Steamed Up

 steamed up

Title : Steamed Up

Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)

Genre : M/M, Steampunk

Length : 344 pages (e-book)

Published : October 21, 2013

Rating : ★★★★


Inventors, pilots, tinkers, and soldiers; magical metals to replace an aging heart or a ruined limb; steam-powered fantasy worlds of clockwork nightingales, automatons, dirigibles, and men. The stories in this anthology visit diverse times in the history of modern man, and the men who populate these tales face war and cruelty, masters and autocrats, illness and poverty and greed. Yet the heat of romance outmatches even the steam engines, and time and again, the gears of love rule the day.

Stories included are:

  • “The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song” by Amy Rae Durreson
  • “Caress” by Eli Easton
  • “Swiftsilver” by Bell Ellis
  • “The Clockwork Heart” by Kim Fielding
  • “The Galatea’s Captain” by Anka Grace
  • “Screws” by R.D. Hero
  • “The Golden Goose” by Mark Lesney
  • “Spindle and Bell” by Augusta Li
  • “Ace of Hearts” by Mary Pletsch
  • “Five to One” by Angelia Sparrow
  • “Untouchable” by Layla M. Wier


“Five to One” by Angelia Sparrow – Dee Ferguson and Jonathan Crawford are roommates living in Boston in a time of gas lamps, where jobs are scarce and being Irish may be a disadvantage. One day Jonathan brings home a handbill stating there is to be a Transcontinental Manpower Road Race. The race is from Boston Harbor to the San Francisco Bay. The prize for winning is one million dollars. If they won it, it would change their lives completely. Dee is an inventor and he begins setting about inventing a manpowered vehicle that will help them win the race. The title comes from Dee calculating his gear ratio for the vehicle he is building. It is a beautiful tale of two men that have an easy relationship and realize that it has become much more. The intimacy they share is sweet and passionate. My only regret with this story was that it ended too soon. I would love to see them race across the country together and what happens along the way and how their lives change once they reach San Francisco. ~ 4 stars 2 heat

c4584ffc440fbadc8c60cbcaa151fac2“The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song” by Amy Rae Durreson – Nightingale No. 48 had stopped singing. This is how our story begins. We enter a world where the garden’s float above the city, the birds that sing are mechanical and one is destined to live one’s life according to one’s station in society. Shem Holloway, most of his life, has worked in the Vauxhall Gardens, first as a piston boy and now as a senior mechanic. Life is not easy when you are poor and he has learned to take care of himself and his apprentices. Not all the people who visit the gardens are there for the attractions, some take interest in the young apprentice mechanics. Shem has made it his job to protect these young men and does not hold a very high opinion of the “gentlemen”. When No 48 stops working correctly, we find out that the creator of these marvels installed a special circuit into several of the nightingales as an experiment. Lord Marchmont is rich and eccentric and shows little respect for the men working at the Vauxhall. When he comes to check on No 48 Shem must explain what is happening with the machine. After a rocky start, Lord Marchmont sees more in Shem, admires his insight and invites him to his workshop. This goes against all Shem feels about the upper class but cannot refuse. The story takes us through the mechanisms of repairing the nightingale as well as the complex situations these two men find themselves in as their friendship and attraction for one another grows. It is a story filled with symbolism and I found myself hoping for a happy ending for both the nightingale and Shem. I found it pleasant although somewhat sad but with a satisfying ending. ~ 4.5 stars 1 heat

“Ace of Heart’s” by Mary Pletsch – This story is set in war times with the fairly new introduction of heavier-than-air flight. Airplane Mechanic, First Class William Pettigrew knows these machines well. His mother is one of the chief inventors of these bi-planes. He would be one of the flying aces if it were not for an accident that took the sight of one of his eyes when he was young. This does not stop him from being a certified pilot and top-notch mechanic. Up until recently the Albion High Command has been using dirigibles in combat. The Heavier-Than-Air squadron still has to prove themselves. When one of the most famous dirigible pilots takes up flying the bi-planes and is met with skepticism; – rumor has it they want the heavier-than-air planes to fail. William is taken with the handsome pilot, Captain James Hinson, but keeps a respectful distance. William has not made it known that he is interested in men and is sure Hinson is not interested. The story is filled with flying, action and a heroic rescue. It is not one I felt was a HEA but a sweet beginning. Overall an enjoyable story. ~ 3.0 stars 0 heat

