All my life, I've felt something was missing, and now I know what it was. Thanks to Her Sky Cowboy, I now realize that the void in my soul was caused by never having seen Janis Joplin perform “Piece Of My Heart” in a bar on a floating zeppelin in Victorian England. The odds of my filling said void through direct personal experience seem to be low, but thanks to the book at least I got to read about it.
Her Sky Cowboy is a steampunk romance, which takes place in and above England, Paris, and Italy. This is the first book in “The Glorious Victorious Darcys” trilogy. It involves the adventures of Amelia Darcy, an inventor and pilot who is trying to restore her family's fortune and good name by winning a contest. She must find an invention of historical importance in time for Queen Victoria's Jubilee. When her kitecycle (!) is destroyed in a mid air collision with ex-Air Marshall Tucker Gentry's zeppelin, the two join forces, although Tuck wants the money to buy his freedom and return to the United States.
All this dashing about in search of the treasure/historical object takes place in an alternate history setting where a time machine cased people from the 1960's to move to Victorian England. These “Peace Rebels” are also known as “Mods” while people who are native to the Victorian Age timeline are called “Vics”. “Mods” sometimes have babies with mysterious powers – they are “Freaks”. This is the most interesting part of the book but it isn't delved into much. I assume we'll hear more about the Peace Wars in the next two books of the trilogy.
As if time travelling hippies wasn't enough to make things interesting, here's a partial list of the elements this crazy book contains:
• A falcon with a mechanical wing and leg
• A mechanical Pegasus (artificial wings strapped onto a real horse)
• Leonardo Da Vinci's ornithopter
• The Wild West
• Hippie Steampunk Circus Clothes
• A political plot to assassinate Queen Victoria
Basically, I'm giving the book a B for coming up with so many crazy and wonderful things to put in a book. But it's a B-, because these elements are thrown into the book willy-nilly. Nothing feels cohesive. Maybe this is because the author is trying to save the history for the next two books, maybe it's just an overdose of ambition that isn't matched by skill, but instead of a coherent flow we just careen from nifty thing to nifty thing. As much as I love the nifty things (and I can't over-emphasize just how nifty they are) I would willingly give up half of the nifty things in exchange for twice as much actual building of a solid, cohesive world in which to put them.
As far as the romance goes, Amelia and Tucker are drawn together not only by happenstance but also because their goals are both completely the same (they both want to restore their honor and keep their family together) and completely in opposition (even if they win the prize, it won't involve enough money for both things to happen – either Amelia will succeed, or Tuck will, depending on what bargain they ultimately strike with each other). I liked that Tuck admires Amelia's intellect and that Amelia is able to take his very multi-cultural crew completely in stride without seeming overly sweet. They have good chemistry and her attempts to take control of her sex life without becoming emotionally attached were well done. The length of the novel gave the relationship time to develop.
I did not like that Amelia kept fluctuating from kick-ass, practical heroine to damsel in distress. Her personality changed as the plot required it.
I also have to deduct some marks for the phrase “pebbled buds”.
Furthermore, Amelia and Tuck kept veering from one misunderstanding to another, although I vastly appreciated the fact that they actually asked each other about these misunderstandings and as a result cleared them up quickly. Tuck makes some pretty offensive assumptions about whether or not a woman who enthusiastically desires sex can possibly be a virgin, but at least he has a real, and prompt, conversation with Amelia about it, and actually listens to what she has to say, instead of just writing her off. Overall, I rooted for Tuck and Amelia, if nothing else so she could keep fixing his airship by kicking it, which was freaking HILARIOUS.
Her Sky Cowboy is not a new release – it came out in November. This May sees the release of a new eBook, His Broken Angel, ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) and Book Two, The Clockwork Canary, ( A | BN | K | S | iB ) comes out June 4th. Her Sky Cowboy is a good, self-contained novel with a fully resolved romance. The other two books will presumably follow the same pattern, with each book being about a different Darcy sibling. I'd say that this book is a decent romance and a more than decent rollicking adventure with wildly fun steampunk and 1960's elements. Now I have to put “Mechanical Pegasus” on my Christmas list.