited, of course. The townsfolk head for the store with fire and pitchforks.

Matthew’s only desire is to save Isabel at all costs. Their love was worth everything to him. But is Isobel real? Or only a clockwork?

Escape Rating A-: This was wild, and there were some parts of the wild that were a little bit true!

As I read the story, a part of me kept wondering if Isabel was real, or if the whole thing was in Matthew’s head. It is very, very easy to get taken along with his delusion, or illusion, that Isabel is a real person, and not a clockwork, especially when he’s making love with her.

You’re also never totally sure how far he’s gotten with making her into an automata or android as we would think of it, either. Does Isabel become self-aware? We never know.

There is a Pygmalion aspect as well. Matthew creates the woman he wishes existed, and then she falls in love with him. Pygmalion is one of the great myths, and it’s been told and re-played multiple times, George Bernard Shaw wrote one famous version of Pygmalion, which in turn inspired My Fair Lady. Of course, the creation doesn’t always fall in love with her creator!

The business about the vibrator business, that part is from history. If you want to read a hilarious account this plus some of the other even weirder things that went on in the name of health, try The Road to Wellville by T. C. Boyle (never judge a book by its movie).

The Watchmaker’s Lady is a terrific steampunk/clockpunk erotic story with a delicious surprise at the end. A surprise that you notice I am not spoiling for you.

As one of my Blogo-Birthday giveaways, one lucky reader will get their very own digital copy of The Watchmaker’s Lady (PDF, EPUB or .mobi) and find out what the surprise twist is for themself. (If you don’t win, I highly recommend buying your own copy. It’s definitely worth it!)

The deadline to enter the giveaway is 12:01 a.m. EDT on the morning of April 8, 2012. I will announce the winner on April 9th.  To enter, leave a comment that answers the following question: If you could build an automaton of any kind (robot, android, etc.,) what would you build it to be? or do?  Also, please let me know what format (PDF, EPUB, or .mobi) you want the book in if you win.

Continue reading “The Watchmaker’s Lady”

Hunter’s Prey

Hunter’s Prey (Bloodhounds, Book 2) by Moira Rogers has all the ingredients to cook up a terrific wild-west romp. Take one former hooker with the requisite heart of gold. Add one former spoiled party-boy who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and feels like he’s been turned into “Beast” from Beauty and the Beast.

Then again, sometimes Hunter literally does turn into a Beast. A Bloodhound, that is.

The Bloodhounds, and the steampunk-flavored post-Civil War alternate Wild West they prowl, were introduced in Wilder’s Mate, book 1 of this series. Not only do a lot of the characters from Wilder’s Mate reappear in Hunter’s Prey, but the first story provides a chunk of useful information about Bloodhounds and their world.

Not to mention, it’s a darn good book!  (See reviews at Fiction Vixen, Book Lovers Inc, Smexy Books, and of course, Reading Reality)

Hunter’s Prey takes up where Wilder’s Mate left off. Hunter was rescued by Wilder, found in a cage in a vampire’s lair. Hunter was changed against his will, and not made by the mysterious Guild.

The story is all about Hunter’s first month of freedom as a bloodhound. Whether he can accept himself as he is now, and not as the man he used to be.

Bloodhounds are ruled by the moon. During the full moon they crave violence. Hunter had no problems dealing with that urge. A camp of 50 or so vampires near the Deadlands border made for easy pickings.

But it’s the insatiable sexual hungers of his Bloodhound nature that Hunter isn’t certain how to handle. Bloodhounds fall prey to three days of mindless lust during the dark of the new moon. Hunter is afraid to inflict the violence of his new nature on any woman, even the prostitutes who make very good money from the Bloodhound Guild every month. They volunteer for this service. The Bloodhounds need to satisfy their lovers, and they are damn good at it.

Even in the short time Hunter has been free, he’s already become attached to a woman, and he didn’t intend to.

Hunter’s Prey isn’t just Hunter’s story, it’s also Ophelia’s story. Ophelia runs the Guildhouse in Iron Creek. She keeps all the Bloodhounds fed, sees to any guests, hires and fires the help. She keeps the pantry stocked. And she listens to everyone’s troubles. Ophelia used to run a bordello. Except for the nature of the business, running a Guildhouse isn’t much different. She’s tired of managing other people’s houses and other people’s lives. Ophelia wants a place of her own.

