Author: Amy Rae Durreson, Eli Easton, Bell Ellis, Kim Fielding, Anka Grace, R.D. Hero,
Mark Lesney, Augusta Li, Mary Pletsch, Angelia Sparrow, Layla M. Wier
Genre: Steam Punk
Length: Anthology (344 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 17th, 2013)
Heat Level: Moderate to Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4Hearts
Blurb: Inventors, pilots, tinkers, and soldiers; magical metals to replace an aging heart or a ruined limb; steam-powered fantasy worlds of clockwork nightingales, automatons, dirigibles, and men. The stories in this anthology visit diverse times in the history of modern man, and the men who populate these tales face war and cruelty, masters and autocrats, illness and poverty and greed. Yet the heat of romance outmatches even the steam engines, and time and again, the gears of love rule the day.
Review: Steamed Up is yet another anthology I not only don’t regret but actually loved reading. Steampunk has a special place in my library, I will devour everything that belongs to the genre, but this anthology was more than just that, it was really well written, with wonderful stories that beg to be read. I think you’ll agree with me when I say that there are all kind of themes among these stories, the constant being that romantic flirtation and love in times that come with their own challenges. In my opinion, this is an anthology you don’t want to miss.
Five to One by Angelia Sparrow ♥♥♥♥4 Hearts
I absolutely loved this one. Yes, it gets all my 4 Hearts effortlessly and oh, how I wish I could read the rest of Johnny and Dee’s story. What happens when they reach San Francisco, do they win the race, and do they get their hearts’ desires?
But I’m running ahead. In this little story Dee is a lovely red-haired Irish boy and tinkerer, and Johnny his roommate and friend for the past five years. Their friendship going stronger and stronger with each passing day neither man can imagine a life different from what they’d been living unless it’s slightly more comfortable in the financial department. And there comes the race. Manmade machines that can run 25 miles per hour and race from Boston to SF and the winner win one million dollars.
Can Dee create such a device? Can Johnny pedal it through the country? Can they win their prize?
While trying to make ends meet and make their dreams come true another prize must be fought for and won when in his enthusiasm Johnny realizes he’s in love with his best friend. Fears because such acts are illegal, fears of rejection, all must be put aside and risk if he wants his hearts true desire.
This story was romantic and I loved it, because it was so well described and written, I had no way to avoid getting sucked in it. I loved both characters here and they managed to make an impression on their individuality in such a short little story. The romance between them is not gradual yet it’s definitely not instant either. A brewing love was hidden beneath layers of friendship and when it took form it was not only gratifying but also sweet and tender and yet sexy and adorable at the same time.
I loved this pair and their story and yup, I want more.
The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song by Amy Rae Durreson ♥♥♥♥4 Hearts
Oh how lovely a story this one was. The second in this anthology and the second I loved reading. It’s wonderful how nicely the balance between romance and tinkering plot was woven. There is this slight emotional tinge between words as the main characters of this story are divided by class and rank.
Lord Gabriel Marchmont is an inventor and Shem a mechanic. While working the Flying Garden – which was a stunning description of a flying mechanical garden – Nightingale Nr 48 ceased to function properly and the inventor had to be called in to fix it, as it was quite a complex little thing. While Shem is a good enough mechanic, he had to call defeat and endure the arrogant Lord and his sneering comments.
But behind the arrogance was hidden a lonely enough heart and when both men find out that their mechanical little bird had fallen in love, hence he ceased singing when he was supposed to – they both fell into a pattern of working/thinking of ways to make the poor bird find a chance to happiness.
The real challenge for Gabriel though was making Shem let go of his safe net and risk his way for his own happiness.
It was lovely I tell you. Gabriel was an adorable character and I felt a little bit sad for him and how lonely he truly was in all that big house of his filled to the brim with brass and gears yet not a soul nearby to care for him. And poor Shem, so much scared of the rank difference and the dark side of things that he didn’t dare making that one last step and find a match for his own lonely heart.
I loved the writing style this author has. The mannerisms of her characters, the way they approached each other, the descriptions of the world where the story is set, and the way she made everything work. Yes, it was indeed a very enjoyable story.
Quite sentimental and sweet this read is a must for lovers of the genre in my opinion.
Ace of Hearts by Mary Pletsch ♥♥♥♥3.5 Hearts
Ah, a war! Boches against Albians, aeroplanes against dirigibles, and a man against his own fears.
Aeroplane Mechanic First Class William Pettigrew is well aware he is good, yet not good enough. A childish mistake cost him his eye and now his dream of being a fierce pilot is lost forever. He contains himself with being a mechanic for his mother’s lovely planes and spends his days tinkering and fixing and making modifications on them to fit the warfare’s demands. At the same time he contains himself with ogling from afar the gorgeous pilots never daring make a move on them, resenting his weak personality and the fear of rejection that weakens him every time.
