This is a great problem to have: various steampunk romances at my virtual fingertips and wondering which one to read! So rather than make an immediate decision, I figured, why not do a little sampling? Plus, it would be an opportunity to try some new-to-me authors. Now that I’ve finished sampling the three titles I picked, I decided to share my initial impressions and tag various story elements for you.
The Diabolical Miss Hyde (Electric Empire #1) by Viola Carr
“Forensic science, magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy steampunk fantasy—a retelling of the horror classic, in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll, daughter of the infamous Dr. Henry Jekyll—pursues a dangerous murderer in an alternate Victorian London.”
I learned about this book from a publicist who thought I might be interested given the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hide angle. And yes, the blurb alone indicates appeal for fans of steampunk romance. Lucky for me, a copy was available at my local library, so I decided to check it out.
I’ve read a good third of the story so far. It’s quite grim and dark in tone. The author has clearly worked hard to develop a complex, detailed world and provides an immersive experience. So if worldbuilding is your jam, you might want to check it out because there’s lots of lovely description.
As far as steampunk elements in the first third of the story, I’d describe The Diabolical Miss Hyde as more of a mystery/fantasy with steampunk and romance elements. Miss Jekyll has an automaton dog, but other than that, the steampunk aspects are rare. I’m not sure I could even articulate why steampunk and electrical devices exist in this world other than just the regular ol’ advance of science. Romance-wise, there’s been only a subtle hint so far regarding Miss Jekyll’s love interest. Therefore, romance readers would be wise to adjust expectations going in, especially if you prefer a romance that’s more central to the plot.
Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Hollis Shiloh
I learned about Cold Hands, Warm Heart during an Amazon search for steampunk romances. I read the sample. One of the heroes is a steampunk cyborg, which intrigued me. He harbors an unrequited love for a local doctor, one who treats “mechanicalized soldiers”. One interesting aspect is that the story alludes to outcast veterans from a recent war (there aren’t any specific details about the war in the sample, though). This was the first time I’d run into such a theme in a steampunk romance, so it’s an angle I’d definitely be interested in reading more about.
The heroes know each other at the story’s beginning, so when they encounter each other it feels organic. I couldn’t gauge the heat level based on the sample, but the romance’s tone comes across as tender. The steampunk elements were slight, but promising. Toward the end of the sample, the story veered toward an underground fighting scenario. If that wasn’t already a popular trope in contemporary romance, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but its presence made me wonder if I need to adjust my expectations should I decide to read further. In other words, is Cold Hands, Warm Heart an underground fighting romance in steampunk guise?
Verity Hart Vs. The Vampyres: A Hart/McQueen Steampunk Adventure, Part One by Jennifer Harlow
I normally concentrate on steampunk romances with a technology based setting, but I was intrigued by the premise, which features a spunky inventor heroine in disguise (her brother gets credit for and markets her devices). Hero is a bounty hunter and quite the mysterious guy. Since the first installment is available for free on Amazon, I downloaded it. I’ve read the first chapter so far, which has a lot packed into it.
This story is largely character driven so far (the first chapter takes place at a ball). The tone is lighthearted and features humorous dialogue. We’re told rather than shown the heroine’s accomplishments, but the information is spread out so it doesn’t feel too much like info-dumping.
The steampunk elements are as prominent as they can be at a ball, but they felt significant given how much the heroine reflected on her career. Based on how the first chapter unfolds, I feel like more steampunk action is around the bend.
Each installment can be purchased separately, but they’re also available as an omnibus. The only caveat is there are missing words at times. This editing issue makes me hesitate to purchase this title. For what it’s worth, if I could borrow it from my local library, I would continue reading.
That concludes my adventures in steampunk romance sampling. If you’ve read any of these titles and can provide additional, non-spoiler tags, let me know in the comment section!
About the author
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express and is the Releases Editor for the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.
She’s also an author in the genre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com. When Heather’s not reading or writing, she’s watching cult films and enjoying the company of her husband and daughter.