Title: London Steam
Author: Lynn Townsend
Publisher: JMS Books
Pages/Word Count: 99 Pages
At a Glance: Two loosely related novellas and a surprise M/F ending in the second, make for an overall uneven read
Blurb: In a reimagined 1890’s London, where steam-driven airships rule the skies and monsters roam the streets, the Galileo Observatory’s Club for Gentlemen welcomes all — gwr, shape-changers, vampires, and lords. A high-stakes game leads more than a few men astray.
Poindexter Fitzhughes, renowned hero and scientist, learns just how much trouble a full-blooded gwr can be when he attempts to cure his lover, Lord Seth Maitland, of the disease. But when their backs are against the wall, the two must learn to trust in each other, and more importantly, in their true natures, to prevail.
Meanwhile, Duncan Farnsworth discovers being a vampire has not improved his social life, his chances of finding love, continuing the family line, or getting a bite to eat. Maneuvering his way around a sarcastic butler, his spinster sister, a run-in with an amorous werewolf, and a confrontation with a dead soldier and a French airship captain, Duncan finally finds exactly what he is thirsting for.
Review: London Steam is actually two lightly connected, short novellas in one book. I say lightly because the main couple in the first novella make a cameo appearance in the second, but the plots diverge completely. Moreover, the first novella is clearly M/M, while the second is M/F/M with the M/F elements pretty much overriding everything else. More on that in a bit.
The first novella focuses on Dex and Seth, both of whom have fantastic – albeit tragic – histories that define their lives in pretty unpleasant ways. Dex was attacked by a gwr he was trying to save and consequently walks around with one blind eye and horrible scars on half of his face. Since this is steampunk London, he’s able to make himself a half-mask with its own artificial eye in order to function in society. Seth, on the other hand, is turned into a gwr in a moment that’s uncomfortably non-con. In brief, both men are forever reminded of their pasts, and when they meet, it’s a blessing for both since they can at least find comfort in each other, as well as use what influence they have together to help bring about social changes where non-humans are concerned.
The plot moves at a pretty brisk pace. The coming together of the two – emotionally, that is – happens off-screen following their initial coupling. But that’s not the point of the story, and I’m glad we’re not forced through romantic tangents at the expense of the main conflict. That said, the briskness of the pacing also applies to the conflict in some places that left me wishing for more. The climax scene is more evenly paced, and we get to see a pretty bloody battle from start to finish. The denouement, however, is largely summarized, with events whizzing past that, to me, somewhat diminishes Dex and Seth’s predicament and even the gwr community’s. Considering the long, angst-and-danger-filled buildup leading to the climax, the conclusion felt like a bit of a letdown.
The second novella was a little more problematic to me on a technical and personal level. On the personal side, I was somewhat blindsided by the M/F/M, and I confess to not being a fan of ménage – of any stripe. When I read the book blurb initially, I didn’t see any indications of ménages anywhere and so didn’t expect it to be a part of the story, let alone a significant one. It is a personal bias, however, and anyone who shares it might need to keep this in mind. For those who enjoy both M/M and M/F/M, you’ll find a nice diverse spectrum of relationships from cover to cover with this book.
The technical problem is a curious one. While it’s part of the same book, the second novella is less polished than the first in the sense that I found a number of typos throughout the story, while the first one didn’t have any. A couple would’ve been fine, but seeing more than that can be a distraction after a while.
While the entire book ended up being a pretty uneven read for me, I was glad I took it on, and I loved the setting. There are a number of original touches in the way steampunk London was fleshed out, which really added to the dynamic quality of the plot and character relationships.
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