Steampunk romance characters spend a fair amount of time traveling. They might be on a quest, hunting for clues to solve a mystery, or chasing the villain. Therefore, it’s important they have access to a reliable means of travel. Transportation devices in these stories fall into two basic categories: stylish and practical.
Stylish devices include inventions like the flying car from the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. With shiny brass components and oversized parts, the devices are sleek and sophisticated. Plus, the characters look really cool riding them. Sure, the Victorian-era aesthetic can seem over the top, but frankly, that’s the point!
Steampunk transportation vehicles of the utilitarian kind are more about function than form. Black iron, greasy gears, and ash-belching smokestacks tend to dominate the designs. Think chunky rather than streamlined. The traction engine from Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s 2004 anime film Steamboy is a great example of steampunk’s more primitive devices.
Transportation devices in steampunk romances develop the romance in several ways. For one thing, the couple spends time together, often in close proximity. Talking, arguing, fighting the villain, and making love are all part of the journey!
There is a number of intriguing transportation devices in steampunk romance with your entertainment needs in mind. Here’s a roundup of the top five:
Airships are the most common form of travel. Given their majestic nature, it's no wonder readers love to imagine them. Many airships fall into the military/naval style, like those found in Zoe Archer’s Skies of Fire and Katie MacAlister’s Steamed. For airships with dramatic, fantastical designs, visit the world created by Nathalie Gray in Full Steam Ahead.
Steam-powered carriages are, on the surface, basic transportation devices, but authors frequently use them as symbolic ways to represent technological change. However, these sky polluting machines aren’t always for the better. They’re sometimes depicted as sinister omens of a dark future.
Books featuring steam carriages include The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook), The Affinity Bridge (George Mann), and my own Western steampunk romance, Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts.
Wings are another type of transportation device found in steampunk romance, although not as frequently as other types. Still, there are two notable books worth mentioning. The first is Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti. The heroine in this story is a courier. She soars above her home city of Ondinium using specially constructed wings. The other story is Christine Danse’s m/m tale Island of Icarus. In this story, one of the heroes is an engineer and he builds a set of clockwork powered wings.
The concept of steam-powered bikes is practically a no-brainer. There’s a flashy steam powered cycle in Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’ The Janus Affair. Nico Rosso’s Nights of Steel features ether-powered air cycles. The hero and heroine use them as steeds—and also for some flirty competition!
A few steampunk romances feature steam-powered animals with hides of steel. Why? Well, because they’re awesome. But these devices are also used to provide social commentary on the impact of emerging technology.
In Sheryl Nantus’s Wild Cards and Iron Horses, the heroine works to perfect an iron horse invention. The hero in Nico Rosso’s Nights of Fire rides an ether-powered horse—in the sky! For a steed of steel with a distinct Western flair, check out Theresa Meyers' The Hunter.
In conclusion, steampunk romance transportation devices are designed to inspire awe, intrigue, and excitement. They also have the added value of drawing a couple closer together.
Now you tell me: if you could invent your own steampunk vehicle, what would it be?
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Now for the blurb:
The West just got a whole lot wilder.
A woman on a mission... Scientific achievement isn't enough for Violet Whitcomb. Life working alongside her renowned scientist father is filled with intellectual challenges, but what she truly craves is love and adventure. She’s resigned to a fate of academic pursuits…until a fateful trip across the American frontier changes everything. A rogue inventor known as the Iron Scorpion kidnaps Violet's father and she alone is left to plan his rescue.
A man with a secret... Logan McCoy knows firsthand going up against the Iron Scorpion is suicide, but he can't let Violet waltz into the villain's lair alone. She may be a stranger, but she's also the most compelling woman he's ever known.
A perilous quest... Their attraction is undeniable, but their alliance turns contentious when Violet insists on including a third partner on their mission: her father's latest invention and the world's most advanced automaton, Arthur. The reason for Logan's resistance isn't clear until Violet comes face-to-face with the Iron Scorpion's diabolical devices, and by then, it's far too late.
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 www.heathermassey.com.