On Steampunk Romance and starting with the Wrong Book

Edie had been nattering about ‘steampunk’ here and there, and while it piqued my curiosity each time, taking the time to check it out kept slipping my mind. While I was second-hand book shopping I picked up a copy of  ‘Steamed’ by Katie MacAlister. I vaguely recalled Edie telling me she hadn’t gotten past the first page, but thought I might give it a whirl (as I just told her, telling me not to do something is as good as daring me to).

But first I googled steampunk, and found out I had actually read some of the science-fiction based sort. I’m not going to get into any long-winded explanations of it as I’m not a strict sub-genre fan at all (and certainly not an expert on this one). But it seems perfectly suited as a sub-genre in romance, and it seems like it  hasn’t been explored a great deal yet.

This here is the culprit

The book starts with a horrible “is that a blah-blah in your pocket” cliche which is usually enough to make me close the book there and then, but I rallied and kept reading.

Jack Fletcher spends the first chapter telling us why he is really not so-cool. Then dropping as many ‘steampunk’ references as possible along the way to his lab (he’s an engineer) he meets with his sister Hallie, who manages to spill a vial of something, which transports them into Steampunk land.

It’s not timetravel, we find. It is still 2010. Also it’s not strictly steampunk. There’s an air-ship and a lot of talk of steampunk.

Then we meet Octavia, an air-ship Captain. Expecting a strong female lead? Think again. The woman has no handle on her crew at all, who either disobey her or make constant lecherous remarks about her breasts, which she gets exasperated at, and not much else. I thought perhaps the family tragedy she recalls early on would lend her some depth, but, well, not so far anyway.

Jack Fletcher is a silly, shallow, irritating man. This is displayed in some mind-bogglingly appalling statements such as

“a man would have to be dead six months to not want to ogle your breasts” Really? Like you wouldn’t get a poke in the eye for that statement? But Octavia gets all fluttery and brushes it off.

Then “Your mind says no but your body says yes” and, after a mild complaint,  “Your mouth says yes too”

There is no instance in where a statement even vaguely similar to this should be used, ever. That is all.

I imagine that finding your hero repulsive and your heroine a simpering fool will usually deem the rest of the book unreadable.  Sexual tension is no excuse for being moronic. I put the book down.

After some wailing on Twitter the other day the lovely Jen from Evening Hour and Kat from Bookthingo swooped in to help me with some suggestions for what I might enjoy more. Thank you girls.

I picked the book up again, but then the lengthy explanations on the mechanics of the air-ship began, which normally would be fine, but as I couldn’t emotionally invest in the world, it did nothing but annoy me. So I stopped reading. I don’t think I made 100 pages.

A spectacular failure for my first attempt at this sub-genre.


6 thoughts on “On Steampunk Romance and starting with the Wrong Book”

  1. Well, I’m not one to reduce someone’s creation to a sub-genre, but some of your favourite books already loosely fit into steam punk, Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and the Sally Lockhart Mysteries, for example.
    For any author, whether romance or not, to simply latch onto a trending genre and a hammer out something with no genuine feeling for or understanding of its style or substance is always a mistake, and will lead to the kind of half-baked (or half-steamed, if you like) agglomeration reviewed above. Some SF authors do the same thing.

    However, as gel wasn’t invented then, my main concern with steam punk is how they stop their spiky hair from going curly with all that steam about?

  2. Did I say “sub-genre” too many times? I think I did 🙂
    I was surprised to see His Dark Materials described as steampunk at first, and while I suppose it fits the genre, for me it is something else entirely, and outstandingly. And by the time I got to Amber Spyglass the whole thing had changed again.
    My vague research suggested Tim Powers was one of the leaders in the sci-fi genre and his work had only ever been described to me as fantasy *shrug* maybe it’s a term used more overseas than it is here.

  3. Stumbled across this post and while I havent read this particular book, I have read other books by the author and I can see why you didnt enjoy this book.
    She used to be more enjoyable but I dont really love her books any longer.

    If you would like to give Steampunk romance another try, read the Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks.
    I just finished it and really liked it!
    She doesnt rub your face in the tech and weirdspeak, and the characters as well as plot have substance to them.

  4. Funnily enough I have just started reading Iron Duke. I am enjoying it a lot, hoping to get it finished this weekend.
    I loved Katie’s Guardian series and I am still finishing up the Silver Dragon books, although I haven’t read the vampire ones. I don’t think I’m going to give those ones a try.

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