Steamed Up: a Multi-Authored Anthology


Title: Steamed Up Anthology
Author: Multi-Authored Anthology
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 348
Characters: Multi-Characters
POV: 1st, 3rd
Sub-Genre: Steampunk
Kisses: 5


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.

Stories included:
Five to One by Angelia Sparrow
The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song by Amy Rae Durreson
Ace of Hearts by Mary Pletsch
Caress by Eli Easton
The Galatea’s Captain by Anka Grace
Screws by R.D. Hero
The Clockwork Heart by Kim Fielding
The Golden Goose by Mark Lesney
Spindle and Bell by Augusta Li
Untouchable by Layla M. Wier
Swiftsilver by Bell Ellis

Review:

Five to One by Angelia Sparrow

Jonathan Crawford works two jobs to support his best friend, Declan Ferguson, hoping Declan’s inventions will someday make them rich. When Jonathan brings home news of a transcontinental human-powered vehicle race with a million dollar purse, dreams of wealth dance in their heads and they plan to enter a racer built by Declan. Although they’ve shared a room for years, building the racer together gives Jonathan a chance to realize he loves Declan as more than a friend, and Declan loves him back. To make the rest of their dreams come true, they only need to win the race.

This was a beautiful and sexy friends-to-lovers story about two young men, Jonny and Dee, who are poor but dream big. It’s easy to relate to their wish to better themselves and their quality of their lives. A lovely story with a positive message and a good start to the anthology, offering a warm feeling, a rush of excitement in the race, and leaving us with a smile. 5 Stars.

The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song by Amy Rae Durreson

When one of the mechanical nightingales at the Vauxhall Flying Pleasure Gardens refuses to sing, senior mechanic Shem Holloway has to call in the help of its inventor, the arrogant aristocrat, Lord Gabriel Marchmont. The nightingale is lovelorn because of its attachment to a real bird, and while the two men work together to mend the brass bird’s heart, their feelings for each other grow warm. But if they are to move beyond attraction, Shem must overcome his distrust of the upper class and decide whether to risk his own heart on Gabriel.

A working class mechanic, Shem, meets aristocratic, eccentric inventor, Marchmont. Though worlds apart, they find a balance to fix the problem of a broken nightingale on a flying island park. This was a bittersweet story that brought tears in my eyes and a goofy smile on my lips. And the added tale about the bird was absolutely adorable. Loved it. 5+ Stars.

Ace of Hearts by Mary Pletsch

All Aeroplane Mechanic First Class William Pettigrew ever wanted was to fly, but due to an old eye injury, he can only maintain the aircraft and fantasize about the pilots. When Captain James Hinson, war hero and dirigible flying ace, joins the squadron, William catches his eye. But William lacks the confidence to see James’s overtures as anything but friendly interest in his innovations. Then James is shot down over enemy territory, and for William that changes everything. The time has come for him to choose: believe in himself and fly or lose forever the man whose heart he hopes to win.

This one is a love at first sight story—with very little romance. In fact, this reads like a wartime adventure where a captured friend is being rescued from behind enemy lines. I really would have hoped for more interaction between William and James to justify the strength of William’s emotions which leads to reckless behavior. As an action story, however, this was pretty good. 4- stars.

Caress by Eli Easton

During the Crimean war, Colin Davies, a cavalry officer, loses both hands in a grenade blast. A brilliant machinist named Tinker Gray fashions Colin a new pair of hands—strong and capable, but delicate enough to caress. The two first bond over similar views on the war, but when Colin tests the hands, he realizes Tinker loves him. Too soon, Colin is sent back to the front, having been deemed able to fight because of his fine new hands. They’ve had but one kiss, yet love might see them through if they fix their hopes on being together again when the bloodshed is over.

This short story reads like a full-blown novel. The emotions are so close to the surface, the heartbreak of being separated from the love of your life, the horrors of war and weapons tech. Tinker is such a wonderful character that I can see why Colin falls for him. But Colin is being outfitted with killing mechanical hands—a man who hates and fears killing. So Tinker teaches Colin’s hands to caress to give him a reason to live. Simultaneously Tinker’s own mechanical heart learns to love. Gosh, this was such a tearjerker, a perfectly beautiful love story, fragile and tender, a light of life in the midst of the darkness of war. 5+ stars.

The Galatea’s Captain by Anka Grace

When philosopher Kamil Ramses learns the plight of the poor in Camlaan, he offers guidance to its queen. But en route to meet her, his foot becomes gangrenous and must be amputated. Talos is captain of the airship Galatea as well as a brilliant tinker, a far cry from his impoverished childhood. He is summoned to fashion Kamil’s new foot, and Kamil’s distrust is quickly overcome when he sees the fine quality of the captain’s own prosthetic arm. But Talos has only two weeks to make Kamil’s prosthesis. If that’s enough time for Talos to overcome his own prejudices against Kamil’s privileged past, romance might blossom.

A dedicated inventor, who also happens to be a former air pirate, meets an aristocrat who needs a new mechanical foot to replace the one he lost. Both men are surprised with who they meet, demonstrating the theme here: Never judge a book by its cover. Talos, the fair captain, and Kamil, the foreigner in pain, are an unlikely pairing, but they pull it off. A wonderful start for a romance in the air. 4.5 stars.

