Have you ever had an “on-again, off-again” relationship with an entire book genre? A category that you like, but only during particular times of the year?
Steampunk sits in a fluid space between sci-fi and fantasy, and it’s definitely one of those genres for me. Sometimes I love it because of its confluence of Victorian aesthetics, airships, and adventure. Other times, I’m a big old “meh.” It just doesn’t gel.
That said, I’m currently in the “on-again” phase of my flip-flop relationship with it. So, as one typically does when they’ve got a craving, I went on a book hunt. If you’re interested in the genre, too, here’s a list of five steampunk paranormal romance books to check out.
Gaslight Hades by Grace Draven
Heat Level: Hot
Love Interest: Wraith
It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads her work that Grace Draven’s books are making this list. A big name in fantasy, Draven has also dipped her toes into the steampunk romance genre, too.
The first in a series, Gaslight Hades is a second-chance, fated-lovers story. In the story, Lenore Kenward is the only daughter of an airship inventor who recently died. When Lenore buries her father, she meets the Bonekeeper: a wraith-like, mechanical creature that has been tasked with watching the cemetery. Lenore is immediately drawn to him, unable to shake the feeling that she’s met the Bonekeeper before.
Unbeknownst to Lenore, the Bonekeeper is actually her beloved, long-lost fiance, Nathaniel. What’s more, Nathaniel remembers her, and he’s not willing to lose her again. Not even death will keep them apart.
Gaslight Hades is a perfect story, if a little bit quick on its ending. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for some fast-paced steampunk romance with in-depth worldbuilding. You can also follow Grace Draven’s Goodreads’ for a full list of her work.
Balanced on the Blade’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Heat Level: Hot
Love Interest: Fighter Pilot
Honestly, this book was a bit of a surprise hit. The blurb didn’t grab me right away, and the story also contained some tropes I dislike.
Even still, Balanced on the Blade’s Edge had me invested in the story once I started reading. The first in a series, it follows a sorceress named Sardelle who was frozen in time after a mountain rockslide buried her village. When Sardelle wakes up hundreds of years later, she discovers that magic users are being hunted down. Her priceless sword is also missing, and her beloved home has been turned into a prison-mining complex.
Not a great start to her day, that’s for sure.
After Sardelle is mistaken for one of the prisoners, she is faced with a hard choice. Either she can stay in the prison to hunt for her sword—and risk her identity being discovered—or she can flee to safety, never to see her sword or her village again. Sardelle’s hot-and-heavy connection to the recently transferred fighter-pilot-turned-reluctant-prison-warden, Ridge Zirkander, is not making things easy for her, either.
Content Warning: Colonial beliefs espoused by some of the characters. Mentions of off-page sexual assault. Attempted on-page sexual assault (it’s thwarted/nothing comes of it, but the event still plays out).
Witchmark by CL Polk
Heat Level: Sweet
Love Interest: Faerie/Witch
Now, this book is technically not a romance novel—it usually gets shelved as fantasy. However, I still think it should be included, as it has a strong romantic subplot and it ends in a HEA. It’s also LGBTQIA+ friendly, which won over my whole heart.
Witchmark follows Miles, a mage in hiding. As the runaway son of a noble, Miles lives in a steampunk-Edwardian society where magic is commonplace. Unfortunately, you are punished for using magic depending on your class.
Poor magic-users are institutionalized in asylums. Rich magic-users have created a caste system where they extort other rich mages. Miles is in the lower caste, and as such, he’ll be chained to his sister—if he gets caught.
When Miles witnesses a murder, however, and he’s approached by a beautiful, mysterious stranger, he’s left with a choice. Either Miles can solve the murder mystery, which will put himself in danger, or he can stay quiet and allow other innocents to be killed.
The Watchmaker’s Daughter by CJ Archer
Heat Level: Sweet
Love Interest: Rogue/Outlaw
Is there such a thing as “Steampunk lite?” I don’t know if that distinction exists, but if it did, it would be this book.
India Steele is the daughter of a watchmaker. Her ex-fiance stole her father’s shop after her father died, and she was thrown onto the street. Driven to desperation, India finds employment with the only person who will have her: a dangerous, enigmatic man from North America named Mr. Glass.
Her job? To find an elusive watchmaker to fix Mr. Glass’ special watch. If she doesn’t, she’ll find herself homeless, yet again.
India and her body issues were so relatable; the sweet, misunderstood Mr. Glass was a joy to read.
Content Warning: The threat of sexual assault is used as a coercive element during a scene in the book. While the threat is quickly nullified, the event does play out on-page.
The Stowaway Debutante by Rebecca Diem
Heat Level: Sweet
Love Interest: Pirate Captain
Looking for another quick read? THE STOWAWAY DEBUTANTE is the first book in a series. Like Witchmark, it’s not so much a romance novel as it is a “steampunk adventure.” With the inclusion of a strong romantic subplot and a HFN ending, however, it finds its way onto this list.
Clara is the daughter of a nobleman. Desperate to escape her upper-class life, she runs off during a ball and stows away on a ship. When the ship is attacked by pirates and boarded by the dashing, red-haired Captain Duke, Clara decides to become a pirate.
Unfortunately, she needs to prove that she deserves to be part of the team. She also has to convince the Captain to welcome her into his heart.
Content Warning: Outdated colonial terms expressed by one of the characters.
Get Yourself an Airship and Start Reading
Because it has its mechanical hands in both sci-fi and fantasy, steampunk is a genre with a lot of potential. It’s also a genre we’ve barely scratched the surface of when it comes to what kind of steampunk romance authors (and their books) we can recommend.
If you’re looking for some insight on why the genre has created a sizeable niche, read up on the romance of Victorian fashion to get a basic idea of why people are drawn to it.