“disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business”—Tom Robbins
The first and most basic thing any artist asks of their audience is the willing suspension of disbelief as they approach the artist’s version of reality. In theaters, audiences watch a boy teach three children how to fly to Neverland. Movies feature animated rodents who sing, do housework, and sew wedding dresses without ever pooping on anything. Readers follow the adventures of a boy wizard, all the while wondering what’s become of their own letter from Hogwarts. Fans of the Chicago Cubs and the Norwich Canaries buy seasons tickets, sure that this will be “their” year. American voters actually cast ballots for Donald Trump. [It’s possible that last one represents not so much a willing suspension of disbelief as all-out assault in which disbelief is bludgeoned to death and its bloody corpse kicked to the curb…]
But few genres demand such a total suspension of belief as steampunk fantasy, especially Victorian (or Gaslight) settings. What is their appeal? Some say it’s the romance of a (theoretically) simpler time. Others like the chance to alter history to the way it really should have been. Or maybe it’s just the sheer artistry and creativity of ultra cool inventions in a world that never quite got into the internal combustion engine.
Author Alys West blames it on tea.
Writing steampunk was a natural development from her obsession with tea. How could she not write in a genre where the characters shared her belief that 90% of the world’s wrongs can be solved with a nice cup of tea?
Whatever your reason, please suspend your disbelief onto one of those hooks behind the door, grab a cup of tea, and join me as I review Alys West’s new steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter (due out tomorrow from Amazon).
Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. She started writing when she couldn’t find enough books to read that had all of the elements that she loved; fantasy, romance and suspense, although her love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have had something to do with it too. It also gave her a great excuse to spend her time looking at Victorian fashions and call it research.
Alys is doing a MA in Creative Writing at York St John University and also teaches creative writing for Converge, an arts project for people with mental health issues.
When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet. She occasionally blogs at http://www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer. It makes her week if she hears from someone who’s enjoyed one of her books so please do get in touch. She would love to hear from you!
When Harriet Hardy moved to Whitby, newly famous from Mr Stoker’s sensational novel, she thought she’d left her past and her father’s disgrace behind her. But then an amorous Alderman and a mysterious Viscount turn her life upside down and she’s never been more grateful that she doesn’t leave home without her pistol.
But when defending her honour lands her with an attempted murder charge, Harriet’s only option is to turn to the mysterious Viscount for help. Fortunately, he turns out to be not so mysterious after all and, fortified by copious amounts of tea, she sets forth to clear her name.
As the court case looms Harriet fears she’ll forever be tarnished by her father’s scandalous reputation. Can she avoid conviction, and just possibly, find a happy ending? Or will she always be trapped by her past as the daughter of the notorious Dirigible King?
If you like Gail Carriger or Georgette Heyer you’ll love this sparkling romance with a steampunk twist.
Harriet Hardy never set out to become a kickass pistol-packing Victorian feminist. Raised to expect a proper middle class life of servants, parties, fancy dresses, and the welcome romantic attentions of a dashing soldier, she is instead forced to leave all that behind when her father’s death reveals his business failures. She moves to Whitby, working for and then inheriting her uncle’s property management business when he dies. By the time eight years have passed she is—by Victorian standards—a spinster whose profession, disgraced family, and age make marriage an impossibility. And that’s all before she’s arrested for the attempted murder of a local politician when he attempts “something very improper”.
So far, all this is fairly standard romance novel stuff. And indeed, the steampunk bits sneak in subtly at the edges… a mention of a steam carriage here, an airship there, perhaps a cogwork-enhanced fortune teller or a mysterious “rod system” that carries data through a giant pipe running alongside the road. This is a kinder, gentler steampunk world in which Victorian manners and dress take precedence over any explanations of the internal combustion engine’s failure to launch or the dirigibles’ failure to explode regularly a la Hindenburg. The focus of the story remains firmly on Harriet’s conflicts with her father’s death, her upcoming trial, the return of Charlie—former dance partner now even further socially removed by his family’s ascendence into the peerage—and a possibly/probably fake engagement.
Within those boundaries, The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a lovely story. The pace steadily picks up as it moves to the courtroom dramatics, the romance is sweet rather than hot or steamy, the dialog charming. I enjoyed Harriet’s confusion as she attempts to reconcile her heart with the strong pragmatic woman her head tells her to be. With the exception of Harriet herself, there is very little character development, but since the supporting characters are stock tropes, little more is needed. Homage is paid to romance tropes, with some updated nods to feminist leanings. There is a bit of steampunk worldbuilding, but like the whisps of steam lingering between the buildings when Harriet visits London, the science behind the steam isn’t even mentioned.
The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a quick entertaining read for those who enjoy romance, steampunk, or just a charmingly-written and beautifully edited little book that makes few demands and delivers exactly what it promises.
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Book Title: The Dirigible King’s Daughter
Author: Alys West
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Length: 220 pages
Publisher: Fabrian Books (August 12, 2016)