Wanted: One Scoundrel (A Clockwork Christmas Anthology, Novella)
Harlequin Carina Press (US: 5th December 2011) [eBook only]
In 1895, Esme Smith is the daughter of the richest man in the Swan River colony, if not the whole of Australia. She’s campaigning for equality: for men and woman, rich and poor, internationally descended and indigenous. But as a woman, she’s not permitted to enter gentlemen’s clubs, so she needs a puppet. Enter Jed Reeve, an American who’s the perfect scoundrel for Esme to train.
This is more historical than steampunk – the technological aspects seem only as set design, and not plot-centric. This is disappointing, because I WANT devices to be centre stage – they’re vital for true steampunk.
But even though Wanted: One Scoundrel is more historical than mechanised, I really enjoyed this. I’ve never before encountered a steampunk set in Australia, so the location here is easier for me to identify with, and a welcome change from the seemingly endless parades of English- and American-based corset-and-bustle dramas.
And I actually believe the relationship, and wanted it to happen – which I almost never do, so this is a big compliment to the author’s considerable talents. Esme and Jed don’t have silly misunderstandings to create a “darkest hour” – they’re smart, likeable characters who don’t turn into insufferable gits once they fancy each other.
In fact, the STORY is more central than the romance, and this is another brilliant difference that lifts this novella above its peers. I certainly hope to read more Australian steampunk from Jenny Schwartz.
P.S. I still don’t know what a “scoundrel” is.