Murder Mystery Steampunk Romances

A handful of steampunk romance titles come at the genre from the murder mystery/thriller angle. Two happened to be available at my local library, so I read them back-to-back: Gilded Hearts (2014, Forever Yours) by Christine d’Abo and then Heart of Brass (2012, Signet Eclipse) by Kate Cross. Upon finishing, I wondered if these books had been separated at birth.

The plots are very different, but they contain enough similar elements that interested readers might want to experience them as a sort of steampunk romance mystery double feature, or read one and then wait a while before reading the other. It depends on how much you enjoy Jack the Ripper style stories paired with Her Majesty’s Secret Service type organizations because both books include those elements.

Here are a few non-spoiler highlights so you can decide for yourself:

* Both books have “heart” in the title. (Keen powers of observation–I haz them!)

* Both are set in a steampunk version of London and feature a serial killer murder mystery.

* Gilded Hearts by Christine D'AboIn Gilded Hearts, the main organization is the Guild of Archivists. In Heart of Brass, the hero and heroine work for a protective agency called Wardens of the Realm.

* The opening scenes for Heart of Brass and Gilded Hearts are similar in that they begin with an investigation of a murder victim (both women). Admittedly, many murder mysteries begin at the start of the murder investigation! What makes these stories distinctive is that both heroines have the ability to extract the victim’s last few memories via a steampunk device. Through a special pair of goggles, the heroines witness the killers’ attack in a very intimate and disturbing manner–rather like a steampunk virtual reality experience.

* In Heart of Brass, the memory extraction is almost a throwaway idea and the heroine doesn’t suffer long term effects. In contrast, Gilded Hearts expands on the concept to the point that it’s an integral part of the story. And if the heroine doesn’t undergo a procedure to remove the victim’s memories from her mind, she suffers psychological and physical consequences.

* Both stories feature independent heroines who work for a living. Piper Smith from Gilded Hearts is an Archivist, a memory extractor by trade. Heart of Brass‘ Lady Arden Grey is an inventor who occasionally assists Scotland Yard.

*Both heroines have been separated from the heroes for many years. In Gilded Hearts, the general romance theme is friends-to-lovers. In Heart of Brass, it’s reunited lovers.

* Both stories feature heroes with amnesia, but the causes are far more complicated than a bump on the head.

* The heroes are extraordinary via their possession of superhuman powers.

Heart of Brass by Kate CrossIn terms of steampunk-to-romance ratios, I feel Gilded Hearts focuses slightly more on the murder mystery and worldbuilding. Heart of Brass could be described as a spy romance with steampunk elements. There are actually two suspense plots in Heart of Brass, so if you prefer front-and-center murder mystery, Gilded Hearts would be the way to go. If you’re a fan of romances that explore the rebuilding of a fractured relationship, then Heart of Brass might be up your alley.

Other steampunk romance titles involving murder mysteries include The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti, and Like Clockwork by Bonnie Dee. Did I mention there’s only a handful of murder mystery/thriller steampunk romances? Looking on the bright side, it means there’s plenty of room for more!

Until next time!

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. She’s also an author in the genre. To learn more about her published work, visit When Heather’s not reading or writing, she’s watching cult films and enjoying the company of her husband and daughter.