steampnuk“Caress” by Eli Easton – When Tinker was twelve, his mother took him to meet Albertus. Albertus was a machinist, looking for an apprentice. Tinker and his mother waited two days in the cold rain for an audience, but all Tinker could think was that he might get some food. Once it was his turn, he was so fascinated with all of the puzzles and tools, he soon forgot his hunger. His curiosity and aptitude won him a place as Albertus’s apprentice. Tinker had a faulty heart and Albertus made him a mechanical heart. This was a great improvement for Tinker and his energy was renewed but as fate would have it one day Albertus’s heart failed and there was nothing to save him. Our story takes us on the sad journey of who Tinker was sold to and the how his skills were used in a time of war. He is not proud of what he was made to do, the horrors he created and when he had a chance to save a young officer, Captain Davies, from death he takes the opportunity to do something good. I enjoyed how the story developed between Tinker and the Captain and how Tinker tried to find some redemption in the beautiful creations he made and gave away. A beautiful bittersweet story with a happy ending. ~ 4.5 stars 1 heat

“The Galatea’s Captain” by Anka Grace – Kamil Ramses is in the care of the Duchess of Althea after a severe injury to his foot requires its amputation. Kamil is in this Camlaan on a peace mission. The Duchess is taking him to see Catain Talos, who he is told can make him a mechanical foot. Expecting someone much older, he encounters a young man. Close to his age with bright red hair and clear blue eyes. He is assured he can make the replacement foot and Kamil stays aboard his air ship while the captain works on the replacement. During the process, Kamil and the captain become – not quite friends – but each enjoys the other’s company, and when the process is completed, they part ways. It seems like the story may end at that but, with romances as they are, they find each other again. I enjoyed this story from a point that it was not completely focused on war but rather on negotiating peace. I found it difficult to become invested in the two main characters as their relationship through most of the story was aloof and businesslike with only a hint of attraction, then the ending was quickly moved forward. All in all I liked the storyline and characters. ~ 3 stars 0 heat

flat,550x550,075,f.u1“Screws” by R.D. Hero – Julius Barnes dreams of becoming an engineer, to create things like his favorite hero’s. His father, however, has other ideas. He wants him to become a lawyer. One day his father takes him to a factory that makes screws. While there Julius looks down on the men working there, seeing them as beneath his level. Julius is a bit of a snob. He is appalled when he learns his father has procured a job for him at the factory. His father plans to teach him a lesson, have him come to his senses. When Julius first arrives, he is lost and immediately annoys his foreman, Peavey. Fortunately he is rescued by a fellow worker, Hank Hooley. Hank is handsome is a rough way and Julius is fascinated by him, although still feeling superior. When Julius makes a condescending remark about the factory, Hank reminds him that all his fancy machines are held together by the screws they build. This is the beginning of Julius real education. I enjoyed seeing the growth of Julius, watch his changing views of the world. His fascination with Hank grows and when his father finally agrees that Julius may go into engineering he is reluctant to leave. What happens next is something you will have to read. While I was glad to see Julius mature, I never felt the connection between him and Hank as a couple. It was still an enjoyable story. ~ 3.0 stars 2 heat

Steampunk_A_Week__Heart_by_phantoms_siren“The Clockwork Heart” by Kim Fielding This is one of my favorite stories in this anthology. The storyline was unexpected. The main character, Dante is struggling to be his own person. He has been told what he wants to do is not important, to only do what others want him to do. It has led him to a solitary life where his association with people is limited and his lifestyle meager, until he finds a golem while looking through rubbish for things to repair and sell. The story that unfolds surrounding Dante and the golem, which is a clockwork man that had once been made as a pleasure toy but has been abused and thrown away. I love how their stories run parallel in finding their humanity. It is beautiful and sweet. ~ 5.0 stars 2 heat

“The Golden Goose” by Mark Lesney – Joshua Clarridge is a thief having a very bad day. After a humiliating escape from a botched daytime burglary he hears cries for help coming from beyond a fence as he runs past. Needing a place to hide as well as concern for the cries, he scales the fence to see a young man being assaulted. He takes up a limb and smacks the culprit upside the head. After more action and drama, the man who he has rescued enlist him in restoring his machine before it destroys the neighborhood. This frenzied pace sets the tone of the story. The young man that was being assaulted is Gordon Phillip Dennis or Viscount Dennis although he no longer has much in the way of wealth due to the scheme he is planning to take down the banking system with his invention. Joshua is not aware of this and is unsure if the man is genius or mad or both. Regardless he finds the young man very attractive and as his alternative is jail, he stays. The story is very fast paced, and I could not find myself having any emotional investment in either of the characters. One is a scoundrel and the other mad genius and the ending did not redeem either man in my eyes. ~ 2.5 stars 0 heat

