A Clockwork Christmas by J.K. Coi, Stacy Gail, Jenny Schwartz, and PG Forte
Source: Carina Press / netGalley
Changed forever after tragedy, a woman must draw strength from her husband’s love. A man learns that love isn’t always what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas.
**Each story is available for individual purchase, in addition to being part of this anthology.**
As always, I’m grateful to Carina Press for a copy of this anthology but their generosity in no way affects what I say.
Before I start talking about the individual novels, I’d like to mention how much I love the covers of each of the novellas. My favourite is probably the one for Crime Wave in a Corset but I love how they’re all linked by the gadgets at the bottom, font, and style. The art department at Carina has done a marvelous job of linking them with the anthology cover, and with each other, while still making each cover unique.
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Roderick Coddington is on a mission to make Cornelia Peabody pay. After identifying her as the thief who stole a priceless Fabergé egg from his dying sister, he finds her and shackles a deadly timepiece to her arm. If she doesn’t return the egg by Christmas morning, she will die.
Normally seven days is more than enough time for Cornelia to carry out the perfect crime, but Roderick’s intrusion into her life is beyond distracting. He challenges her mind, and ignites her body with desire she’s never felt before. But worst of all, he threatens the independence she values above all else…
As Roderick spends time with Cornelia, he realizes there’s a lonely soul hidden beneath her beautiful but criminal veneer. Falling for a thief wasn’t part of Roderick’s plan, but plans can change and he has no intention of letting another priceless treasure get away from him.
Crime Wave in a Corset is the first novella in the anthology and also my favourite. Stacy Gail has done a marvelous job: her characters came off the page, her setting sparkled, and the plot was the perfect size for a novella. I could hear Cornelia’s light Irish lilt, see the cleverness of the inventions, and feel the sparks between Cornelia and Roderick. The author manages to provide a lot of back story for both of the main characters, which makes Crime Wave in a Corset very satisfying. I would 100% recommend this book to steampunk fans.
Want a little more? Check out Stacy Gail’s (sort of) love letter to Angela James of Carina Press, which talks about how the story came about.
Santa Fe, The Republic of New Texacali, 1870
Eight years ago, Ophelia Leonides’s husband cast her off when he discovered she was not the woman he thought she was. Now destitute after the death of her father, Ophelia is forced to turn to Dario for help raising the child she never told him about.
Dario is furious that Ophelia has returned, and refuses to believe Arthur is his son—after all, he thought his wife was barren. But to avoid gossip, he agrees to let them spend the holidays at his villa. While he cannot resist the desire he still feels for Ophelia, Dario despises himself for being hopelessly in love with a woman who can never love him back.
But Dario is wrong: Ophelia’s emotions are all too human, and she was brokenhearted when he rejected her. Unsure if she can trust the man she desperately loves, she fears for her life, her freedom and her son if anyone else learns of her true nature…
Truthfully, I didn’t love this one. I didn’t feel a connection between Ophelia and Dario, despite their history. I thought they were both okay characters, and I was particularly intrigued by Ophelia and her father, but their love connection didn’t resonate for me. I did, however, adore Arthur, their son. He was absolutely precious — very inquisitive and suitably child-like. I was completely charmed by him.
I also liked the revisionist history that serves as a backdrop to the story. It would have been cool to see that explored a bit more so I hope that PG Forte writes another story set in the same world. I’d definitely check it out.
All suffragette Esme Smith wants is a man. A scoundrel to be precise. Someone who can be persuaded to represent her political views at men-only clubs. As the daughter of the richest man in Australia, Esme can afford to make it worth the right man’s while.
Fresh off the boat, American inventor Jed Reeve is intrigued by Esme’s proposal, but even more interested in the beauty herself. Amused that she takes him for a man who lives by his wits, he accepts the job—made easier by the fact that he already shares her ideals. Soon, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue, kidnapping and blackmail, and trying to convince his employer he’s more than just a scoundrel…
I loved the setting of this novella. The story takes place in Western Australia and it’s just such a romantic setting. (Australia is on my must-go list.) And I really liked Jed and Esme. Esme’s got a beautiful heart and a great mind, and it makes her an extremely appealing character, to both the reader and Jed. Jed’s a bit more of an unknown but he’s charming and forward-thinking and I liked him right off the bat. Their relationship is very sweet and less carnal than some of the other stories in the anthology, which was lovely. I love it when stories focus more on the budding relationship between the protagonists and less on the sexy times, especially when it’s a shorter format.
Wanted: One Scoundrel isn’t as steampunk as the other stories. It’s more of a historical book with touches of steampunk. Nothing wrong with this but it wasn’t quite what I expected, so I mention it here as a FYI-type tidbit.
Soldier. Spymaster. Husband.
Colonel Jasper Carlisle was defined by his work until he met his wife. When the prima ballerina swept into his life with her affection, bright laughter and graceful movements, he knew that she was the reason for his existence, and that their love would be forever.
But their world is shattered when Callie is kidnapped and brutally tortured by the foes Jasper has been hunting. Mechanical parts have replaced her legs, her hand, her eye…and possibly her heart. Though she survived, her anger at Jasper consumes her, while Jasper’s guilt drives him from the woman he loves. He longs for the chance to show her their love can withstand anything…including her new clockwork parts.
As the holiday season approaches, Jasper realizes he must fight not just for his wife’s love and forgiveness…but also her life, as his enemy once again attempts to tear them apart.
Far From Broken was my second favourite story in A Clockwork Christmas. Callie and Jasper are an excellent pair and their relationship has a lot of depth and emotion. Callie’s adjustment to her new life and body was well written — I could really empathize with her as she came to terms with the restrictions and gifts of her mechanical parts. Jasper was deliciously torn up by what happened to her, a back story that slowly unfolds over the course of the novella. What really made Far From Broken work for me was the desire they both had to repair the relationship, not into what it was before but something new, that suited their new outlooks on life. Although there were some obvious elements to the novella (like the identity of the traitor), I thoroughly enjoyed this story.