I honestly did not think I would like this book as much as I did. First, I’ve never really read anything that could be considered steam punk; the only time I ever tried it before I couldn’t get past the first page because I felt like I needed a special dictionary to understand half of what was written. Second, I absolutely hate the title. Steam Me Up, Rawley? Really? Did the hero’s name need to be in the title? I would have much preferred it if it was just called Steam Me Up. All I can say is that I’m glad that I didn’t let the title stop me from reading this.
Jack the Ripper might be in town. But is marriage more terrifying?
In an alternate Deep South in 1890, society reporter Adele de la Pointe wants to make her own way in the world, despite her family’s pressure to become a society wife. Hoping to ruin herself as a matrimonial prospect, she seizes the opportunity to cover the recent Jack the Ripper-style murders for the newspaper, but her father’s dashing new intern suggests a more terrifying headline—marriage.
Dr. Phillip Rawley’s most daring exploit has been arriving at his new home in America in a hot air balloon. A tolerable sacrifice, if it means he can secure the hand of his new employer’s daughter in a marriage of convenience. But Adele works, she’s spirited, and she has an armored pet monkey running her errands. Not only does she not match his notions of a proper lady, she stirs up feelings he’d rather keep in tight control.
With Adele hunting down a headline and Dr. Rawley trying to protect and pursue her, a serial killer is spreading panic throughout Mobile, Alabama. Can Adele and Rawley find the murderer, face their fears, and discover true love?
One of the things that I really enjoyed was learning the ins and outs of Quarles’s Mobile, which was richly drawn and made me wish that people actually had walked around with “shoulder pets” during the 19th Century. While I wouldn’t want to find people walking around with parakeets or monkeys on their shoulders today, this seems like something that Gilded Era rich people would have done. (Really, it seems like something that if Paris Hilton started doing a decade ago all the status hungry people in Long Island–not to mention my neighborhood back home–would have jumped all over. It is that type of ridiculous thing over which the rest of the world would look on and shake their heads.) There were a few times where Adele’s monkey, whose name I blanking on for some reason, seemed to be heading into plot moppet territory, but on the whole, I liked this addition to the book.
What I really liked about SMUR (hmm, I don’t like this abbreviation, but I can’t think of anything better and I don’t want to keep typing up the whole title) was that both Adele and Phillip (Rawley of the title) were complex characters. Adele, especially appealed to me. She wasn’t the typical historical romance heroine, although I have no idea what the typical steam punk heroine is like. I liked that she was adamantly against the idea of marriage because she understood that as a married woman she would have to stop doing the things she wanted to do. (In the end, I was a little upset to find that this wasn’t the real reason she didn’t want to get married, but not upset enough for me to downgrade my rating.)
The one thing that I wasn’t crazy about was Adele’s father. For the majority of the book he seemed to be a rather cruel man, especially when it came to Phillip and the deal they struck to bring the young doctor to Mobile from England. There was something that he held over Phillip’s head to make sure that he would marry Adele (which I will not spoil) and I didn’t feel as if this was addressed properly. There sure as hell wasn’t any groveling on his part and I didn’t understand his sudden change of heart at the end of the novel. It felt to me as if he knew that Adele and Phillip would be married and only agreed to do what was right once he realized he would be getting what he wanted.