But when hero Captain James Hinson makes a turn on his career leaving the dirigibles behind in favor of aeroplanes William dares dream of making a move, of reaching for something rather than lying in wait behind the shadows. As much as he pushes himself though old habits die-hard and it’s only when James is lost behind enemy lines that William is faced with his life’s dilemma: Be daring and charge in the rescue or stay hidden forever behind the shadows and perhaps lose his one chance at love…
That’s the story in a nutshell and I loved it. I loved the language and the words used in it. They were so in balance with this books setting and genre. I loved the action part of this little story so much that I didn’t mind at all the lack of romance, though it was there, subtly poking you with even subtler flirting between our characters.
What I mostly loved was the passion William displayed for his work and his planes. The description of them and the fascinating way they came into the read it was almost catching all that enthusiasm and it managed to hook me in this story so easily. Well, that along with the fact this was warfare had me enthralled within the blink of an eye.
Well what is there more to say; yet another one I loved.
Caress by Eli Easton ♥♥♥♥♥5 Hearts
Oh dear me, what a wonderful, wonderful story totally deserving all 5 Hearts.
The story is set in London 1857 going back in time as our genius main character Tinker remembers his life and what has happened. This character, oh my, such a lovely work from this author to gift us with such a delightful character. He’s a genius and you can see his unique mind at work when his inner thoughts break in the narration of the story. It makes you want to squeeze him tight if it weren’t for the fear of breaking him in half due to his slight and tender form. His childlike appearance has his poor heart to thank for which was way too weak to support his growth. It replacement with a machine pump, a work of art and gift from his former master didn’t help Tinker grow more, but it did give him endurance…
It is lovely seeing/reading this character. He is so bright and so lovely. His genius is of course taken advantage of and used to create weapons during the war. The deaths they cause haunting his dreams and conscience, but it is also the cause for him finding the one person who ever saw him for himself, for Tinker.
The second character of the story and Tinker’s obsession is Colin. Colin is a musician in his head though he never heard his music being played. The war took him and somehow, despite hating killing people he made to Captain only to be blown to pieces and come to Tinker’s part of the war to make a “laboratory rat”. A voluntary human for killing prosthetic arms to attach. An undoable feat yet one look at Colin’s eyes and Tinker will do whatever he can to save this man from the cruel fate of a crippled soldier, even if it means he’s turning him into a more fierce killer.
“A composer and a maker of miniatures, made to dance to the song of death.”
“An artificial heart, artificial hands, a love outside the lines.”
I just had to add these two lines from the story, they made such an impact with me. I loved this read, it was not only fascinating, it was moving and sweet, and brilliant and I simply adored it. The whole start to finish it was a fantastic read, so totally my kind of cupper, so erotic without any sex scenes in it, so sensual in its sub-lines, so beautiful a love story. I wonder if I’ve been starving for real romance because I’m utterly taken by this read. And there’s nothing more to say than go read it, it’s bound to take you for a lovely ride.
The Galatea’s Captain by Anka Grace ♥♥♥3 Hearts
Ah, the mysterious Galatea’s Captain who remained a second throughout the read to Kamil’s claim for main character. In this read, we have a philosopher, a scholar, and a pacifist Kamil who has had a bad trip overseas resulting in him losing his foot. The Duchess of Althea and her husband the Duke find the most promising man to fix him a prosthetic leg made from a rare organic metal.
This whole story takes place at Galatea, Captain Tales’ ship, but what we mostly read about is how Kamil passes his days and how he slowly begins to fall for the charming young Captain who is a master tinkerer as well.
There is no real romance here and most of the flirting between the two of them was simply mentioned rather experienced so we miss this contact with the characters, the attachment if you will. To top it all, it remains a flirt and nothing else till the day Kamil leaves the ship with his prosthetic in hand to go to the hospital and have it attached. They say good-bye there and I really felt lost at that. There is no more budding and strengthening a relationship, the pair is apart and when the end of this story came it simply held no power over me even as it had a happily ever after.
Atop all the lack of romance there was a lack of real tinkering as it happened behind closed doors and we only had a slight glimpse of a little mouse chasing a lovely bird. Other than that, though the whole Steampunk feel was a bit crippled here and in general, the read felt a bit lacking.
However, I still liked it, not only it wasn’t bad, but also it was quite decent and well I do have a love for these read. I simply wish there had been a better focus and development of the characters.
Screws by R.D. Hero ♥♥♥2.5~3 Hearts
A wanna-be inventor young Julius has to first go to University and learn tinkering. If only his father would agree and forego his dreams of seeing his son a lawyer. In an attempt to disparage Julius from his “pipe-dreams,” his father arranges a job at the screw factory for his young son.
