A Clockwork Christmas

A Clockwork Christmas
Carina Press, 2011
Contributors: Stacy Gail, P.G. Forte, Jenny Schwartz, J.K. Coi

New Release! Copy for review provided by NetGalley.

Premise: A collection of 4 novellas each set at the holidays, each set in a steampunk world. I didn't actually realize when I requested this that they were all also romance, but maybe I should have assumed.

Okay, I know steampunk is big right now, but maybe it should stay in visual mediums.

I hated the first story: Crime Wave in a Corset, by Stacy Gail. I mean, I hated it a lot. I hated the characters, I hated the plot, I hated the fact that the steampunk bits were completely irrelevant. Something about the uber-melodramatic romance completely rubbed me the wrong way. With a different set-up, a different couple, maybe I could get into this, but I didn't buy this pair. The narration says the woman is brilliant, but we never get to see her be brilliant. The guy is presented as an absolute nightmare at first, and the story comes around to sympathizing with him much faster than I was prepared to. The girl accepts her lust for him so quickly, after he breaks into her home, makes her look like an idiot and threatens her life, that I lost any respect for her.

To me it seemed as though the author wrote all this mutual lust between two people who should loathe each other and then wedged in some redeeming qualities for each so it could pretend to have a happy ending. Not buying it.

Not to mention it's full of really terribly purple prose. The language used makes me queasy rather than titillated. If I have to read about anything that's turgid, throbbing, or firmly rounded ever again, it'll be too soon.

Happily, the second novella was a bit better, and the third and fourth novellas were even less annoying.

The second (This Winter Heart by PG Forte) and the fourth (Far From Broken by JK Coi) had a lot in common: both were about women who were partially or entirely cybernetic, and them dealing with their relationships with their husbands. Both stories had strengths and weaknesses, and Far From Broken was a bit more enjoyable to read, if a bit more obvious in the direction the plot was going. The characters in This Winter Heart were kind of morons.

My favorite one, by a leap and and a bound, was Wanted: One Scoundrel by Jenny Schwartz. This also had the distinction of being the one in which the steampunk and/or holiday setting was least important to the plot, and the one with the most realistic and pleasant to read romance. As in, two people meet, flirt, learn about each other, but do not go straight to X-rated sex. The characters in that one (a suffragette and an adventurer/inventor) were more sympathetic and more plausible, as well.

Part of my problem with some of the steampunk stuff that I've read is that I like the Victorian/Edwardian period so much as it is that I get frustrated when all modern authors seem to add is a few setting flourishes and modern character motivations. When I want characters with modern mores, I'll read novels set in the modern era. It just seems absurdly forced to me when characters at the turn of the century think like people now, with no explanation beyond "she/he's extraordinary/a rebel/raised in *insert exotic locale*"

Okay, that was kind of a lot of ranting more than a review, but I think you got my feelings on the work.

Crime Wave in a Corset - 1 Star
This Winter Heart - 2 Stars
Wanted: One Scoundrel - 3 Stars
Far From Broken - 2 Stars

Averaged Rating for A Clockwork Christmas: 2 Stars - An Okay Book


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