Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Clockwork Christmas

A Clockwork Christmas
A steampunk Christmas anthology. Four clockwork and corset filled stories! Changed forever after tragedy, a woman must draw strength from her husband's love. A man learns that love isn't always what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas. 
  • Crime Wave in a Corset
  •  by Stacy Gail
  • This Winter Heart
  •  by PG Forte
  • Wanted: One Scoundrel
  •  by Jenny Schwartz
  • Far From Broken
  •  by JK Coi
Crime Wave in a Corset  Roderick Coddington is on a mission to make Cornelia Peabody pay. After identifying her as the thief who stole a priceless FabergĂ© egg from his dying sister, he finds her and shackles a deadly timepiece to her arm. If she doesn't return the egg by Christmas morning, she will die. Normally seven days is more than enough time for Cornelia to carry out the perfect crime, but Roderick's intrusion into her life is beyond distracting. He challenges her mind, and ignites her body with desire she's never felt before. But worst of all, he threatens the independence she values above all else... As Roderick spends time with Cornelia, he realizes there's a lonely soul hidden beneath her beautiful but criminal veneer. Falling for a thief wasn't part of Roderick's plan, but plans can change and he has no intention of letting another priceless treasure get away from him.

Review: This is a plot driven mystery within the workings of a Victorian Steampunk setting. The imagery is fantastic. Following in the Victorian tradition of story telling, there is a orphan-like character, turned thief and a wealthy foe turned benefactor. The savior of moral choice is deep within, but also influenced with a slight push from the outside world. Although this is Steampunk, which obviously allows for a creative splintering from the typical restraints of the era, I still had a difficult time with aspects of the language used and also, the depiction and thoughts (mostly wording) when it came to intimacy. I just didn't care for the word choice coupled with the era, i.e. 'hard,' it just didn't work for me in a Victorian set story.
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This Winter Heart
Santa Fe, The Republic of New Texacali, 1870
Eight years ago, Ophelia Leonides's husband cast her off when he discovered she was not the woman he thought she was. Now destitute after the death of her father, Ophelia is forced to turn to Dario for help raising the child she never told him about. Dario is furious that Ophelia has returned, and refuses to believe Arthur is his son—after all, he thought his wife was barren. But to avoid gossip, he agrees to let them spend the holidays at his villa. While he cannot resist the desire he still feels for Ophelia, Dario despises himself for being hopelessly in love with a woman who can never love him back. But Dario is wrong: Ophelia's emotions are all too human, and she was brokenhearted when he rejected her. Unsure if she can trust the man she desperately loves, she fears for her life, her freedom and her son if anyone else learns of her true nature...

Review: The premise behind the story is interesting and the detailing very good, but what turned me off (ironically) was the formulaic love scenes. I'm beginning to see a pattern of mechanical writing. It's as if a number of intimate scenes are required and no matter what is going on, somehow they need to be jammed in the short story. I didn't find it romantic, but rather distracting and disturbing. Again, the descriptions resonated with modern romance novels and not altogether fitting with the time period. It just didn't seem to mesh for me. I found myself merely scanning and then flipping through to get back to the plot of the story. More of an 'ew' than an 'oh.'
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Wanted: One Scoundrel 
All suffragette Esme Smith wants is a man. A scoundrel to be precise. Someone who can be persuaded to represent her political views at men-only clubs. As the daughter of the richest man in Australia, Esme can afford to make it worth the right man's while. Fresh off the boat, American inventor Jed Reeve is intrigued by Esme's proposal, but even more interested in the beauty herself. Amused that she takes him for a man who lives by his wits, he accepts the job—made easier by the fact that he already shares her ideals. Soon, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue, kidnapping and blackmail, and trying to convince his employer he's more than just a scoundrel...

Review: This one was promising and didn't have the tacky sex scene. I was liking it all the way up until the end? I use a question mark because the story just sort of, stopped. I literally flipped forward and backwards to see if I skipped a page or something. Then, I wondered if there was some glitch in the electronic version. It really felt like the ending was missing. I'm not sure what to think? If this is not a format problem and is truly how the story was written, then it clearly has no ending and is not finished. It wouldn't take much to make it less jarring and provide a more satisfying conclusion. I want to give it a higher rating, but the ending was just too...well, incomplete.
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Far From Broken
Colonel Jasper Carlisle was defined by his work until he met his wife. When the prima ballerina swept into his life with her affection, bright laughter and graceful movements, he knew that she was the reason for his existence, and that their love would be forever. But their world is shattered when Callie is kidnapped and brutally tortured by the foes Jasper has been hunting. Mechanical parts have replaced her legs, her hand, her eye...and possibly her heart. Though she survived, her anger at Jasper consumes her, while Jasper's guilt drives him from the woman he loves. He longs for the chance to show her their love can withstand anything...including her new clockwork parts. As the holiday season approaches, Jasper realizes he must fight not just for his wife's love and forgiveness...but also her life, as his enemy once again attempts to tear them apart.

Review:  This was my favorite story in the collection! I wish it would have been put first. Yes, there are the formulaic sex scenes toward the end, but at least I was more emotionally invested in the characters and cared about their intimate relationship. This is the first book in the Seasons of Invention Series, Broken Promises is #2. The spy premise is what hooked me and I will be reading the next story to see what becomes of Jasper and Callie. In comparison, the kick off to this series reminds me a little of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, but with a Steampunk edge. Readers who like Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series will likely enjoy this one too. Tension, suspense, action, does have it all.   
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