Review: Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape

ether and elephants by cindy spencer papeFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #8
Length: 180 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: July 20, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian have loved each other most of their lives—but sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

Their chance at happiness was ruined by Tom’s hasty marriage to someone else. Heartbroken, Nell left home, finding a new life as a teacher at a school for the blind. But when one of her supernaturally gifted students, Charlie, is kidnapped, Tom reappears and her worlds collide.

Tom claims he hasn’t seen his wife since the day of their marriage…yet he fears the missing student could be his son.

The deeper they dig, the more Tom and Nell discover: a deadly alchemist, more missing gifted children and long-suppressed feelings neither of them is ready for. A race on airship across England and India may lead them to answers—including a second chance at love—but only if all of British Society isn’t destroyed first.

My Review:

Ether & Elephants is the last book in Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles. I’ve enjoyed the series very much, from my first night binge-reading Steam & Sorcery (reviewed here) and Photographs & Phantoms in one lovely gulp.

moonlight and mechanicalsMy favorite in the series is still Moonlight & Mechanicals (see review). It even made my Best Ebook Romances of 2012 list for Library Journal.

But Ether & Elephants brings the series to a very lovely conclusion – all the more so because it brings things full circle. The series both starts and ends with the adoption of a bunch of slightly misfit, seriously talented and definitely precocious children into a family that is expressly made to nurture all their varied talents.

A family headed by two adults who finally figure out that they love each other to pieces, and that nothing can, or should, stand in their way.

The journey for Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian is even rockier than the one in the first book – because Tom and Nell are two of the children who were adopted back then. They are all grown up now, and have loved each other forever.

And they’ve both given up hope.

Tom made a horrible mistake while he was at university. It’s not really that he gave in to temptation and fell into someone’s bed. While he may have known that he loved Eleanor, and may have guessed that she loved him, he was five or so years older and Eleanor was not yet an adult. There were no promises, no commitments – they hadn’t even talked about a possible future.

The problem was that the adventuress who seduced him claimed to be pregnant with his child, so he married her. She disappeared the morning after their wedding with the contents of his wallet and anything else in his room that seemed salable. He never saw her again, but he still feels bound to the marriage.

He also doesn’t seem to have done anything like a thorough job in investigating his runaway wife or her circumstances after the fact. A young nobleman with all the power of the Order of the Knights of the Round Table behind him should have done a much better job of tracking down the thief – or at least discovered that there was something fishy about that wedding, as there so obviously was.

Tom seems to have been too ashamed to take care of his own business, and now it may be too late. Not just because Eleanor has made a life for herself away from the family, or even that she may be engaged to another man. The problem at the root of everything is that she feels she can’t trust him.

But she needs his help. Well, she needs the Order’s help, and Tom is what she gets.

Nell has become a teacher, specifically a teacher of blind students. And one of her students has been kidnapped. This isn’t a simple rescue, because young Christopher appears to be “talented” in the way that the Knights are. He’s also not the only child, or more especially the only “talented” child, to be kidnapped in recent months. There’s also the ghost of a chance that Christopher might be Tom’s son. It’s certain that Christopher’s mother is, or was, Tom’s erstwhile wife.

In the investigation and chase to determine Christopher’s whereabouts, a number of long-buried truths come to light. They discover that Tom’s missing “wife” has been practicing the pregnant and disappearing bride scam at Oxford and Cambridge for at least ten years, meaning at least 5 years before she pulled the stunt on Tom. The inevitable conclusion is that Tom can’t possibly be married to her because she “married” so many other men first.

She’s also aimed her sights very high. All of the students she conned were rich and noble, including one well-heeled rake from Buckingham Palace. The Queen is worried there’s a little bastard princeling somewhere in the country.

And the Order’s old enemy, the Alchemist, seems to be taking these talented children to fuel a dastardly plot of his own.

Meanwhile, the chase moves to India, where Eleanor, with the Order’s help, is able to find the formerly young sailor who fathered her on a trip to England long ago. Only to find out that Nell is much better connected, at least in the Raj, than any of the Hadrians are back home.

But with all of their lives on the line, and with the certainty that Tom is now free, Nell can’t resist indulging in the passion that she has always felt for him. The question is whether passion is enough to overcome years of mistrust.

And whether they all come out of this mess alive.

Escape Rating B+: Ether & Elephants is a very nice wrap-up to the series as a whole. We first met Tom and Nell in Steam & Sorcery, when Sir Merrick Hadrian discovers Tom in the stews of London and realizes that Tom must be the son of one of his fellow Knights. That Tom will not leave behind the family that he has made and protected for years is just one more sign of his nobility, considering that Tom is all of 14 at the time.

But children grow up. Nell has always loved the young man who saved the lives of herself and her half-brother Piers, and hoped that Tom felt the same. Discovering that he did, but that he had pissed away their chance at happiness nearly broke her.

