Tag Archives: steampunk romance

Smugglers, Dirigibles, and Valentines, O My!

Standard

Last month, I reviewed Heather Hiestand’s novella, Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas, the first title in her Steampunk Smugglers series.  If you read my review, then you know I wasn’t overly impressed.  However, I decided to give Hiestand another chance. Why? Because despite the obvious flaws in the first story, it definitely had an interesting premise and some solid world-building. So with Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I choose to indulge with Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. 

Background: Three years ago, Terrwyn Fenna was arrested during a smuggling raid and consigned to London’s corrupt Newgate Prison. During her imprisonment, she was subjected to significant torment and sexual exploitation– abuse that ultimately resulted in pregnancy.   With a little bit of luck (and lots of help), she managed to escape just prior to giving birth. 

Flash forward two months later: Terrwyn lives in hiding outside of London, desperately trying to maintain a low profile.  Unfortunately, her safe haven is compromised when she encounters a few officers from the British Air Force. She flees and avoids getting recaptured by securing command of a new airship and resumes the family smuggling business. All of her focus centers on rebuilding her air pirate reputation and keeping her daughter safe. As you can imagine, her harrowing experiences in prison have left her uninterested in men. That is until she finds herself increasing drawn to Ian Cavil, one of her crewmen.

Ian is no stranger to imprisonment himself. In fact, he has only recently escaped his enslavement aboard a military airship run by the Blockaders, a government group that kidnaps unsuspecting men and forces them into military service. Smuggling life proves to be advantageous for the duo until Terrwyn is discovered by an old enemy. The ensuring drama draws both Terrwyn and Ian back into the clutches of those who would enslave them, and they must work together to maintain their freedom.

Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine is far better than the author’s first attempt.  The plot has a clearer focus and more streamlined storyline.  The sequel’s longer length probably has the added benefit of allowing the plots to resolve themselves more naturally rather than forcing a happy ending. My big complaint with this book centers on the lack of real depth given to the main character regarding her heinous abuse in prison.  Hiestand never really explores the long-lasting emotional trauma except in a way that feels too one-dimensional for such a strong topic. It’s as though she wanted her character to be flawed but didn’t want to really touch on the dark aspects of sexual abuse.  That said Terrwyn is a likeable, more fully fleshed out character than the first installment’s heroine so I give the author credit for imaging a stronger main character this time around.

A bit of warning: this story isn’t very Valentine-y or overly romantic despite the name (or its romantic side plot for that matter).  However, I recommend Captain Fenna’s Valentine Dirigible if you want a quick, fast-paced read filled with airships, mechanicals, automatons and adventure.  Even though it is the series’ second title, there is enough background information present to make reading the first title unnecessary. 

Find it at any of your favorite online retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Smashwords

Advertisements

Holiday Book Review–Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas

Standard

I’ve always had an undeniable penchant for the Christmas season. Even now, the holiday is still my favorite but I have to admit that my excitement varies from year to year.  To help counter any Scrooge-like feelings (or even just some ennui over the whole thing), I like to immerse myself in watching Christmas movies, shows, and reading holiday-themed books.

Earlier this year, I stumbled across Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas, a short Steampunk novella, by Heather Hiestand. It had great reviews and combined two of my favorite things–Christmas and Steampunk. Since the holidays were already over, I added it to my Amazon wish list eager to dive into the story once December rolled around.

So one day after setting up the Christmas tree, I downloaded the book, curled up in my favorite chair with a steaming cup of peppermint hot cocoa and got started.

The novella centers on Linet Fenna who grew up happy and carefree as the daughter of a famous air pirate and the entire family resided on the airship, the Christmas.  That is until three years’ prior when her family is betrayed by one of their closest friends.  Now her father is dead, her sister is missing, and the family airship has been destroyed. Or so she thought until one Christmas Eve reveals a surprising turn of events when the Christmas’ ladder dangles itself enticingly outside her bedroom window, inviting her to retake her destiny as an air pirate.  Surprised and hopeful that her sister has somehow managed to secure command of the family vessel, she is disheartened to find the son of her father’s betrayer acting as Captain along with a motley crew.  Yet the Captain may not be the foe that Linet believes him to be, and she must trust him in order to find her sister.

The story is a fast-paced adventure with hints of romance and danger that drew me in immediately.  I was captivated by the world that Heather Hiestand created, and really hoped to learn more about the authoritarian state of the Empire and the Prime Minister’s automen who maintain his iron-control of the populace.  As this book is part of Steampunk Smugglers series, I hope to get a better view of this intriguing world in another work.

Yet, despite the strong plot appeal, the execution failed in a number of aspects. Namely, the tone changed remarkably throughout the book, starting out like a lighthearted fantasy tale and then turning toward some pretty dark themes once her sister’s storyline is introduced. While this isn’t necessarily a problem in a longer work, the shorter length of this novella really worked against the author here. There just wasn’t enough time to really develop any of the storylines (or characters) so in the end the major plot points felt rather rushed and the resolutions felt hollow and too easy.  To compound matters, some of the dialogue felt awkward and pulled me out of the story on a number of occasions.

Overall, this wasn’t the most engaging Steampunk novella I’ve ever read, but it was entertaining and I’d suggest giving it a read around the holidays.  I’m going to give another one of Heather Hiestand’s books a try…. possibly the Steampunk Smuggler’s Valentine-themed novella, Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine.

This ebook is available at Amazon, B&N, and iBookstore:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Itunes