For more information please visit Katrina Stauss's website.
What if the man of your dreams is also the one of your nightmares?Sleight of Hand by Katrina Strauss is a M/M paranormal steampunk romance that had me captivated from the first page to the last. While short, this novella was able to bring to life a nicely developed world, great characters that I thoroughly enjoyed and a lingering paranormal air that tinted the story with a thrilling touch of mystery that was at times mildly chilling and utterly enticing. But, what definitely kept my interest the most was the sinfully delicious romance between these two wildly different and engaging men. A great, quick read that delivers some wonderful thrills and even a few chills!
Edwin Matthews just wants to get some sleep. Traveling by steam train with his family, the melancholic nineteen year old is plagued by restless nights and recurring dreams of a fiery disaster. When a mysterious magician comes aboard, the troubled insomniac’s trip takes an interesting turn.
Tall, dark, and incredibly handsome, the flamboyant Sir Marco Satori offers to cure what ails Edwin. Spurred by equal parts curiosity, desperation, and attraction, Edwin agrees to the experiment. Suddenly he finds his quiet journey turned into a wild ride of life, love, sex, death..and a few strange things in between.
He also finds himself claimed—in more ways than one—while a promise of “eternity” may be more than Edwin bargains for.
What surprised me most about this novella, coming in at just about sixty pages, was how fully Strauss was able to develop not only the world but the characters. While the world building definitely adds a lot to a story, the characters invariably become the main focus. In this case, Strauss was able to bring to life the characters in less time then I would have dreamed possible, creating an interesting history and frailty for Edwin and a mysteriously alluring dominance for Marco. But, what's more important is the chemistry between these seemingly polar opposite characters created within mere paragraphs without feeling in the slightest bit rushed or awkward. This is something that I feel authors tend to struggle with, but in the case, it seemed so effortless. The other part that really surprised me was how erotic Marco seemed when Edwin came off as anything but. In truth I was nervous about how an erotic romance, something I associate with toe curling hot sex, was going to work between someone so...well, frail...and someone so masterful. In the end, I needn't have worried about this either because these two as a pair, oh my!
Also interesting though was seeing the familial bond between Edwin and his sister grow. There's a lovely sense of each wanting to protect the other. Edwin by protecting his sister from a unhappy marriage to a lecherous older man and her desire to protect his health, worrying that his frail constitution will hamper any effort he makes to provide for their family. This comes in to play in the culmination of the novella and I don't wish to go any further for fear of spoiling what I considered to be a nice twist ending. I just wanted to acknowledge this other great aspect of characterization and relationship building within such a short frame of time.
The world building was also first class. The description of the locomotive in which the story takes place built a wonderful atmosphere that was perfectly suited to the mysterious occurrences and paranormal twinges throughout the story. It also managed to convey the tone of romanticism further through the setting which only served to influence the ensuing relationship between the two men more, or at least in my opinion. While the backdrop was secondary, I was no less impressed with Strauss's development of it then of the three dimensional characters and sizzling relationship that she was able to conjure.
Overall, the only thing that I would have liked to have seen in this story that I didn't was simply more! I loved the characters, the world building and the premise and I just would have liked to see it go on for a bit longer. In the end, however, I found this to be a very fulfilling read from an author that I will definitely be reading more from in the future!
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars
Advisory: Graphic sexual content (m/m)