Eleanor Hadrian, like all of the family she has built, is made of stern stuff. She doesn’t just soldier on, but she finds a career that fulfills her, and makes a new life. When her new life intersects with the old one, she is the first person to volunteer to find her lost student, even knowing that she will have to deal with Tom and the ashes of their old relationship.

One of the ongoing themes of the story is that Nell doesn’t need anyone’s protection, not from the bad guys, and not from her own past. So many people have tried to be delicate about her feelings for Tom, and while she isn’t 100% sure those feelings are completely dead, she is utterly certain that she is tired of being treated like a delicate flower, because she so isn’t.

Bringing the story to India was a very nice touch. It allows Eleanor to discover and embrace the other half of her nature, and also answers the question that she has always wondered about – where do her supernatural talents come from? While I loved Eleanor’s ability to embrace her Indian family and heritage, it felt just a bit over-the-top that her father was effectively a prince. Eleanor has all the nobility she needs without inheriting it from her father along with her talent for seeing ghosts.

I liked her Indian family, and their participation in the final chase and capture is crucial, but her “Baba” didn’t have to be the social or political equal of Sir Merrick Hadrian to be effective, or to accept her as his daughter.

It gave the story an aftertaste of Eleanor’s needing to be a princess to be accepted as Lady Devere, when Tom, the Hadrians and especially Eleanor herself had all the nobility required.

I will miss the Hadrians and their magically steampunk world, but Ether & Elephants makes a fitting end to this lovely series.

***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 or borrowed from a public library 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: Dragons & Dirigibles by Cindy Spencer Pape

dragons and dirigibles by cindy spencer papeFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #7
Length: 125 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: May 19, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

When airship engineer Melody McKay’s dirigible explodes and plunges her into the yard of a gothic manor, she suspects foul play. With her ankle injured–an indignity far too feminine for her taste–she resolves to crack the mystery while in the care of Victor Arrington, the stuffy-yet-disarming Earl of Blackwell.

Ex-Royal Navy Captain Victor runs a tight house and is on a mission to protect his niece and foil a ring of smugglers using fire-breathing metal dragons. He has no time for romantic attachments. Particularly not with women who fall from the sky wearing trousers and pilot’s goggles.

As he and Melody navigate a treachery so deep it threatens the lives of everyone in Black Heath, the earl becomes unexpectedly attached to his fiery houseguest, and Melody discovers a softness in her heart for him. But when the smugglers strike, there’s more at risk than just their future together.

My Review:

Moonlight and mechanicals by Cindy Spencer PapeI’ve enjoyed the entire Gaslight Chronicles series, but it feels like the pinnacle of the series was Moonlight & Mechanicals (reviewed here). The plot was dastardly and far-reaching, and the hero and heroine were both up to the challenge. And the love story really sang.

Dragons & Dirigibles is fun, but doesn’t work quite as well, and I’m still trying to figure out why.

The plot definitely puts it into the middle of the long-running story of how the Knights of the Round Table continued through the centuries to reach this alternate Victorian era where Ada Lovelace really did manage to program Babbage’s engine. But by this point in the tale, we’ve not just met, but watched the adult children of the Hadrians, the Lakes and the Mackays find their intended match.

There’s one story left untold, but we’re teased about it at the end of Dragons & Dirigibles. Instead this is the story of engineer/pilot Melody Mackay, and her nearly-disastrous trip to Black Heath in a new stealth airship.

Melody and her ship accidentally run afoul of smugglers on the north coast, and she’s shot down–straight into the arms of the Earl of Blackwell. That’s where the story gets interesting. He’s hunting the smugglers, and thinks she might be one of them. He’s also incredibly conventional, and believes that women should be wives and mothers and nothing else. Certainly not pilots or engineers.

Melody thinks he has a stick up his arse the size of a ship’s mainmast, a totally appropriate simile because until just a few months previously, Victor Arrington was a naval captain. He inherited the title, the estate and his niece on the sudden death of his brother and sister-in-law. Melody is a complication that Victor doesn’t need, because his little niece is refusing to settle down and learn ladylike skills, and Melody’s presence is catnip to the child.

Also because he’s been trying to find where the smugglers are hiding, and not having much luck. Melody is either a conspirator or another target in the house. It takes him a while to figure out which. And even then, he still thinks she’s a bad influence on his niece.

Meanwhile, the village rumor mill is grinding on. The locals think that the new Earl is the smuggler, and that his niece is a feral child who caused the death of her parents. And that Melody is no better than she ought to be for staying in the house of a bachelor without a chaperone.

When she requests help from her family, and from the Order of the Knights of the Round Table, the situation goes even crazier.The smugglers have more secrets than just the location of their base. And their plans are much more dastardly than either the Earl, the Order, or the revenue agents off the coast could ever have imagined.

