A Clockwork Christmas is a collection of steampunk tales all a bit heavy on romance rather than on steampunkiness.
CRIME WAVE IN A CORSET by Stacy Gail
Cornelia Peabody is a master thief but everything comes undone when Professor Cuddington confronts her in her own home and attaches a device on her wrist that will kill her on Christmas day if she doesn’t retrieve the Faberge egg that she stole from his sister. Cuddington and Peabody start to get closer in the process of researching the new owner of the coveted trinket. Can she find who now has the egg and recover it before the device on her wrist goes off? The clock is ticking and Christmas is just around the corner.
Crime Wave in a Corset was more romance that steampunk and in fact, the only steam in this story was the steam created whenever Cornelia and Roderick got together. Given that it was a short story the characters were well defined and there was enough background to flesh them out so they weren’t too one dimensional. It was pretty standard romance and the right length for a short story. (3/5)
THE WINTER HEART by P.G. Forte
Ophelia returns to her estranged husband following the death of her father. She has no alternative but to return to the husband that cast her out years before. He doesn’t know that he is a father of a seven year old soon. Will she have a happily ever after?
This story started out to be quite interesting when it is exposed that Ophelia is an automaton. Her husband Dario feels betrayed as he believes that both Ophelia and her father knew what she really was and that she was unable to conceive a child that he desperately wanted. Imagine his surprise when she turns up 8 years later with his child. So as I said, this started out interesting but it ended up very disturbing and I had a major problem with the plot. On the first night of Ophelia’s return Dario is so enraptured by her beauty that he forgets how much he despises her. In the following scenes, and inevitable seduction, Dario all but rapes Ophelia. He coaxes her to say yes, when she knows deep down how much he hurt her. It seems to be OK that he all but forces her into sex because she still loves him.
Later in the story he was going to take their son away from her because he doesn’t believe she has true feelings for him. It’s not until she almost kills herself to save her son and consequently gets grievously injured that he starts to believe she is capable of real feeling. Of course, despite her horrific injuries his ‘loins still tighten’ and next thing they are ‘making love’. I try not to get on the feminist bandwagon too much when I read romance but I could barely finish this short story, I was so angry at how the characters were acting and more importantly, how the characters were written. (1/5)
WANTED: ONE SCOUNDREL by Jenny Schwartz
Esme Smith is a suffragette and looking for the right kind of man who can represent her case to the ‘common man’. The man to fit the bill is Jed Reeve but little does Esme realise that Jed may be more than he seems.
One Scoundrel was a bit more steampunk but still very heavily romance. The story was quaint but the characters were quite stereotypical especially for the genre. It was quite bland and predictable but in comparison to the previous story it was more enjoyable. (2.5/5)
FAR FROM BROKEN by J.K. Coi
Callie Carlisle was horrifically tortured and maimed in retribution for her husband Jasper’s work as a spy. The former ballerina has her legs, hand and eye replaced by mechanical parts and anything that she felt for her husband has been replaced by anger by and he is wracked with guilt.
The torture scenes of this story were just short of shocking and Callie really was horribly maimed. The story almost had hints of the Bionic Woman as Jasper trades away Callie’s freedom to the military for the surgery. Again, Callie’s resentment for what happened to her was fairly short lived as she had forgiven Jasper early into the story. Also, despite the fact that Callie is part clockwork Jasper suffered from the same ‘tight loins’ as Dario in The Winter Heart. The poor woman barely had time to recuperate before Jasper was expecting her to fall into his arms and into his bed. There was quite a bit more happening in this story but I was still annoyed about how quickly Callie was expected to forgive the husband who was the reason for a prolonged and dreadful torture and then expected to be a soldier for the same organisation her husband works for. The Christmas theme was practically missing in this story. (2.5/5)
Overall, this was much more romance than steampunk. What I have liked about the other steampunk novels I have read, apart from the cool steampunkian gadgets, are that men and women are more or less equal and while they may dress and talk in Victoriana speak the women stick up for themselves. Except for Crime Wave in a Corset the women in these stories were all a bit ‘wimpish’ and subjugated by men. The overtly misogynist men couldn’t seem to think beyond their pants and deserved a good slap rather than their ‘hearts desire’. It was a bit disappointing as more could have been made of some of these stories especially when it came to the Christmasy theme.
BUY YOUR COPY