Wild Cards and Iron Horses - Sheryl Nantus
When Jonathan Handleston enters the town of Prosperity Ridge, he didn’t expect it to be such a bustling and smog ridden place. But Prosperity Ridge offers more surprises when Jon meets the only person for miles, mechanic Samantha Weatherly who could fix his arm brace device in time for a poker tournament. Due to an old war injury, Jon lost the use of his arm and to able to play without losing his advantage in poker. He needs the use of a brace to help hold his cards for a major poker game which he needs to win to repay a debt.Wild Cards and Iron Horses is a steampunk romance set in the deep Wild West. I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. I had expectations that it would be more of a action packed and quick sexy read. Instead it was a book that starts off slow in the beginning but because it had such well drawn out and likable characters and detailed world-building, I was soon quickly engrossed with the story.One of the best elements of the book is the world building and setting. It’s very detailed and well thought out, and I was surprised about the lack of magic in the book. It really felt like the industrial revolution and evolved in a different way with mechanical horses that run coaches and flying ships that transports travellers across the country. It made this world a believable, gritty and imaginative setting that added a unique atmosphere to the story.Jon was a character you could really relate to and I thought he was a great beta hero. His reasons for being a gambler to repay a debt really added pathos and depth to his character, and I thought it was pretty refreshing because he could have taken an easy way out. But his stubborn nature to do it his own way was admirable, and I thought that it was a change from the usual reasons about a gambler who needs to make money in romantic westerns.However, I do wished that there was more development and more heat regarding the romance. I think along with the slow pace in the beginning, it affected the pace. Nonetheless, Jon’s and Samantha’s romance – despite its slow pace – was engaging and sweet and the climatic scenes at the end of the book which showed the lengths of how much they cared for each other was heartwarming as well as exciting.I really liked Samantha’s character, and the fact she was a female mechanic at a time – albeit during an alternate history – where mechanical machines are the norm and where it was traditionally a male role, was interesting and realistic. Jon’s initial reaction upon discovering she was a female was fun to see and their attraction towards each other really shines from the get-go.Wild Cards and Iron Horses is a charming and sweet Steampunk western with well drawn out and enjoyable quirky characters within a vivid setting. I highly recommend it to those who have never tried Steampunk before because it’s a great introduction to the subgenre with the added elements of a sweet and subtle romance.