Escape Rating B: Melody is not a conventional woman, and she knows she isn’t going to be. What kept her from striking Victor with a blunt instrument in the first part of the book I’ll never know. It’s not just that he’s a prig and holds the views of his time, but that he’s frequently insulting about it into the bargain.

It’s not just that he doesn’t have a clue about what his niece wants and needs, but that he doesn’t have a clue that there is a clue to be had. It takes a lot of evidence for him to finally see the light, that women may not desire, or need the strictures that society places on them. And that the world changed quite a bit during the 10 years he was at sea.

Melody seems to fall in love with his niece long before she does him. Which makes sense, the little girl is a LOT nicer to her.

He does change, and figure things out, but the love story seemed a bit too pat, too formulaic, to really sing.

But the smuggling plot turned out to be quite ingenious, with quite the scary twist at the end. That part of the story had more layers to it than it seemed at the beginning. I figured out who one of the baddies was, but the other was a complete surprise.

I like the world that the author has created, and I’m looking forward to more stories. There’s been a simmering relationship for years, and I want to see that couple finally have their chance.

***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 or borrowed from a public library 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.

Guest Post by Author Cindy Spencer Pape on Escapist Fiction + Giveaway

ashes and alchemy by cindy spencer papeMy special guest today is Cindy Spencer Pape, the author of one of the most fun steampunk series ever, the Gaslight Chronicles. This is the one that got me hooked on steampunk. It has all the cool steampunk gadgets and toys, there is always a marvelous romance, and for that added bit of the fantastic, she included the Knights of the Round Table. I always snap up each new book as soon as it appears, and as today’s review of Ashes & Alchemy demonstrates, Cindy always delivers a marvelous story.

Speaking of stories, here’s Cindy’s take on escapist fiction, and why she loves it.

Why I Adore Escapist Fiction
by Cindy Spencer Pape

Confession time: I absolutely adore escapist fiction. I’m not even too particular about the variety. I like mystery, fantasy, SF, and of course, romance. I read quickly, and I read a lot. I’ve been known to buy or check out the same book twice, because I’ve forgotten the title or cover. Reading is, and has always been, my escape. When I’m reading for fun, I don’t want anything too serious. If I want to be depressed, I’ll read the newspaper or an environmental report. When I read for fun, I want to get away from reality.

I find it funny (and not, at the same time) that romance is blasted as the ultimate example of unrealistic fiction. Come on, in fantasy and SF, they’re openly speculative and mysteries? Do we really believe those same amateur detectives solve so many crimes without ending up dead? It’s all fantasy, really. So pick your flavor and don’t bash the others, that’s my take.

In my Gaslight Chronicles, I’ve kind of taken all the flavors of genre fiction and tossed them into a salad. Each book contains fantasy, science fiction, suspense, horror, adventure, and romantic elements. That’s truly my favorite thing about the steampunk subgenre, is that you get to do that. I may even sneak in a little social commentary, but it’s there in the fiction, not as a smack in the face. (Yes, there’s a gay character in the series and yes, there’s a non-white woman adopted into a noble British family.) But the books aren’t about that. They’re about a bunch of interesting characters doing something in an interesting world. They’re meant to make the reader laugh, maybe cry a little, and mostly to forget about their job or their other problems, and just have a little bit of fun.

The books are all available digitally, which brings up another fun fact. Romance readers buy them for their Nook or Kindle without hesitation. A few SF or other fans will buy the version to listen to at the gym or in their car. But for the most part? Fantasy and SF fans—maybe especially steampunk fans—often reject digital books. It’s kind of ironic, really. You’d think science fiction readers would be early adopters of technology. But that’s not my experience. At romance conventions, I’m just another author, albeit with only medium-sized presses. But at SF or steampunk cons, I get this look. And then someone asks, “Do you have any real books?”

I smile. Sadly. “Yes. I have a number of print books. They’re mostly erotic romance, which I wrote for years with another publisher.”

“Oh. Romance.” They nod their heads and walk away.

Yep. Digital steampunk is a tough row to hoe. My steampunk books are all Amazon top 100 sellers in their genre. My romances aren’t. My steampunk books have sold literally thousands more copies than my romances. Library journal has named them as “the ultimate in steampunk romance.” I consider them very real books. I’ve spent years working on them, and the research for writing alternate history is not negligible. My publisher edits them thoroughly, and pays me royalties, just like they do for “real” books. I even have some great covers.

If you’re a person who reads e-books, then thank you! If you’re not, that’s okay too. To each their own—I really believe that. But we live in a changing world. We may not have jet packs yet, but I think we’ve at least reached the point where e-books and audiobooks count as real.

Thanks to Reading Reality for having me here today—this is an awesome site! Thanks to each of you for stopping by, and don’t forget to enter the contest.

Cindy spencer pape 2014About Cindy:

Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 18 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.

