I originally got this because I was obsessed with Dia Reeves and in 2011 she had two books out, both of which I had already read. Hers is the eleventh of thirteen short stories in this anthology, but all the stories preceding it are fun reads in their own right, and so are the two that follow. It's been long enough since steampunk was "cool" that I don't remember how much elements of the supernatural were expected as part of the genre but most of these stories contain some element of it, and it's usually well-integrated into the narrative and world building, despite the limited space each story gets - I think the longest one is around fifty pages? The romances subtitle is a little misleading, but in a pleasant way; the stories have space for romancing, and what romancing happens usually fits into the story, but the stories around the romantic elements were enjoyable in their own right. Dia Reeves' story is still a favorite, but I also loved Deadwood, The Clockwork Corset (very on the nose name but also a fun concept), The Airship Gemini, Under Amber Skies, The Emperor's Man, and Wild Magic. Rude Mechanicals, the first story in the anthology, was pretty blah by comparison, but it's a good primer for the applications of the steampunk aesthetic to the romance genre; King of the Greenlit City was the least steampunk-seeming and was pretty much just straight fantasy save for one animatronic servant with a mythological namesake, and The Vast Machinery of Dreams is tied for "why is it here?"ness because as fun as it was, it was Lovecraftian homage, not steampunk. While there's definitely a precedent for steampunk Lovecraft lovechildren, this was not one of those; this was like the child of romance's prior marriage to Lovecraftian homage showing up at the steampunk-romance family reunion. Still a fun read, mostly because Caitlin Kittredge has a great sense of style, but it's here on the thinnest of ice. Tick, Tick, Boom, the final story in the set, had a fun concept but the romance plot's twist ending was pretty meh, largely because the one instance of foreshadowing for it was really lackluster. It has a lot of narrative similarities to an earlier story, The Emperor's Man, which manages to pull off the same general plot of
but the choice in POV character versus love interest works better in The Emperor's Man because its romantic pair manage to be interesting even with the
Spoilerdictator who seized power through genre-specific means has a daughter who sabotages his power because she disagrees with his unethical practices and falls in love with a man who seems to be part of her father's agenda
at play, while Tick, Tick, Boom does too good a job of making its red herring boring, so the reveal spoils any fun generated beforehand. Code of Blood was a fun read but ended up being neither as enjoyable nor as memorable as its fellow contributions. Despite a few less than perfect landings, this still gets a five because I like to have a good time.