steampunk_heart_7_by_lucky978-d3gbrdg“Spindle and Bell” by Augusta Li – Spindle lives in a cupboard. His life is nothing more than working as a thief for Ivor, the man who gives him his special milk morning and night and sends him out into the diseased world to bring back treasures for him to sell. Constantly told he is ugly and that no one would ever want anything to do with him, Spindle is resigned to his life. Until one night he happens to explore a bit and finds himself discovered by a pale young man as he sits on his balcony. Belenus Wilfred Hastings or Bel to his friends – if he had any. is dying. He has the disease that has plagued the city and driven people indoors or wearing mask. Bel is curious about Spindle and any news of the world outside his room. He is somewhat a genius and has been working on finding a cure for the disease. Together, he and Spindle for a bond, a friendship and in their own way, they help one another become more. I loved this bittersweet story. It is dark and gritty while being beautiful and heart wrenching. This story will remain with me long after I am done with this anthology. ~ 5.0 stars 0 heat

“Untouchable” by Layla M. Wier – Untouchable is the first steampunk story I have read that was set in 1930 United States. It is during the days of prohibition and the time of Al Capone. Federal Agent Agamemnon Rawson is unorthodox. He keeps to himself, is an avid reader and somewhat an enigma. The Federal government is wary of his methods and sends Agent George Aldis to work with Rawson and send reports about Rawson. Both men are in the closet, especially Aldis as he is certain it would end his career at the bureau.

They are investigating how Capone is shipping his illegal alcohol without getting caught. The interesting thing about this story is how they weave steampunk elements like dirigibles and clockwork mechanisms into this more modern crime mystery, at least more modern than the standard Victorian setting. The pace is good for the development of the relationship as well as solving the mystery. There is a lot of action with typical heroics and corrupt officials as often portrayed of that era. I did enjoy the resolution to the relationship angle. This one was a fun twist on the steampunk theme. ~ 4.0 stars 0 heat

cd611cfde1a2b6e724c3db2ac02414f7“Swiftsilver” by Bell Ellis – Seamus has been an apprentice for Demolo since he was six years old. He is bright and methodical. His life has been hard as Demolo is constantly berating him. His solace is in the shop, the order and familiarity of its contents. One day, when he is sixteen, he creates a substance purely by accident. It resembles quicksilver but without the poisonous properties, and he dubs it swiftsilver. He is unable to replicate the process and must try in secret as he is sure Demolo would react badly to know of his experimenting. His life goes on as usual until three years later, Ixthiocopoulos Tenet – or Thio – to his friends, literally falls out of the sky in front of the Apothecary where Seamus works. Thio is everything Seamus is not, he is wild, unorganized, with a lack of thought that many of his ideas may not work. He embraces the moment. Seamus is both fascinated and scandalized by the young man.

The story follows the life of Seamus and Thio which to a large part is intertwined with Seamus’s swiftsilver. Thio becomes a constant in Seamus’ life while recuperating from the broken arm he received when he crashed in front of the shop. Seamus becomes his lab assistant while continuing his duties in the shop. The dynamics between Thio, Seamus and Demolo are, to me, about doing what we would like to do, without regard to responsibilities and doing what is expected or required. Thio is son of a Lord and has political and social responsibilities. Seamus has known no one other than Demolo as a parent, even with his abuse and feels a responsibility to him. What occurs in the story with the relationship between the two young men and how they decide to handle it is both beautiful and bittersweet. I enjoyed this story very much and I was happy with the ending. ~ 4.5 stars 3 heat

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I used to be an avid steampunk reader. I have not read any in a while as I ventured into other genres. When I saw this anthology, I was intrigued. Steamed Up is the first M/M steampunk I have read. If you are new to steampunk, it can be dark and gritty. Many center on very distinct class inequalities, although some can be humorous and fantastical. In this anthology, some of the stories are so vivid that one can visualize the smoke in the air, feel the soot work into your pores or hear the gentle ticking of the clockwork mechanisms. As I have found with many anthologies, some stories resonate with me more than others but those hidden gems are what keep me coming back.

Overall rating of 4 stars by Deb

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