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Review: Ashes & Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape

ashes and alchemy by cindy spencer papeFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #6
Length: 82 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: January 6, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Police inspector Sebastian Brown served Queen and country in India before returning to England to investigate supernatural crimes alongside the Order of the Round Table. If his wifeless, childless life feels a little empty sometimes, that’s not too great a price to pay in the name of duty.

Minerva Shaw is desperately seeking a doctor when she mistakenly lands on Sebastian’s doorstep. Her daughter Ivy has fallen gravely ill with a mysterious illness–the same illness, it seems, that’s responsible for taking the lives of many of Ivy’s classmates.

Seb sniffs a case, and taking in Minnie and Ivy seems the only way to protect them while he solves it. But as mother and daughter work their way into his heart and Seb uses every magickal and technological resource he can muster to uncover the source of the deadly plague, it’s he who will need protecting–from emotions he’d thought buried long ago.

My Review:

Steam and Sorcery by Cindy Spencer PapeCindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles are a delicious alchemical mixture of steampunk and sorcery, and I’m not just saying that because it echoes the title of the first book in the series (Steam & Sorcery).

If you love steampunk, read this series from the very beginning. The worldbuilding just gets better and more detailed as the series goes on, and the stories are always just plain fun! What makes the series shine is the author’s invention of an alternate Victorian age where Charles Babbage’s analytical engine was actually invented, as opposed to merely theoretical, in the 1830s, and Ada Lovelace was the first coder. Computers in the 1830s and 1840s changed history, bringing the analytical sciences to bear on the age of steam.

And, since Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer, women attend university in this alternate era.

But alongside these scientific developments, vampires and werewolves walk, or stalk among the populace. Werewolves are mostly the good guys, but vampires are rotting corpses that feed on anyone they catch. To fight them, and other supernatural creatures, the Order of the Knights of the Round Table has continued into the “modern” era. They fight the supernatural with magic.

Magic and science coexist to make fantastic stories.

In Ashes & Alchemy we see something that hasn’t previously been dealt with much in the Gaslight Chronicles world–what about the people who are part of the families but don’t have the gift?

Sebastian Brown knows all about the Order because his father is a Knight. He has a smidgen of the talent, but not enough to qualify for the Order himself. He still serves Queen and Country–Seb is a Police Inspector, and his talent is a handy one–he can sense when someone is telling the truth.

Minerva Shaw spends nearly her last strength dropping against his door late one night, mistaking his house for the doctor next door. It’s fortuitous for them both. Her daughter is burning up with fever in the tenement they share, and his neighbor is a doctor known for his willingness to make house calls in chancy neighborhoods.

Moonlight and mechanicals by Cindy Spencer PapeBut the doctor is overwhelmed by patients from an accident, and Seb volunteers to bring the child to his own house. This is where the case deepens from a simple act of charity into another fiendishly clever plot like the one in Moonlight & Mechanicals, although this time the motives are closer to hearth and home.

When Seb takes in Minerva and her daughter Ivy, he finds that the presence of this little family in his formerly empty house awakens feelings that he thought he buried in India along with his own wife and child.

But he knows that Minerva has secrets chasing after her that she is afraid to reveal. And the doctor discovers that Ivy’s illness has a far from natural origin; an origin so unnatural that it requires investigation by the Order.

Escape Rating B+: Steampunk, magic and the Knights of the Round Table are still an irresistible combination. But it is terrific to see this story explore what happens with someone who is not a Knight. Just because your family has magic powers does not mean that your parents are any better at the job. Seb’s father is a piece of work. Still.

Seb using the case as an excuse to keep Minerva and Ivy around is such a classic excuse for him to disturb his empty household for a reason. It works excellently! He can keep pretending that he’s only taking care of them during the investigation, and Minerva can pretend that she doesn’t actually want to stay.

Minerva’s past, particularly her relationship with her daughter Ivy, is extremely touching. She puts Ivy first, always, even at her own expense. She’s aware that she’s doing it but has decided that it is worth the cost to herself.

It was great to see the rest of the gang. Wink and Liam in particular, the couple from Moonlight & Mechanicals, are very necessary side characters in this one.

Ashes & Alchemy is a marvelous love story that continues a theme throughout this series, about the importance of the family-you-make. And it has a terrifically convoluted scientific steampunk plot and a sparking hot romance, too!

Ashes and Alchemy Button 300 x 225

***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 or borrowed from a public library 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: Cards and Caravans by Cindy Spencer Pape

Cards and Caravans by Cindy Spencer PapeFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles, #5
Length: 129 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: March 18, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Belinda Danvers isn’t a witch. But that won’t stop them burning her at the stake…

Connor McKay can tell at a glance that Belinda’s magickal powers are minimal at best. She can’t be guilty of murdering village children. There’s something suspicious about her arrest and lightning-quick sentence. Unfortunately, telling anyone how he knows would mean revealing his own powers. He’s been sent by the Order of the Round Table to help and he can’t just let her die.

