Steam and Stratagem by Christopher Hoare blends steampunk and romance in one fascinating story. Hoare's trademark for crafting strong heroines serves him well in this story set in 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars.
A chance encounter between Roberta Stephenson and Lord Bond leads to the Stephenson Engine Works being considered to build steam powered rams for the Admiralty. Roberta is soon drawn into the world of intrigue, while her personal life gets more complicated by the attention of three suitors.
Having never read steampunk fiction before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. In some ways, Steam and Stratagem is a Victorian era Tom Clancy book. It's filled with details of ships, cannons, iron plates, and more. The romance aspect of the novel takes a back seat to the intrigue and ship engineering. This might shift a bit in future novels of the series, but in this first book, I was seventy percent into the novel before Roberta began considering these potential suitors. There are hints of the romance prior to that, but not much.
While I don't think steampunk fiction will ever be a favorite of mine, Hoare's writing--which I've enjoyed in the past--remains solid and his female characters sharp. I can't say I cared for Lord Bond, much, but perhaps there are some surprises coming in future installments. Holmes and Worthington were entertaining, and I would like to see more of them.
If you're a steampunk fiction fan, you'll want to check out Steam and Stratagem.
Paperback: 326 pages
Publisher: Tyche Books Ltd. (November 27, 2013)
The publisher sent me a digital copy of this book for review. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.
I have read this book for the following challenges.