From Katie MacAlister's site:
"Computer technician Jack Fletcher is no hero, despite his unwelcome reputation as one. In fact, he's just been the victim of bizarre circumstances. Like now. His sister happens to disturb one of his nanoelectromechanical system experiments, and now they aren't where they're supposed to be. In fact, they're not sure where they are when…
…they wake up to see a woman with the reddest hair Jack has ever seen-and a gun. Octavia Pye is an Aerocorps captain with a whole lot of secrets, and she's not about to see her maiden voyage ruined by stowaways. But the sparks flying between her and Jack just may cause her airship to combust and ignite a passion that will forever change the world as she knows it…"
This is the first story of Katie MacAlister's that I've read. And while I adore almost everything steampunk, I'm afraid I didn't like this story as much as I had hoped.
First, the good: MacAlister pays fine attention to detail in the creation of her steampunk world. The language, slang, technical terminology, history, and explanation of machinery all set the scene of a multi-layered alternative universe in which electricity is deemed too dangerous to be used in home and business. This part of the story is executed skillfully. Also, the twist involving Octavia and her past is foreshadowed so subtly early on, that I didn't even realize it was coming until the reveal at the end. Very well done.
At the same time, I think the primary story has holes in it. Not enough to kill the overall enjoyment of the tale, but enough to leave nagging little doubts in my head after I finished reading. For me, Jack accepts his place in the steampunk world far too easily. I think his sister's reaction more likely, even with Jack's scientific interest in the world, and his sexual interest in Octavia. The frequent steampunk references are kind of hokey, like a megaphone in the ear announcing "THIS STORY IS A STEAMPUNK STORY!". I also think there is a great deal of buildup involving Octavia's past lovers and the conspiracies of the world that don't really go anywhere. Jack's jealousy where Octavia is concerned seems forced, and the way he speaks to her, especially in front of others, rings somewhat false. Finally, for me at least, it is hard to believe how frequently Jack is able to disregard his sister's kidnapping to hookup with Octavia under the pretense of "we've done all we can for now, might as well have sex." I would have liked to see a bit more concern from him, as well as more purposeful action taken to save the poor girl, and less coincidence.
Overall, the tone of the story is a bit too flippant for my tastes. I realize this is a personal preference, and although the light, comedic nature of the story didn't work for me, it may be a draw for others. I find that while I enjoyed the individual story components, the whole seemed somehow less than the sum of its parts. For example, I loved the eccentric, over-the-top secondary characters. In the course of the story, however, their actions seem at odds with the strict adherence to protocol and rigid standards initially purported by Octavia. I just can't believe that she'd let her crew act so unprofessionally. It doesn't seem in her nature, and it became an element that bothered me for the course of the story.
I didn't hate Steamed by any means, but it isn't something I see myself rereading in the future. I've consistantly heard good things about MacAlister's writing and I fully plan on giving some of her other series a try. Steamed just didn't work for me.