Escaping from jail and running from vindictive villagers in her grandfather’s steam-powered caravan is more excitement than Belinda’s had in years. And despite the danger–or maybe because of it–she loves the time spent with her sexy rescuer. But there’s more to his magick than he’s letting on…

There’s something going on that’s bigger than the two of them. It’s time for good to make a stand.

My Review:

Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles are tremendously fun. They are a combination of steampunk and fantasy, with mechanical creatures existing alongside the descendants of King Arthur’s Knights.

One of the best parts of the series is that she has continued to follow the adventures of one particular group of the Knights. So we get to see the developments of relationships, not just the ones that succeed, but also what happens to those who are not-so-lucky in love.

Or at least not-so-lucky the first time around.

Moonlight and mechanicals by Cindy Spencer PapeConnor Mackay was the unsuccessfuly contender for Wink Hadrian’s hand in marriage. Connor was never going to win that contest, because she had been carrying a torch for Liam McCullough. (The story of their courtship, and their foiling of a plot to bring down the monarchy, is marvelously told in Moonlight & Mechanicals)

But that left Connor at rather dangerous loose ends. So when Zara, a Rom who is trusted by the Order, calls to say that her granddaughter is in grave danger, Connor is perfectly happy to hare off to the north of Scotland to investigate.

What he finds is a beautiful woman in a dank jail cell, convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned at the stake in the morning.

When he can’t convince the local magistrate to wait until he can investigate the extremely hasty trial and sentencing, Connor breaks the woman out of jail and runs away with her.

The fact that she is an exotically beautiful spitfire has no bearing on his actions. Absolutely none. (Hah!)

Belinda Danvers is innocent of the crime. She isn’t even a witch. However she does have a gift for magick, and an unwillingness to be anyone’s mistress just because she’s a widow and a Rom.

Of course, what happened to Belinda is not as simple as a jealous man striking out. It’s only the tip of a plot to wipe out foreign magick practitioners across Scotland.

And what’s happens between Connor and Belinda isn’t simple, either. But it does make Connor realize that Wink is not the woman he wanted or needed.

He just has to make Belinda realize that. If he can keep the madman who started this whole mess from killing her.

Steam and Sorcery by Cindy Spencer PapeEscape Rating B+: I couldn’t put this down, but it probably works better if you’ve read the whole series. If you have, it’s like catnip. Or potato chips. You can’t eat (read) just one. Start with Steam & Sorcery. (And yes, I’ve said that before. Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles are awesome steampunk!)

The circus setting used to capture the perpetrator was fascinating. Circus caravans would have been much different in the late 19th century, even in this steampunk/magick world, than in our universe. I’d love to have seen more of the circus life that Belinda came from, or how the circus operated with the Knights playing the circus parts.

The plot that captured Belinda was a bit thin to be as big as it was, or the description of it was not as detailed as I might have liked. It might have been better if the book had been just a bit longer. Since so many magick users were killed because of the plot, and so many “innocent” townsfolk were caught up in it, more details would have been good.

Connor and Belinda are terrific together. I’m glad to see a heroine that had some experience, and that Connor found happiness. He’d earned it. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. I know who I hope are the protagonists, but we’ll see. Hopefully soon?

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On MY (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 3-10-13

Sunday PostDid you set your clocks ahead last night? Half of ours updated themselves automagically, and half didn’t. Tomorrow morning is going to be a bear, I can just tell.

Daylight savings time is a system administrator’s semi-annual nightmare. Galen spent this morning at his computer before he even got a cup of coffee. That’s just pathetic.

Carolyn GoolsbySpeaking of nightmares, the picture at left is our friend Carolyn the librarian. Her hair is not normally pink. Carolyn is the Library Director in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, and she has dyed her hair pink as part of Hair Massacure, an annual event in Canada that raises fund to support children with life-threatening illnesses. Particularly, as you might have guessed from the pink, cancer.

Hair Massacure logoOn Friday, her library staff is going to shave her head as part of the event. (I always knew Carolyn was brave. I’m not sure I’d let non-professionals near my head with sharp implements!) This is a totally amazing event, and it’s a real wow to be able to send some support her way. (I also can’t wait to see the “after” pictures.) If you’re interested in supporting the librarian’s head shaving click here. (You don’t need to be a Canadian!)

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog recap.

Blood and Magick by James R. TuckB+ Review: Million Dollar Mistake by Meg Lacey
B+ Review: Calculated In Death by J.D. Robb
A- Review: Blood and Magick by James R. Tuck
B Review: What’s a Witch to Do? by Jennifer Harlow
Interview with Author Jennifer Harlow + Giveaway
A- Guest Review: Naked Tails by Eden Winters
Stacking the Shelves (37)

There’s still plenty of time to get in on that giveaway!