Appalled at first Julius soon find consolation at his working buddies, especially Hank who is more than handsome and so very the material of wet dreams for young Julius. Drawn to this man, literally bewitched by him Julius gets into the routine of hard work and months go by without him noticing, his dream no longer being the obsession it once was. But Julius forgot that his father only meant to scare him with hard work, believing that Julius would soon relent and succumb to his will. Now daddy dear wants to take his only son out of the low rank factory and sent him off to higher education even if it’s that dreary engineering.
As his dream comes closer, Julius realizes he might be losing something even more important and he might never have the opportunity to chase it down again. His love for Hank needs him to be bold and finally go ahead and spell it out.
So this read is totally lacking the Steampunk quality, but it’s quite good on the romance side of the equation. Julius is young, naïve and arrogant at first verging on obnoxious even, but soon changes his tune as lust first and love later hit him head on. The classic sentence-turning-prize theme and it was quite lovely. Now if only there was some inventing happening there to balance this out and give it a bit more depth, some more story to it. I honestly expected the kid to make something and drive himself out of the slum, but the author had other intentions here.
So, while not a fascinating read to make your head spin, this was not bad either and well, Hank had a certain appeal, even as I never found out why he tolerated the little prick at the beginning.
The Clockwork Heart by Kim Fielding ♥♥♥♥3.5 Hearts
Sweet, foolish perhaps in its romantic approach my cynical side says, but sweet and lovely read.
To fall for a golem, to have your hear thaw out of its ice and to finally feel emotions but not toward other human, toward a golem, a machine.
Dante is a man lost and forgotten. His father threw him away because he couldn’t stop adding his imagination to the uninspiring clocks his father fixed or made, turning them into ornaments. His imagination crushed by his own blood and other masters, Dante preferred living on his own, resembling a beggar and quite poor, rather than being further oppressed.
He made his life searching through the scrapheap’s at the wasteland and finding, repairing, and reselling broken things. Until one day, he stumbles upon a real treasure, a golem.
Badly abused the golem at first seemed un-repairable. But a weird thing about those automatons, they were made to resemble a human a bit too much and Dante slowly succumbed to the machines moaning and pleas and put all he could to fix him up. Talon now became a source of joy and even though he could make a great deal of money out of him the very thought of selling Talon has Dante’s heartache. Weird that his heart would feel something after being convinced for so long that it might have been a clockwork instead of flesh and blood, all due to a lovely imperfect golem…
As I said, a sweet and romantic read and a very enjoyable one at that, this story is quite nicely written focusing more on emotions and a slowly growing trust/love relationship. The inner works of Talon were never closely viewed as Dante was not his creator and he didn’t know how he worked at all, so Talon retained that air of magic about him throughout the read. I actually like that, as I liked the imperfections both characters had. It made them somewhat more approachable even as I was a bit apprehensive of the human/machine relationship that unfolded.
Overall, I was left with pleasant feelings from this story going as far as saying I liked a lot. Definitely recommended.
The Golden Goose by Mark Lesney ♥♥♥♥3.5 Hearts
Oh hilarious read this one. A thief whose luck failed him mid-robbery goes through a series of events that make you laugh and laugh, only to end up in the backyard of a crazy inventor’s house the moment he was about to be… violated. On one hand the cops chasing him on the other a gorgeous young gentleman about to be molested and possibly killed, our thief who is totally against violence manages to save his gentleman in distress.
Viscount Gordon Dennis has sold everything he had for his invention and is nearing his goal. With his former footman being a near murderer he’s left hanging and in need of help. So what better choice than the man who saved his life, even if he’s a bit shady with the police on his tail and stolen jewelry upon his clothes.
I loved the story. The plot easily captivates you and the action comes fast and furious at you. Gordon is a lovely character, a bit naïve yet so adorable and our thief, Joshua Clarridge – whose name is only mentioned once, once in the whole read – is one of those characters that are brilliant and smart and cocky and have the world against them yet they prevail only to fall for the most unlikely situations all over again. When he falls in love with the mad/naïve penniless scientist, it only made sense that it would be his luck to have a Viscount at his feet worth nothing valuable. What a thief hah!
Romance wise unfortunately, this read didn’t quite have me there. It was too fast and came out of nowhere. No grounds to base those feeling and all that risk. But in the chaos of unfortunate events it went amiss and one could easily overlook it, I think.
Overall, I loved it and had some serious laughs.
Spindle and Bell by Augusta Li ♥♥♥♥♥5 Hearts
An exquisite story this one traces the life of Spindle-Reed, a mix of a man from of several races, unwanted, cast off. In the times when a terrible disease plagues the country, when air is filtered and people have to walk around with masks to protect themselves, the same mask hides Spindles ugliness, or so he’s made to believe from his “charitable” caretaker who controls Spindle’s life by way of doping him with opium. As a thank you for his caretaking, Spindle uses his special talent to climb like a spider and flow through rooftops like an uncanny night-bird to steal from wealthy houses and return for more of the same. Day in, day out until one night everything changes.
