I’d been meaning to check out Katie MacAlister because of recommendations, but then I ‘met’ her in the Romance Divas class on steampunk where she mentioned Steamed. I have a soft spot for steampunk that dates back to my early childhood and travel watches I used to take apart and sometimes repair…with a few pieces left over. That was enough to push Steamed to the front of the list the next time I was in a bookstore.
While not exactly what I expected, especially since it starts with Jack in his quantum physics lab, the story is fun with strong characters. MacAlister leaps on the bandwagon of multiple universes to posit a world in which steam, and European dominance, holds sway. It is populated with a lot of the steampunk traditional elements, but there’s enough of a difference to play with when Jack’s interest in steampunk conflicts with his new reality.
The quantum physics lab is important because it leads to the accident that tosses both Jack and his sister into the alternative steam reality. He is enthralled. His sister less so.
They land on the ship of a newly promoted captain with a mysterious past, and mixed loyalties. Octavia has gotten around a bit in her unusual upbringing, which includes being the playmate, and lover, of the now emperor, and the foster child of an airship captain who is also a revolutionary, or was until they faked his death to avoid discovery.
Octavia helps Jack navigate the transition to her world, trying to keep him undercover for fear that he and his sister will be branded spies and killed. Jack has another education in mind. He plays on their attraction and knowledge from our world to bond with Tavy as he calls her through a number of heavy sexual encounters that help cement the connection along with her bravery and complexity. The frequency and level of sexual material might be a turnoff for some, but it blends with the plot and works.
This story does not follow traditional lines of a character with a plan or goal, because their goals and motivations change due to unexpected events. Loyalties that weren’t questioned before now come under scrutiny and the decisions aren’t what you might expect.
That said, the choices make sense and are appropriate for the characters so this difference is more of a curiosity than a problem. This is MacAlister’s first venture into the steampunk world, and it’s a fun one, especially how she played on the steampunk movements’ less logical aspects. Steamed leaves the world open to the potential for more stories, and I’ll be interested in seeing what she comes up with.