This week, we have two big events. On Thursday, Lauren Clark will be here with a guest post to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Stardust Summer. I was eager to jump on this tour, because her previous book, Dancing Naked in Dixie, was an absolute hoot! I will say that Stardust Summer did not disappoint, although there’s no naked dancing in this one. Lauren will also have a giveaway of Stardust Summer.

Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark  Blog Tour

And the week will end with a bang, as we kick off the Lucky in Love Blog Hop!

Cards and Caravans by Cindy Spencer PapeBut before we get to next weekend, I’ll have reviews of a few other books for you to look forward to, including an early review of Cindy Spencer Pape’s new story in her Gaslight Chronicles series, Cards & Caravans.

A lot to look forward to this week! We’ll just have to keep springing ahead.

Stacking the Shelves (34)

This week’s list seems short, in spite of the monthly contribution from Carina Press on NetGalley.

Maybe I’m getting sensible. Or maybe nothing much appealed to me this week. Probably that’s it.

I’m still getting over the strep throat, and haven’t felt quite the thing, as they say.

Still, a few possible gems. The Boleyn King looked really interesting, especially in light of the renewed interested in all things medieval English royalty after the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton. What if Anne Boleyn hadn’t miscarried her son? Alternative history of any kind is always so much fun, if it’s done well.

And a new entry in Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles is always cause for celebration!

For Review:
At Drake’s Command by David Wesley Hill
The Boleyn King (Anne Boleyn Trilogy #1) by Laura Anderson
Cards & Caravans (Gaslight Chronicles #5) by Cindy Spencer Pape
A Devil’s Touch (Devil DeVere #4.5) by Victoria Vane (review)
The League of Illusion: Prophecy (League of Illusion #2) by Vivi Anna
The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill
Pooka in My Pantry (Monster Haven #2) by R.L. Naquin
Tin Cat by Misa Buckley

Escorted by Claire Kent

A Labor of Love: Picking the Best Ebook Romances of 2012

It looks like an annual tradition. Well, I’ve done it two years in a row, so I’m hopeful.

One of the pleasures of being a book reviewer and a librarian is that I review ebooks for Library Journal, one of the trade publications that serves, well, of course, libraries. For the past not quite year and a half, Library Journal has been doing their damnedest to bridge the gap between the sheer number of ebook romances being published and the desire to get some reviews into libraries’ regular workflow. Ebooks are a hot topic in libraries all the way around, but figuring out how the library should spend limited dollars is still not easy.

I applaud the effort, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. In sort of a reverse of full-disclosure, no, I’m not paid to say this. I’m not paid for my reviews at LJ. It really is a labor of love. Sort of like book blogging.

The Library Journal Best Ebook Romances of 2012 column was published last week. With a much better picture of me and everything. It still looks cool. (Even my mom was impressed). But LJ always has to alphabetize everything. Librarians do that. My original list went this way:

Knox, Ruthie. About Last Night. Loveswept: Random. eISBN: 9780345535160. EPUB $2.99. Contemporary Romance

About Last Night was my starred review in LJ all the way back in April, and I never forgot it. Ruthie Knox’s contemporary romance is funny and charming (also gloriously hot) about a bad girl trying to be good and a good man who needs to let his bad side out to play a little more often than his straight-laced upper crust family can tolerate. Cath, the good-bad girl, also has one of those dream jobs, assistant to a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Knox had me at “hand-knitted straight jacket”. Knox writes a terrific “sex into love” romance that will make readers laugh out loud. And finish in one sitting.

Vane, Victora. The Devil DeVere series: #1 A Wild Night’s Bride, #2 The Virgin Huntress, #3 The Devil You Know, #4 The Devil’s Match. Breathless Press. EPUB $3.49 each Historical Romance

The Devil DeVere series is a variation of the Rake’s Progress, or the Rake’s Reformation, except that is doesn’t start with said Rake as the main character. A device that was amazingly clever on Vane’s part and allowed her to circle in on DeVere without revealing too much initially. In the first two books, he’s the puppetmaster, re-arranging his friends’ lives. But in the background the reader catches hints that there’s more to him than the debauched reprobate we see. By the time we find out his story, we’re invested. The series is erotic and sexy and sometimes the reader wants to shake various characters until their teeth rattle, but it is absolutely marvelous. This one should be read with bonbons. And a fan!

