Let’s head out to the wild, weird West today, with a fun and different kind of steampunk western romance by Sheryl Nantus, released in print July 5 by Samhain —and, as always, a giveaway!
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: During the recent Civil War, a soldier risked his life to save Jonathan Handleston—and lost. With the help of an advanced metal brace on his crippled hand, Jon now travels from one poker tournament to the next, determined to earn enough money to repay the man’s debt. Prosperity Ridge is supposed to be the last stop on his quest, but his brace is broken and he needs an engineer to repair the delicate mechanisms. The only one available is Samantha Weatherly, a beautiful anomaly in a world ruled by men. Sam is no fool. Jon is no different from any other gambler—except for his amazing prosthetic. Despite a demanding project to win a critical contract to develop an iron horse, she succumbs to the lure of working on the delicate mechanisms. And working with the handsome Englishman. Like a spring being coiled, Samantha and Jon are inexorably drawn together. Sam begins to realize honor wears many faces, and she becomes the light at the end of Jon’s journey to redemption. The only monkey wrench is Victor, a rival gambler who will stop at nothing to make sure Jon misses the tournament. Even destroy Jon’s and Sam’s lives.
MY THOUGHTS: One of the things I love about steampunk is one of the things I also dislike about steampunk. It’s a clever genre, and can be fun and surprising. There’s a temptation, however, for the authors to get so caught up in their inventiveness that the story gets lost among the gadgetry.
I’m thrilled to say Wild Cards and Iron Horses isn’t one of those. It’s a wild, weird western with iron horses and mechanical inventiveness but the steam is interwoven into the story, not an excuse for the story. Hat’s off to author Sheryl Nantus for remembering that, in the end, despite the genre, books have to tell us a story we want to read and give us characters we care about.
The story in Wild Cards and Iron Horses is one that digs beneath the layers of steampunk to a rich man’s son who is both indebted to and embittered by the trappings of his wealthy background. By all rights Jon should be dead, but a poor man’s sacrifice and his own father’s obsessive arrogance combined to make him what he is. He’s chosen the noble path, not the easy one. How does a man without the use of one hand become a professional card player? Read on and see.
Sam is an intriguing mix of sheltered 19th-century girl and a woman emancipated beyond her social limitations by the need to take over the business of her crippled father. She’s a mechanical wiz, with both a sharp mind and a sweet naivete. She can blush and repair a tricky spring mechanism at the same time.
This isn’t an overblown romance but a sweet love story between two unlikely people in a Western world run amok with technology. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s fascinating.
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