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REVIEW: Steamed by Katie MacAlister

Dear Ms. MacAlister,

Katie MacAlister cover image of SteamedI was excited to read Steamed, mostly because I haven’t found a lot of romance authors making a foray into the subgenre of steampunk and I’m always curious to see how worlds develop. It’s also nice to take a break from vampires, weres and futuristic worlds that have a general tendency to be dystopian. Of course, I’d already made a generalization that the book wouldn’t be as dark as many of the other sci/fi paranormals out there simply because it was a steampunk subgenre . I apologize for that in advance.

Jack Fletcher is some sort of computer technician who’s into steampunk goth bands and has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time but somehow ending up looking like a hero. He’s working in his company’s lab when his sister, Hallie, shows up. Hallie is attempting to set Jack up on a blind date with a woman who has similar interestes as he does. While she’s talking to him, she’s shaking a can of liquid helium (why this wasn’t removed from her immediate vicinity is beyond me). Hallie ends up misaligning the lid of the can, causing an explosion and blowing them to Steampunk Land. Kinda like when Dora and Boots end up in Fairytale Land. Now that I think about it, just like that. I wanted to kill Boots for being an idiot and falling for the witch’s bullshit. Just like I wanted to kill Hallie for being such an unforgivable idiot in a lab. The book nearly met the wall at that moment, but since Hallie wasn’t our heroine, I continued to read.

Octavia Pye is an Aerocorps captain on her maiden voyage, and knows she’s being tested by her crew and has been given a small shipping route until she proves herself to the Corps. The last thing she needs are two stowaways, which could ruin her standing in the Corps, and if she doesn’t handle them correctly, lose the trust and respect she’s trying to earn from her crew. On top of everything, Octavia is a woman with quite a few secrets that she wants to keep from her crew, the stowaways and the Aerocorps.

One of the biggest issues I had with this book is that it’s written in alternating first person, from either Jack or Olivia’s perspective. Chapter breaks  are when  the viewpoint switches, which provides clarity, but first person alternating is probably one of my least favorite ways to read romance.   I feel that this kept me from really getting the chemistry between Jack and Octavia, and there was a serious lack of total physical description other than a few body parts here and there (i.e., Octavia’s red hair and Jack’s eyes are two different colors). I also had issues with both the hero and heroine. Jack is a supposed Quaker who swears, drinks and draws the line at shooting a weapon, but will engage in a fight. I went to a Quaker school, and I know it means more than being a CO, so I found this a bit strange. He’s also a guy who happens to have received a lot of accolades for not a heck of a lot of heroism. He seemed a bit beta, but not capable, adorable beta. Just oblivious beta.

My problems with Octavia are a lot deeper, mostly because the majority of the book is written from her perspective, or at least it felt that way. Octavia doesn’t have a handle on her crew; they swear, make come-ons, question her authority, and blatantly go against orders. Rather than whipping them into shape with a firm but fair hand, she huffs, shrugs, and kinda lets it roll off her back. She has a respectable captaincy in the Aerocorps after 16 years of service, but the feeling I got is that if she couldn’t handle this small shipping run, she’d lose her position. She also has what seem to be an FBI building full of secrets, she’s had liasons with nearly all of the most powerful men in her world, yet she has no standing at all and can’t get anything done on her own. I found that it just didn’t seem to make sense. Then there was this:

“Your mind says no, but your body says yes,” he said, gently, persistently tugging me closer to him.

While this isn’t as bad as “your mouth says no…” it comes pretty damn close. Jack is a borderline letch, and his version of a compliment is not what I find complementary.

Lastly, the steampunk world seems to be an afterthought. Not the steam functionality, or mechanical machines, but rather the actual world. The different (and warring) factions seemed almost cartoonish, making the entire thing feel unstable and very unrealistic. Every time Etienne Briel is mentioned I had an image of Bomb Voyage in my head, rather than Olivier Martinez. Trust me, I kept trying to switch that mental image, but it wasn’t happening. This world wasn’t a punk dystopia, but it didn’t achieve a level of plausiblity at which I could suspend my disbelief and comfortably enter it. C

~ Shuzluva

This book can be purchased at Amazon
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Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.


  1. Allie
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 12:58:43

    Thank you for reviewing it. I was really curious about this book. I think I will pass on it.

  2. ~B
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 13:14:55

    Was really interested when I first read about this book. Now I’m not so sure.

    Thanks for the review.

  3. katiebabs
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 15:43:31

    I wasn’t looking for a slap stick alternate universe Steampunk joke world. Very disappointing :(

  4. SonomaLass
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 16:23:49

    Oh dear. This is not what I was hoping for. I think there’s so much potential for good romance in steampunk setttings; too bad this isn’t it. Not to mention the whole SteamedFail issue of cover art and book trailer. Too bad.

  5. Robin
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 16:32:52

    So does MacAlister use Steampunk like she does history — as more of a gimmick or as punctuation, rather than as comprehensive setting and context?

  6. Shuzluva
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 16:37:43

    @Robin It definitely felt gimmicky. Yes, Jack and Hallie traveled to Octavia’s world, but the world she inhabited felt like a movie set. Not a lot of substance going on there.

  7. Cassie
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 17:20:34

    Darn it. I’ve been experimenting with a steampunk story and while I’m not a fan of Katie’s work, I thought about giving this a try because of the steampunk aspects. From your review, though, this does not sound like a “true” steampunk. Oh, and that line. Ouch! Gave me a creepy shiver. I’m with katiebabs – slap stick alternate universe – not for me.

  8. Kayla
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 18:15:23

    Your mind says no, but your body says yes,” he said, gently, persistently tugging me closer to him.

    I haven’t read the book, but this line absolutely screams rape or sexual assault to me.

  9. rebyj
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 18:39:37

    I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of Katie MacAlister’s books so the slapstick aspect would not bother me, I’d expect that from her. Her humor is what draws many of her fans.

    I’m not much of a steampunk genre reader but I would think steampunk fiction and steampunk romance would be very different fiction. So reader expectation would be different wouldn’t you think?

    The alternating first person is always a very fine line to tread and is easily annoying. I was going to buy this book eventually because I’m a fan of Katie MacAlister’s work. Out of all her books, I didn’t like 3 so that’s a good record considering how many books she has out.
    I’m not a big fan of steampunk so I wasn’t and am not in any big hurry to buy it.

    Informative review Shuzluva. Thank you.

  10. Mary Beth
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 21:25:50

    Hmmm. Thanks for informative review. I’m still curious to read it (since I normally enjoy MacAlister’s novels)–but on someone else’s dime. That’s where the library is great–check out a book you’re uncertain about, if it tanks…don’t worry, quit reading and take it back. Then I celebrate the fact I didn’t buy it as an e-book!

    Love the reviews and other commentary. Thanks!

  11. Christine
    Feb 03, 2010 @ 07:36:44

    I love the cover art! I think I’d buy the book just because of that.

  12. LizC
    May 23, 2010 @ 19:24:20

    While this isn't as bad as “your mouth says no…” it comes pretty damn close. Jack is a borderline letch, and his version of a compliment is not what I find complementary.

    Yes. Dear god I want to punch Jack in the effing nuts. He’s a beta who thinks he’s an alpha and he sucks as both.

    I’ve literally been reading this book for a week because, dammit, I bought it, I’m going to read it but lord I hate it. I’ve almost thrown it at the wall a few times.

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