Archer, Zoe and Rosso, Nico. The Ether Chronicles: #1 Skies of Fire (eISBN 9780062109149), #3 Skies of Steel (eISBN 9780062109156) by Zoe Archer, #2 Night of Fire (eISBN 9780062201089); #4 Night of Steel (eISBN 9780062201102)by Nico Rosso. Avon Impulse. EPUB $1.99 each Steampunk Romance

A world war, in the years just before we fought ours, but different. Because this world war uses a metal named telumium, and a fuel made from soya called tetrol. But oddly enough, some of the same players as “our” world war. So typical of steampunk, familiar, yet not. Airships, but also air-bikes, air-trikes, and air-horses. Air-horses! And something that’s unique to this steampunk world, the Man O’War, which is definitely not a horse, but a cyborg controlling an airship, and seemingly vice-versa.  But because we have a world war, we have spies, and secret ops, and all the romantic suspense possibilities that go along with that. Because it’s a “world” war, also all the options for world-spanning action. So far it’s been military operations in Europe, town-killers and ether-powered cowboys in the U.S. West, and rogues bringing “modern” technology to the Middle Eastern tribes. Indiana Jones had nothing on that one.

Pape, Cindy Spencer. Moonlight & Mechanicals. (Gaslight Chronicles, Bk. 4). 176 pages. eISBN 9781426894527. EPUB $4.99. Steampunk Romance

Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles (Steam & Sorcery, Photographs & Phantoms, Kilts & Kraken) are set in a steampunk world that deviates from ours at two key points; Charles Babbage’s difference engine was built (and worked!) and the Knights of the Round Table were not only real, but their descendants are still defending the monarchy, and by extension the realm, in this alternate Victorian England. In Moonlight & Mechanicals, we have possibility the ultimate steampunk romance, between a werewolf police detective and a female engineer who grew up fighting vampires. The detective, is, of course, a member of the Knights. And the heroine has had a crush on him ever since he saved her life. He just believes that he isn’t capable of being a family man. She’s just planning to tinker with him until she proves different. And they save the Queen!

Heldt, John A. The Mine (Northwest Passage Bk. 1) John A. Heldt Publisher. 290 pages. EPUB $0.99 TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE

The Mine is one of those stories that sneaks up on you and sweeps you off your feet. It reminded me a lot of Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, in its sense of a man falling in love, not just with a woman, but also with a time, a place, and a way of life. Joel Smith starts the story as a cocky boy/man on a last adventure before college graduation. He bumps his head in an abandoned mine and wakes up in 1941, in America’s last golden summer before Pearl Harbor. He’s afraid to change things, but he has to find a way to survive in a world he only knows from history books and baseball statistics. Thinking he can’t go back, he falls in love and makes a life. Then he discovers that he can go back, and is faced with a terrible dilemma. He can leave behind all that he has come to love, or stay, knowing that if he does he may change history. This one haunts.

As usual, I started out by picking five, and snuck my way into choosing eleven! Way to go! And since you could say that Spencer Pape’s entire Gaslight Chronicles are included, a case could be made for calling this list fourteen. But who’s counting?

The fun part of creating this list is looking back at everything I reviewed for the year, at Reading Reality, at Book Lovers Inc., and at Library Journal. The difficult part was not being able to include anything that wasn’t at least sort of a love story, and that wasn’t an ebook, or primarily an ebook (there are print versions of Archer and Rosso’s Ether Chronicles, but most people will get the ebooks).

I’m just going to have to do a less restrictive “best of the year” list in December.

Interview with Cindy Spencer Pape

I’m so happy to welcome Cindy Spencer Pape to Reading Reality! I discovered Cindy’s work in an all-night reading binge, when I tore through five of her books all at once, and I’ve been scooping them up as fast as they come out ever since. If you’re a fan of either paranormal romance or steampunk, you can’t go wrong with her Urban Arcana or her Gaslight Chronicles. The Gaslight Chronicles combines steampunk with the incredible concept that the Knights of Round Table weren’t just real, but that their descendants are still around!

But today she’s here to talk about the latest entry in the Gaslight Chronicles, Moonlight & Mechanicals. A werewolf trying to resist his love for an engineer! How much more steampunk can you get? (I loved it, take a look at my review for details) But let’s hear what Cindy has to say.

Marlene: Hi Cindy! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Cindy: Let’s see, I live in Michigan with my husband of 27 years and two college-age sons. Two dogs, one iguana, and I’m still the only female in the house. My professional background is in wildlife education, but now I write full time.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing. Are you a planner or pantser?

Cindy: I’m not disciplined enough to really have a “typical” day. I get up. Usually I answer my email and play for a little bit on Facebook, plus do any promo I need to for the day. Then I write until dinner time, and sometimes into the evening. I take breaks for email, Facebook  food and Diet Coke though-out the day. I can write through just about any chaos, so the TV or XBox is often chattering right beyond my monitor and the dogs demand in and out often enough to keep me from sitting still for too long. As far as plotting, I’m somewhere in between. I have a general idea of where the plot is going to go, and I usually sell on a synopsis these days, so I have a plan, but the details always surprise me.