But Hunter is just the kind of trouble that draws her in. Ophelia knows she shouldn’t get involved with him. Not because he’s a Bloodhound, but because he isn’t ready to accept that his dreams of a respectable life are over. Bloodhounds aren’t respectable, they are violence incarnate.

However rationally Ophelia decides that she shouldn’t be involved with Hunter, fate has other plans. So do a whole bunch of ghouls and a vampire drug lord.

With the deck stacked so high against them, will Hunter and Ophelia survive long enough to find out that they belong together?

Escape Rating B: Even though Hunter is the title character, Ophelia is the person who really made the story work for me. I could understand completely why she felt the way she did, both about running the house, and why she was thinking of leaving.

And I could definitely see her misgivings about a relationship with Hunter. Until he accepts who he is now, there’s no future. He has to stop looking backward at who he was, and accept himself for who he is now, however that came about. I do love watching a relationship build; the chase should be every bit as much fun to watch as the catch. This was scorching.

I did find myself going back to see where the villain went. The ending was fast and furious, but we didn’t see a whole lot of the bad guy before the take down. On the other hand, I did like the hints that the Guild is going to feature more in later books. They are infernally and internally mysterious. I want to know more about them, so I’m looking forward to that!



Peacemaker is the third book in Lindsay Buroker’s Flash Gold Chronicles. When I finished the last page, I was already pining for book four. I hope I don’t have too long to wait for the next episode in these steampunk adventures of a self-taught tinkerer and her bounty hunter business partner.

Kali and Cedar are tremendous fun. Especially because the scrapes Kali gets into (and gets herself out of) read like a Girl’s Own Adventure version of the Perils of Pauline. Or maybe more like “Dudley Do-right and Snidely Whiplash”? But in Ms. Buroker’s tales, Kali McAlister never waits for any man to rescue her, and her partner Cedar is much, much smarter than Dudley ever hoped to be.

Cedar needs to be smarter if he’s ever going to have half a chance with Kali. But there are Mounties hanging around. Peacemaker takes place in Dawson City, Yukon during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

During the Gold Rush era, “Peacemaker” was a nickname for a Colt Single Action Revolver.    Between 1949 and 1959, “Peacemaker” was also the nickname for the Convair B-36 strategic bomber. In this steampunk wild west where airship pirates steal gold from men who shoot back with six-shooters, both nicknames turn out to be strangely apropos.

Dawson was a dangerous place. All Gold Rush towns were. But Dawson is particularly dangerous for Kali and Cedar.

There’s a serial killer on the loose. He’s targeting Native girls, and he doesn’t just kill them. He tortures and rapes them first. Then he butchers them. Jack the Ripper might have been the killer’s teacher, or his student.

The worst part is he’s trying to lay the blame on either the Natives, or animals, or superstitious nonsense. In any case, he escapes clean every time. Finding out just how he does it is a big part of the story.

The absolutely worst part is that the crimes appear to be the work of the same serial killer who struck in San Francisco just before Cedar left–the crimes that Cedar was accused of. There’s a Pinkerton agent on Cedar’s trail, and he’s come to Dawson to get his man.

Cedar isn’t the murderer. But the murderer is tracking Cedar, knowing he can lay the blame at Cedar’s door. And Kali is half-Native. Adding her to the body count will serve two purposes; it will hurt Cedar, and it will make him look even more guilty. After all, that’s how it worked in San Francisco. The last victim there was someone Cedar cared about, too.

About that bomber: Kali wants an airship. Attempting to get her hands on one lands her, and everyone around her, in all sorts of trouble. Read the book and find out how she gets herself out.

Escape Rating A: I was happy that Peacemaker was a bit longer than Flash Gold and Hunted, because I didn’t want it to be over. I really like Kali as a character, and I didn’t want to let her go.

We see more of her background in Peacemaker, and she’s come a long way. Kali is a child of two worlds, and feels like she doesn’t belong in either one. Seeing that she has made a way for herself that takes the best of both makes her a truly interesting character.

I do hope that someday Kali and Cedar get a happy ending. These are not romances, so that’s not part of the story. But these are two people who have had some rough times, and as a reader, you hope they get rewarded. They’re just good together.