Pros: The warmth and humor in this book are laugh-out-loud funny.
Cons: It took me a little while to get to know the characters and really care about them.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Jack Fletcher’s life keeps taking unexpected turns, leaving him (despite his protests) with the reputation of a hero. In another unexpected turn, his sister interferes with one of his delicate nanoelectrical experiments, casting the two of them into another place. To their surprise, they’ve found themselves on the airship captained by Captain Olivia Pye. Olivia’s got her hands full enough with her new ship and crew on her maiden voyage as a captain, but she’s unexpectedly developing a soft spot for Jack. He’s not immune to her either, and the two of them grow closer together through the perils of airship flying. But when Jack’s sister is kidnapped by the Emperor’s guards, they find themselves in a race to save her life.
After reading Gail Carriger’s amazing Soulless,the steampunk genre has become one of my new guilty pleasures. That’s why I was so excited to review Steamed, and Ms. MacAlister doesn’t disappoint! I adored the dynamics between Jack and Olivia (which had a lot to do with the absence of a lot of both characters’ shame about their sexuality). There are also a lot of really fun interactions between the crew of Olivia’s airship, as if they are all one big family.
I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy watching these characters fall in love at first; it takes them a little while to start reacting to more than just what’s happening to them at the moment. When the sparks really start to fly between Jack and Olivia is when the story really opened up its world and sucked me in.
What I adored the most about Jack and Olivia’s relationship is the manner in which they approach their sexuality. I read a lot of historical romances, and I loved the fact that other than (mostly) outwardly honoring Victorian notions of propriety Olivia is not only not a virgin but not ashamed of sexual desire. It makes for a VERY refreshing change from all of the proper misses with strange new yearnings that I seem to see. Jack’s perspective on love, and the resulting way that he decides to convince Olivia that she loves him, had my husband and I laughing until we were in tears.
Ms. McAlister’s warm humor is evident throughout the book, from Jack and Olivia’s interactions to the crew members heckling each other. There’s another howlingly hilarious scene where one of the crew members tries to show Olivia and Jack exactly why he’s back on the ship so early, and why he can’t go back to his previous company. Picturing their faces was priceless. I won’t tell you any more for fear of spoiling it, but it’s a wonderful piece of raunchy humor that simply shouldn’t be missed.
The adventure is a fun one to get lost in, but there are several political elements and I was never quite certain what all of their purposes and goals were. I suspect that those who are more familiar with the genre may find it a bit easier. That being said, that minor confusion really didn’t detract all that much from my enjoyment of the book. It also made the peril seem more real, because many times I was just as bewildered as Jack was.
Jack’s bewilderment can also be comical at times, because before he got sucked into this timeline, he was a steampunk fan. It’s great to watch his ideas of what steampunk should be become readjusted in the face of his new reality. His seeming obsession (to Olivia) with goggles being a part of dress actually sparked a rather comically heated discussion between the hubby and I over whether or not goggles were necessary for something to be steampunk. (Ah, geeks in love…) In a way, it’s as if Ms. MacAlister is poking gentle fun at some of the more common tropes.
If you’re looking for a book about two characters who love each other and aren’t ashamed to show it, this book is a great read. Ditto if you like witty humor and wordplay. Although some of the political elements can be a bit confusing at times, the human element more than makes up for it. I just loved watching the characters banter back and forth, letting their uniqueness drive a good deal of the humor. I’ve seen plenty of relationships with that same element, and so it made an ostensibly historical romance much more relevant to my world. Much like steampunk fuses Victoriana with technology, this book fuses slightly more modern warmth and humor with the feel of a historical. I loved it, and I can’t recommend it enough!