Sunday, July 29, 2012

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Steampunk Romance Watch – July 2012

I learned about two forthcoming steampunk romance releases and wanted to share them with you.

HER SKY COWBOY (The Glorious Victorious Darcys #1) – Beth Ciotta (Signet, November 6, 2012)

Amelia Darcy has no interest in marrying well. Her heart belongs to the sky and the dirigibles of brass and steel that swoop over Victorian England. But when her father, an eccentric inventor, dies, the Darcy siblings are left with scrap metal—and not a penny to their names.

Their only hope to save the family reputation and fortune is to embark on a quest to discover an invention of historical importance in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Armed with only her father’s stories of a forgotten da Vinci workshop, a mechanically enhanced falcon, and an Italian cook, Amelia takes flight for Florence, Italy.

But her quest is altered when her kitecycle crashes into the airship of ex–Air Marshal—and scandalous dime novel hero—Tucker Gentry. Tuck agrees to escort Amelia to her destination, but the two are challenged by political unrest, a devious sky pirate, and their own sizzling attraction. Soon the pair is dragged into an international conspiracy that could change the course of history...again.

My commentary: The premise sounds really fun and the heroine comes across as having both agency and purpose. The hero’s occupation is a nice twist.

I like the color scheme of the cover, but I wish the poses were more natural. The models look so stiff and inert, which makes it a challenge for me to engage in the fantasy. This sounds like an action-adventure story, and I wish the cover reflected that more.

The heroine-centric aspect is a plus, though!

(thanks to Katiebabs of Babbling About Books, and More! for the info)

KISS OF STEEL (London Steampunk Series, Bk 1) -  Bec McMaster (Sourcebooks, September 1, 2012)

Honoria Todd has no choice. Only in the dreaded Whitechapel district can she escape the long reach of the Duke of Vickers. But seeking refuge there will put her straight into the hands of Blade, legendary master of the rookeries. No one would dare cross him, but what price would he demand to keep her safe?

Ever since Vickers infected him with the craving, Blade has been quicker, stronger, almost immortal—and terrified of losing control of the monster within. Honoria could be his perfect revenge against the duke…or the salvation he never dared to dream of.

My commentary: From what I’ve gleaned while also trying to avoid spoilers, this story has strong paranormal/supernatural elements. The blurb describes vampirism without using the word “vampire.” Interesting.

I wish the blurb were clearer about the heroine’s role. I hope she’s good for more than looking sexy in fishnet stockings. At least she's front and center on the cover, so that's a bonus.


Speaking of steampunk romance covers, I’ve had a couple of thoughts about them recently.

I’m halfway through Nico Rosso’s NIGHT OF FIRE. This book, a Western steampunk romance, is a collaborative project set in the same universe as Zoe Archer’s SKIES OF FIRE. It's also loaded with action. My experience with Mr. Rosso’s work so far is that high-octane, action-adventure sci-fi romance is his particular style.

Therefore, while reading I couldn’t help but think about the incredible disconnect between the high level of action in this story and the book’s cover:

"You are getting sleeeepy."
In some ways it's par for the course when man titty is used to market romance books, but in this case the disconnect felt stronger.

Stories like NIGHT OF FIRE and HER SKY COWBOY deserve covers that more accurately represent the action-adventure element. The challenge, I’m guessing, is finding models that can act out a scene non-verbally, not to mention marketing departments willing to take some risk. 

Plus, images featuring scenes at the height of action (think: comic book illustrations) are just so fun and entertaining!

Take a gander at the cover for THE JANUS AFFAIR to see what I mean:

It’s not steampunk romance, but I could totally see something similar working for stories in this subgenre.

Onto my second thought: While doing some book research the other day, I realized an interesting difference between traditional steampunk book covers and steampunk romance book covers (in general and in my experience—your mileage may vary).

Traditional steampunk covers tend to have a steampunk element embedded in the title font. Meaning, steampunk fonts. Steampunk romance covers, on the other hand, tend to be plainer, with few embellishments. I thought that was interesting and worthy of some analysis.

On the one hand, some steampunk covers can border on ostentatious—almost fetish-like, in fact. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing more steampunk romance covers that experiment with title fonts that look, well, a bit more steampunky. Of course, then there’s the issue of being able to view covers clearly at a thumbnail size, especially for ebooks. Maybe there are some happy medium fonts out there?

What's your opinion regarding action-adventure elements and fancier title fonts for steampunk romances? More experimentation=entertaining, or more experimentation=too much of a learning curve for readers?

Joyfully yours,