Let’s start with the assumption that steampunk is both a genre as well as a design aesthetic. Within the steampunk fiction genre, there is also a broad range of subgenres and categories. Readers of steampunk fiction will find elements of paranormal, romantic suspense, mystery, adventure and a delightfully twisted Jules Verne science fiction, written in a range of reader categories, from young adult, to romance, and erotica.
I write two series for two different publishers, and each series incorporates a slightly different collection of steampunk elements, which are often eccentric and quirky.
The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard, is a romantic suspense series set in the gaslit streets of 1887 London. When I first began thinking about this romantic suspense series, I got to thinking about Scotland Yard detectives. It seemed to me that Yard men were always portrayed as bumbling inspectors, five moves behind Sherlock Holmes. So I thought, what if there was an elite group of detectives? I began to do some research and found out that there was a division of Scotland Yard created in the 1882 called Special Branch. I added a dash (as in dashing) of James Bond Steampunk and that was the start of The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard. The heroines in each book are fascinating, progressive Victorian women. There is an Impressionist painter, an industrialist and a ballerina/jewel thief/spy!
My other series, Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator started out as an exploration into writing a historical paranormal with steampunk elements. As it turns out I really enjoy writing paranormal, it works my imagination in interesting ways. There is something freeing about using pure imagination!
The Seduction of Phaeton Black has been criticized as well as praised for being a unique mix of genres. Publishers Weekly couldn’t figure out what was up: ““Erotic romance? Paranormal thriller? Sherlock Holmes pastiche? Steampunk adventure?” On the other hand, RT book reviews gave it four and half stars and a Top Pick for the exact same reasons: “This book almost defies categorization, combining elements of steampunk, erotica, paranormal romance, and mystery. The atmospheric Victorian London setting has a dark gothic feel with ancient gods on the loose. The writing is witty, the characters delightful, the descriptions vivid and the sex earthy and erotic.”
I know with The Seduction of Phaeton Black, I wanted to create a paranormal, fantasy world set in the gaslit streets of 1889 London. The time period and a few of the props, like Doctor Exeter’s airship, definitely add a steampunk aesthetic to the book, as well.
I recently completed the third book in the Phaeton Black series and have a very special excerpt to share from the latest installment in the Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator series, The Miss Education of Doctor Exeter, which releases in June of this year. This is also the most erotic of all the books thus far, so…be warned!
Let me catch you up briefly as to what happened in the second book in the series, The Moonstone and Miss Jones. Phaeton has been sucked into a dimensional portal that connects 1887 London to….? At this point, he could be anywhere in the extradimensional transtemporal universe. As book three opens, Doctor Exeter is working with the Nightshades to locate Phaeton. A swarm of flies-on-the-wall spies have been sent through the portal in a desperate attempt to locate Phaeton––the chances of finding him are so remote, none of the Nightshades hold out much hope.
To complicate matters, Doctor Exeter’s charge, Mia, is having trouble adjusting to her new dual identity. She is a shifter, something no one anticipated for her and there have been difficulties. Her shifts happen without much warning and she has very little control over them. As The Miss Education of Doctor Exeter opens, she and the doctor have just returned home from a ball:
Half Moon Street, Mayfair
Mia clawed at her ball gown as she climbed the stairs. There it was again, that tingling feeling—more of an itch than an urge, as if her skin was stretched too tight over the wrong body. At the first signs of a metamorphosis, they had made their excuses, left the ball at Stafford House, and returned home. “Coming to bed, darling?” Her question was a flippant snarl, not a sultry invitation, for she knew he would not condescend to answer. She reached the landing and turned, surprised to see Exeter just a few steps behind her.
As her guardian drew close, her nostrils flared. The scent of Royal Lime No. 5 layered with hints of his shaving soap assaulted her senses. She was drawn, however, to a more intoxicating musk—the very masculine essence that was Doctor Asa Exeter, enigmatic half-blooded Persian prince and English Baron. “Will you let me help you, Mia?” He stood one step below her, bringing them eye to eye.
“You know that is impossible.” A momentary flash of fantasy intruded—her bare breasts exposed to his anguished gaze, nipples peaked in anticipation of the brush of his thumb. Mia shivered. The sudden surge of arousal could have caused an instantaneous shift. She shook her head gently so her tears would not spill. “The change comes faster now. You could be injured.” She lifted her chin. “Let me be, Om Asa.”
She turned to leave, and he caught her hand. “At least let me mix a powder for the headache.”
Exeter had spent a week in the library of secrets studying her condition. He well understood that her migraine warned of an impending, involuntary shift. The pain had quickly become intolerable, and he had escorted her out of the ballroom. In the carriage, she had tried to make light of it. “It seems this is my coming out season—in more ways than one.”
Now, here on the stairs, she met his gaze, that of a protector, of caring and affection. The same look of concern she had known since childhood. The one that now caused her heart to break. “The discomfort will pass, shortly.”
Exeter rattled off a litany of symptoms. “Neuralgia, generalized body aches, a sinus drip—not sniffles from a cold, but the kind one gets from exposure, when one is out in the snow for too long.” He examined her carefully. “Typically these signs begin within a few hours of the transformation. Are they all present?”
Her eyes rolled upward. “Yes, Doctor Exeter.” The wild thing inside her stirred. The beast humped its back and stretched, languidly.