Marlene: The Gaslight Chronicles take place in a steampunk version of Victorian England. Would you like to provide readers with an introduction to your particular version of steampunk Victoriana?

Cindy: Okay. In the real world, in the 1830-40s, a man named Charles Babbage developed plans for what he called an “analytical engine.” Ada, Lady Lovelace a mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron, wrote the code that this machine would use, on punch cards, to operate. In real life, Babbage’s world fell apart and he never finished this machine. Modern scholars are convinced it might have worked. So in the Gaslight Chronicles, computers were invented in the 1840s, and a woman was the first coder. Lady Lovelace went on (in my world) to establish a college for women in the sciences at Oxford. Therefore, by the middle of the Gaslight books, we have university-educated engineers and doctors who are female. Also, this world has vampires, but they’re not sexy. They’re stinky and rotting and all they want to do is feed. The Order of the Round Table, descendants of the original knights, still exists, mainly to kill vampires and deal with other supernatural threats. Werewolves, on the other hand, are just people, including Liam, the hero of Moonlight. There are some hints that the Fae might be running around as well.

Marlene: Steampunk isn’t just about fiction, it also influences art and costume design. What do you think makes the concept of steampunk so appealing to so many people in so many forms?

Cindy: Well, for one thing, the clothes are incredibly cool. You can go full-on Victorian, or just wear a knockout top hat with your jeans. The genre as far as music, art, fashion, and fiction go is really limitless. As for the social aspect, I suspect it’s a case of lots of grownups who are little kids at heart to get together and play with cool stuff. At least that’s what I like about it.

Marlene: It was an absolutely brilliant idea, but what inspired you to blend the legends of the Knights of the Round Table with steampunk in your Gaslight Chronicles?

Cindy: I have to give credit to my husband for this one. We were sitting outside on the deck and I said, “I need a name for my organization of monster hunters in Victorian England. I described a little of what they do and he suggested the Order of the Round Table. I looked at my manuscript and realized I had already named characters MacKay (son of Kay) and Lake (du Lac). It was as if The Order had already taken shape before I even realized it.

Marlene: A lot of your books, whether they are historical or contemporary, steampunk or not, have at least some paranormal elements. What draws you to write about worlds where the “things that go bump in the night” really exist?

Cindy: Again, I think it comes back to the idea of stretching my imagination. I like my fiction to be an escape from reality, so I try to take it all the way.

Marlene: What can we expect of Moonlight & Mechanicals?

Cindy: Well, Wink is one of the most headstrong heroines I’ve ever written. She’s literally crawled her way up from the gutters and she’s not about to let anyone stand in her way. Liam has a bit of a stick up his bum about his own potential as a mate, so he’s going to do his best to hook Wink up with somebody “safe.” You’ll find a bit of Cyrano creeping into the story. And then there’s a maniac trying to take over England with his infernal inventions.

Marlene: You’ve published a number of titles with Ellora’s Cave, and now quite a few with Carina Press. From your perspective, what was different about the publishing experience with these two different publishers?

Cindy: The biggest difference is that Carina is a division of Harlequin. So although the Carina team has a very similar mind-set to other e-publishers, the mechanics of it, the contracts, the royalty checks, and the covers go through more layers of bureaucracy. On the other hand, I’ve gotten a better distribution through Carina, but I do love that Ellora’s Cave offers print. Really, I have good things to say about both publishers, but the experience isn’t at all the same.

Marlene: Will there be more books in this series? What is next on your schedule?

Cindy: The next Gaslight Chronicles book will be out next April and is a shorter novel called Cards and Caravans. Or in my head, it’s the Order goes to the circus. 🙂

Marlene: Will there be any more books in the Urban Arcana series? (please? whimper, whimper)

Cindy: Right now, there aren’t any planned, but I haven’t ruled it out entirely. There’s still Vin the demon who needs a story, and Maeve, the healer from Motor City Fae. I’m not sure if they go together or if they need two separate stories.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Cindy: I’m really bad at touting my own work, but I’ll give it a shot. I tend to write characters who are smart and use their brains as well as brawn to solve problems. People tell me there’s humor in there, although I don’t write intentionally funny. What I *do* write is a story meant to take you away from your day to day problems for a little while and transport you to where the good guys always win and get their HEA.

Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why do you recommend that particular book?

Cindy: One of my books that very few people have read was my first sale, Curses. It’s set in a world fairly similar to Urban Arcana, although it’s in a small Michigan town. It was my first werewolf book, and remains one of my favorites.

Marlene: Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn’t know to ask?

Cindy: I was a grad student intern at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, once, a long, long time ago.

Marlene: Morning person or night owl?

Cindy: Night owl, all the way.

Cindy, you had me all the way back at “Diet Coke though-out the day,” just so you know. Thanks so much for giving us a little more insight into your world. Babbage’s Difference Engine made all the difference! That makes perfect sense. 

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>


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