Screws by R.D. Hero

Spoiled upper-class student Julius Barnes wants to be an inventor, but his father sends him to work in a screw factory to change his perspective. Julius doesn’t exactly charm his co-workers with his condescending attitude, but he is himself charmed by Hank Hooley, a fellow worker whose experience and patience help Julius see things in a new light. But when Julius’s father gives him the go ahead to attend the inventor’s academy, Julius may have to choose between his dreams and love.

Julius frowns upon having to put his dreams on hold to work manual labor, at a screw factory no less. But the rough workman Hank catches his eye, and suddenly dreams are in for a change. This meeting of two very different men is refreshing but not necessarily an all-out romance. Julius falls harder than Hank, or at least it seems that way at first. But the promise of a future together looms ahead, and we’re left with a good outlook for things to come. 4.25 stars.

The Clockwork Heart by Kim Fielding

Dante Winter makes a living repairing broken things. Socially awkward and rejected by his father over his too-fanciful work, he’s alone in the world. Dante’s life changes when he finds a badly damaged male golem, a lifelike automaton created for service and pleasure. He does his best to fix the golem, whom he names Talon, and comes to find that the creature is very human—perhaps more human than Dante. But when Talon tempts him with something more than friendship, Dante must decide whether a clockwork heart is capable of love.

This one was an absolute tearjerker. Dante seems callous at first but, as the title suggests, even hard hearts can learn to love. Talon is a wonderful character, probably the bubbliest and chattiest artificial life form I’ve ever read about. Absolutely adored him, and hated how hard his life had been, how he’d been used as a sex slave and then dismantled and left in the trash, unable to get away or die. Horrible. The relationship between Dante and Talon was a fascinating read, a wonderful, heart-warming romance. 5 stars.

The Golden Goose by Mark Lesney

Fleeing a failed robbery, a usually-successful thief in late Victorian London saves the handsome Viscount Gordon Philip Dennis from an attack by his assistant. The thief’s motives aren’t altruistic—he wants the riches that might line his pockets if the viscount’s gold collecting machine really works. But the assistant who attacked the peer isn’t who he seems; his employers are bent on making the freethinking viscount’s invention fail. When another attack is mounted, it becomes clear the ruffians are backed by British bankers. Amidst danger and despite differences, the thief and the viscount fall in love. To survive and be together they must face the dangers and attempt a truly daring escape.

I didn’t really feel the romance here. In fact, I didn’t feel much of an attraction either. There was a lot of long inner musings for such a short story, things that could have been worked into dialogue. Nonetheless, the beginning of this story was by far the funniest in the whole anthology. Loved it! And there’s a bit more action in this story than in the others, and with a dedicated bad guy to give our mad inventor heroes trouble. 4- stars.

Spindle and Bell by Augusta Li

Spindle steals to pay his benefactor for his drug-laced “special milk.” He’s addicted and lonely—though he doesn’t realize how alone he is until he meets Bel. Bel is near death from a plague that has all of London terrified, but he dreams of having a chance to be seen as a man again, and to see again the wonders of the city he loves. And maybe, if Bel can have a night of love with Spindle, they can both find the freedom and strength they need the most.

If the other stories were tearjerkers, this is the mother of those. A beautiful, bittersweet tale about a thief boy with an opium addiction and an aristocratic inventor with a deadly illness. A sort of happy ending is in store—but only for one. An amazing story, though a bit light on the steampunk aspects. Yet I didn’t care because of the sheer devastating emotional turmoil of this love story. 5 stars.

Untouchable by Layla M. Wier

Prohibition agent Agamemnon Rawson is a loose cannon with a clockwork heart and a reputation for catching his quarry by any means. His new partner, by-the-book Agent George Aldis, is supposed to keep him out of trouble. As the two face danger together while investigating Capone’s bootleg whisky operation, Rawson begins to realize his clockwork heart is not as untouchable as he claims.

Prohibition in the Americas—but with a very different kind of technological development. Intriguing. Aldis is new to the job while Rawson, with his clockwork heart, has done the job for a long time. An action story of finding and taking down bad guys, smuggling booze in blimps, was a good one. The romance is subtle and sweet, regardless of the age difference. 4.25 stars.

Swiftsilver by Bell Ellis

Thio is the next Baron Tenet of Lessings and a self-styled genius inventor, but he sometimes invents flying machines that don’t fly. When Thio crashes his aircar into the alchemist’s shop, he meets Seamus, the alchemist’s abused apprentice. Seamus has invented swiftsilver, a marvelous substance, and while he takes care of Thio’s injuries, they begin a friendship and start inventing things together. Seamus’s master tries to end their relationship, but Thio remains undaunted. He rescues Seamus and takes him to his estate, where they experiment with swiftsilver, flying machines, and romance. Life brings a storm of responsibilities and obstacles, but love might flourish if they can remain devoted and determined no matter where the wind takes them.

The anthology ends on a positive note and with another story that reads like a bigger novel. Seamus is an alchemist-in-training for a monstrous boss when Thio, an enthusiastic inventor, literally crashlands on his doorstep. Thio is overzealous with insane ideas as he learns through mistakes and errors, usually explosive. Seamus becomes his perfect partner, stabilizing and calming, thoughtful and rational. Their romance is absolutely beautiful, first-time discoveries of sensuality and love. The message here is life-affirming and I was so pleased the two men could fly together in the end, having already helped make the world a better place. A great conclusion to the anthology. 5+ stars.

Reviewed By: Susan

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Recent reviews and year-end roundup | Layla M. Wier

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