When Spindle meets sick, genius, and astonishingly beautiful Bel his entire life changes and everything gains a meaning. Bel doesn’t see a mix match of an ugly man in Spindle, rather a gorgeous, marvelous creature, and he’s in awe of how could Spindle ever think he’s ugly in first place. Bel shows him a new life, gifts him with the precious gift of all, love, and yet another, freedom. But Bel is too sick, and while his genius has managed to find a cure to the plague, it’s too late for him to survive the illness.
There is nothing that can be done, but live the life that he has remained best he can, and what he wants is to spend a night, a single night free of his golden cage. That Spindle swear will gift his precious Bel no matter what. But the shadows of his life aren’t far behind and are always watching Spindle, ready to jump at him when he least expect it and drag him back to the dreamlike fog of drugs and dead-end life.
An astonishingly beautiful story, made even more so for the short length it has yet lacking no detail or development. The characters are stunning, adorable, and appealing. They make you want to read and read and hope that the story never ends. There is no happily ever after for them and indeed the story leaves you with a bittersweet taste, but it’s that that makes it so worth reading. The utter realistic approach in this total fiction is fascinating and though it could be dark and heavy, it is neither.
I also loved the take on the disease. It felt like the 18th century England with the industrial revolution thrown in there, the mankind suffering from its greed for progress with citizens being either too rich or too poor, making for a huge social gap. There is simply so much to this story without putting a burden or making it a heavy read. I loved reading it and even though the ending was near heartbreaking, I loved it more for it.
Untouchable by Lela M. Wier ♥♥♥♥3.5 Hearts
Going after Capone? Not an easy feat, that sneaky son of a bitch is slippery like eel. But Federal Agent Rawson has it in his mind to get him and shut his business down.
Meanwhile green Federal Agent Aldis is sent to “help” him and at the same time keep an eye on him and report back for any misgivings.
As things would go, the silent brooding older man is as strong an appeal as booze for an addict for young Aldis, and he can’t help being charmed by this “heartless” man.
The plot quite simple yet engaging as it gets. The stalking and observation of the suspects, finding the missing puzzle and finally getting to the bottom of the mystery while not overly complex it was still enticing, with the final big BAM giving the entire plot an increase of intensity.
The romance between the agents is subtle, hints and quiet flirting, secret and unvoiced seduction. Everything hidden in the deepest layers of the heart until the big blast makes them reckless enough to dare a move. Even that is quite slight, feather-like even and all that surrounds you is this huge sense of manly eroticism, stoic and hard, with a romantic flair you can’t help get lost in. I loved it really, Rawson being my favorite, all this macho persona with his clockwork heart and steely attitude. His softening to Aldis gentler ways was gradual and made for a lovely quality when they finally decided to move on to life together, even as there were not much said if any at all.
Overall, it was a lovely story and strongly recommended.
Swiftsilver by Bell Ellis ♥♥♥♥♥4.5 Hearts
Aww! Yes, this is one of those stories that drag that “aww” out of you no matter if you want to or not.
Seamus, oh my, what a character. An apprentice for a cruel master indeed. Not a day went by that he wasn’t reminded he was in debt to his master for taking him out of streets and given a home. Not once was he praised for his work. Not once was he given the slightest of freedom. Even his creation when sixteen, swiftsilver, had to remain in shadows, well hidden for fear of punishment. Everything that happened, from the sky pouring rain to the heat of summer was his fault, and could very well be punished for no reason at all. Yet he endured.
Thio; you simply can’t love him enough. Exuberant, overly optimistic, adventurous, and a dreamer. The cherry on top, the son of a Baron. And he went on crashing with his invention and dreams right on Seamus’ doorstep, marking the start of a unique friendship and a love like no other.
These two characters are marked by innocence, both of them but Seamus the most as he was not allowed nothing at all in his nineteen years of life beside the apothecary work. Their entire relationship at the beginning is that of two utterly different boys in station, lonely in their own way, finding a real honest friendship in each other, matching each other’s personalities and balancing them. Seamus giving steadiness and slowing Thio down a bit from his fast and furious motions, helping and smoothing his crashes, while Thio fueling Seamus’ dreams and giving him freedom he hadn’t dared dream of.
When they made that final step into being lovers, I must say it was almost magical. All their innocence was so very adorable and lovely to read while they explored each other. Youth’s enthusiasm was no match for the feeling that flowed through the text so easily and made you float with them to the wonders of lovemaking. Together they experimented with science by day and with love by night and made you feel young again, excited and happy.
This was a story that actually covered twenty years so as you imagine it was quite wholesome, the end melting you like butter on a hot pan. I feel boneless right now and so very languid, sated with reading for the time being and I’m just so satisfied with this read. A wonderful, wonderful love story.