On Multicultural Steampunk Romance
A few weeks ago, I accompanied my husband and young daughter to a local East Indian cultural festival. We browsed through racks of beautiful saris, admired exquisite paintings, ate spicy, delicious food, and watched a variety of classic Indian dancers. Attending such festivals has fast become a family tradition since I’m eager to introduce my daughter to as many different cultures as possible.
So imagine my delight when only a week later, a friend told me about Rajasthani Moon (May 2013; Total E-Bound), a newish steampunk romance from author Lisabet Sarai. I’ve not had a chance to read this title yet, but it’s at the top of my To Be Read pile. It looks like a sizzling steampunk romance with a Victorian India setting. Here’s the blurb:
Neither kink nor curse can stop a woman with a mission
Cecily Harrowsmith, secret agent extraordinaire, is a woman on a mission. When the remote Indian kingdom of Rajasthan refused to remit its taxes to the Empire, Her Majesty imposed an embargo. Deprived of the energy-rich mineral viridium, essential for modern technology and development, Rajasthan was expected to quickly give in and resume its payments. Yet after three years, the rebellious principality still has not knuckled under. Cecily undertakes the difficult journey to the rugged, arid land of the Rajputs to determine just how it has managed to survive, and if possible to convince the country to return to the Empire’s embrace. Instead, she’s taken captive by a brigand who turns out to be the ruler’s half-brother Pratan and delivered into the hands of the sexy but sadistic Rajah Amir, who expertly mingles torture and delight in his interrogation of the voluptuous interloper.
Cursed before birth by Amir’s jealous mother, Pratan changes to a ravening wolf whenever the moon is full. Cecily uncovers the counter-spell that can reverse the effects of the former queen’s hex and tries to trade that information for her freedom. Drawn to the fierce wolf-man and sympathising with his suffering, she volunteers to serve as the sacrifice required by the ritual—offering her body to the beast. In return, the Rajah reveal Rajasthan’s amazing secret source of energy. In the face of almost impossible odds, Cecily has accomplished the task entrusted to her by the Empire. But can she really bear to leave the virile half-brothers and their colourful land behind and return to constraints of her life in England?
Encountering Rajasthani Moon made me realize I’m hungry for multicultural steampunk romances. I enjoy learning about East Indian culture as a matter of course in real life, so reading a steampunk romance with that kind of setting is a natural fit for me.
I’m sorry to say that I didn’t think of seeking out such titles sooner. One the one hand, steampunk romance is a very young genre. And given the popularity of Victorian England as a setting, chances are pretty slim that authors would venture beyond Great Britain. All of which means my expectations of even finding books like Rajasthani Moon were low to begin with.
But since my goal as a steampunk and sci-fi romance reader has been to continually widen my horizons, I feel it’s important to acknowledge my lack of initiative. Since Lisabet Sarai took a risk to create an outside-the-box steampunk romance, the least I can do as a reader is meet her halfway. If I keep to narrow definitions of steampunk romance, I might very well miss out on some great reads.
I started thinking about what other kinds of multicultural steampunk romances I’d love to read. Settings I’d encourage steampunk romance authors to consider include but aren’t limited to the following:
* Africa (Just the idea of a steampunk romance there sounds amazing.)
* Malaysia (I know someone who lives there. Maybe she’ll write one for me?!)
* Thailand (Pad Thai is one of my favorite foods, but I need to broaden my horizons way more than that.)
* Polynesia (I’ll probably never get a chance to visit, so a steampunk romance set there would be the next best thing.)
* Russia (I adored the action-adventure SF film Black Lightning and would be equally delighted if someone wrote a steampunk romance with a Russian setting.)
* China (Tai Chi Zero, while fun, was only an appetizer for me. I’d love to see a more romance-focused steampunk story unfold in a nice meaty novel.)
* Mongolia (Any kind of steampunk gadget that comes out of Mongolia would be glorious.)
* Mexico (There are many elements and themes to explore with this setting.)
The above settings and others could inject steampunk romance with so many worldbuilding and relationship possibilities.
While this post has been more about what could happen with multicultural steampunk romance, perhaps there are books besides Rajasthani Moon already in existence. If you know of any titles, please share them in the comment section!
About the author
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com.