The headache had eased somewhat, which was all the more terrifying. This meant the reshaping of her body was imminent. Mia’s gaze lingered on the seraphim painted on in the ceiling. God’s burning angels. “We were fortunate tonight.” Sometimes, there were no warning signs—the shift just happened. “Jersey says as I gain experience I will be able to better anticipate the onset of change.”
As intimate as it was to be alone with Exeter, things had felt a bit desolate this evening, without the Nightshades. She had grown used to having bodyguards, most everywhere they traveled. Jersey Blood and his consort, Valentine, had been assigned to she and Exeter. Jersey was seraph shifter who rarely allowed himself to mutate. He had become something of a mentor in these early months of her transformation.
“Gradually you will learn to manipulate these shifts; then you may change at will, if you so choose,” Jersey had assured her. His promise of control cheered her some, even as she fought back the urge to rip off her dress and expose herself—to rub against Exeter and purr.
“I must go.” She ran the rest of the way up the stairs and down a length of carpeted corridor. This longing to mate with her guardian was not new, exactly. But there were times now, when her desire was almost too strong to bear. Upsetting to say the least, and beyond perplexing for the good doctor. The untamed feline urge was so strong that, on one occasion, she had used coarse language and disrobed in a provocative way. Shocking behavior on her part. Now her belly trembled at the memory of Exeter’s palm cupping her breast, the moment when his thumb had stroked and she had exhaled a low, throaty rumble.
He had stepped away in horror.
Mia shook off the painful memory as she burst into her bedchamber. She made it as far as her dressing table before she realized her mistake and turned back. Exeter stood in the open doorway holding an oil lamp, his gaze penetrating, measured. “I believe you need me to undress you.”
She bit her lip and nodded. Several weeks ago there had been a close call with Lucy, her maid. One evening, as she helped Mia ready for bed, a sudden, unexpected shift had happened. No warning signs. She had hissed so ferociously, the terrified girl had fled the house in the middle of the night.
Exeter entered the room and set the lamp on her dresser. “Come, Mia.” She hadn’t noticed how dark it was—mostly because her night vision was extraordinary now. She could read the ancient codex at her bedside without illumination, if she cared to be illuminated.
Placing her hands on her hips, she turned her back to Exeter.
“Please assure me you will not frighten the Metropolitan police on patrol in Green Park . . . again.” Exeter’s fingers moved down the row of hook and eyes that fastened her gown.
“I often have no control over her . . . she’s—” Mia shifted away and he pulled her back. Persistent, gentle fingers loosed the strings of her corset. Even as her cheeks flushed with heat, cool air wafted over skin moist with perspiration. His knuckles brushed against the flesh of her back, causing a shiver she failed to conceal.
A hand slipped around her waist and he turned her toward him. “As the codex advises—assert yourself but do not force her to your will.”
“She always wants . . .” Mia avoided his gaze, until she couldn’t any longer. “You know what she wants.” Exeter’s exotic green eyes, the color of imperial jade, stayed with her. The stubble on his chin and jaw made him look swarthy, and very masculine, and yet he was also her protector.
“Gentle persuasion, Mia, the more you struggle with her—”
Inexplicably, before she could gain control over her hand, she reached out and stroked the dark, tempting ruff of his whiskers. She traced a faint, cream-colored scar that ran along the edge of a powerful jawline. Her touch stopped his conversation mid-sentence.
What inexplicable behavior! But this is how she had become with him. Heat flushed her cheeks and she withdrew her hand from his face. Shaking her head, even managing an uneasy laugh, she apologized. “I don’t know what came over me, please excuse . . .”
“No, please, continue.” Covering her hand in his, he guided her fingers over the stubble below his cheekbone to his handsome, well-formed mouth. Her gaze lingered on his generous bottom lip and the upper, with its strong cupid’s bow. Another scorching wave of heat rose along her neck. Gently, he turned her hand palm up and brushed his lips over the faint pulse on the inside of her wrist. “Forgive me, Mia.”
A tingle shivered through her body, curling her toes. She had never seen him smile, not like the one she now experienced, and she was positive he felt her tremble. Sweeping a few wisps of hair off her cheek, he took a long moment to examine every feature on her face.
“You are changing, Mia, from a precocious, adorable girl into a most sultry beauty. From here on out, I will have to keep a close watch on myself.” Exeter backed away and shut the door quietly.
Mia blinked. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of his speech—apology, confession, or warning? All she knew was the ends of her mouth tilted upward.
She disrobed and left nothing on, having learned the hard way. Any clothes on her body would end up in tatters. The evening chill was soothing, even sensuous. She moved to the tall paned windows and opened French doors. A waft of air hardened her breast tips and prickled her skin. Touching herself, she imagined his fingers . . . there.
The shift was instantaneous. Painless.
Brief Author Bio:
Jillian Stone is the author of The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series. Which includes Golden Heart winner An Affair with Mr. Kennedy, A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis and A Private Duel with Agent Gunn. She is also the author of the Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator series, which includes The Seduction of Phaeton Black, and the just released, The Moonstone and Miss Jones. The third sequel, The Miss Education of Doctor Exeter, Releases June 25, 2013.
Jillian’s Contact Info:
Question for commenters: What’s your favorite type of Steampunk energy? Steam? Ether or Aether (A mysterious power like––whatever powered the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.) And don’t forget clockworks!
PRIZE Alert: I’d love to giveaway a copy of the first book in the Phaeton Black series, The Seduction of Phaeton Black to one commenter, as well as a copy of An Affair with Mr. Kennedy, from The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series to another lucky commenter!