Dead Handsome: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure by Laura Strickland

Did you ever wish there was a more female version of the Frankenstein story? Well then look…wait a minute. Did you really wish that? Seriously? Wow, I totally went out on a limb with that one. Anyway, if you did wish for a more female version of the story, well then look no further!

dead handsomeClara needs a husband, and fast. She has a house full of people depending on her, and unless she marries someone by her 21st birthday, her despicable excuse for a grandfather will repossess the house. Clara is running out of time, and the last thing she wants is a controlling man ordering her around. So she decides to take matters into her own hands and raise a murdered prisoner from the dead to act as her husband. When Liam wakes up in a strange house with no recollection of his former life, he surprisingly doesn’t have a panic attack. The beauty standing over him evokes an intense feeling of desire within him, and he can’t forget her kiss which brought him back to life. But as Liam’s past slowly starts to catch up with him, and Clara’s grandfather questions the legitimacy of their union, they both wonder if these feelings of intimacy and passion will last.

We are completely going to bypass the rather extreme way that Clara chooses to fulfill the requirements of her grandfather’s inheritance, and instead focus on the fact that she chose to stand up to him in the first place. You go girl! Clara never submitted to her grandpapa’s intimidation techniques, and refused to enter into a marriage with a man out of convenience when she knew he would probably boss her around. Considering she went to these extreme lengths not for her own benefit, but rather to save a handful of orphaned children she took in off the streets is another admirable quality the young lady possesses. Now, the fact that she chose to marry a man she raised from the dead because she thought he would awaken with a blank slate, which she could then influence to her liking makes her a bit of a hypocrite. She didn’t want a man ordering her around, but she found it perfectly acceptable to do the opposite. Tsk, tsk madam.

I gotta say Liam was kind of awesome. When he found out that Clara wanted to use him as a puppet husband he was like, “Uh, I don’t think so”, but instead of just abandoning her like a misogynistic prick, he chose to stay and help her and the children. He fights for them, he steals for them, and does everything in his power to keep them safe. Oh my, watch me swoon! I’m also a sucker for a guy with an Irish brogue. I did find it rather amusing though that upon waking from the dead, Liam’s first inclination isn’t towards finding out who he is or where he is, but rather, “Hey sexy giiiirlfriend!!” Sorry, Sixteen Candles reference. I mean, sure, he is somewhat concerned about the fact that he was murdered, but his nether regions have the tendency to continually distract him from making any progress on that line of thinking. He also experiences an intense desire to always be near Clara, and if they are apart for too long he has a craving to find her. Sounds delicious, am I right?

I think one of the most surprising reactions I had towards Dead Handsome was related to the paranormal features of the book. When Clara goes through the whole complicated process of waking Liam from the dead with a kiss I was like, “Meh, ok, why not?” But then there was a part almost half-way through the novel where Clara and Liam visit her grandfather, and steam-powered robots act as the servants of the household. Hold the phone! Where the hell did these things come from? Apparently I’m fine with zombies, but draw the line at robots. Who knew? I think what bothered me so much about this was that up until that point there were no clues which indicated that the Buffalo these folks were living in wasn’t historically accurate or fixed in reality, other than Clara raising Liam from the dead of course. Unless there were in fact a bunch of robot servants rolling around high-class New York society in the late 1800s that I wasn’t aware of?

The majority of the novel is spent on Clara trying to prevent her grandfather from re-appropriating her house, and Liam slowly piecing together the memories of his past. In the latter half of the novel the young couple faces another predicament when her grandfather’s lawyers believe they have located Liam’s wife in a mental hospital, which would make his marriage with Clara invalid. I don’t do mental hospitals!! It’s a huge pet peeve of mine, and frankly creeps me the hell out. I just can’t do it! Although I detest mental hospital settings with a passion, my least favorite aspect of this novel would have to be the last 10%. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the book focuses on Liam’s memory and Clara’s fight for her house, but in the last 30 pages or so it was almost like, “Oops! Should probably say why Liam was killed in the first place.” This is when it’s revealed that two mad scientists were paying the prison warden to kill unruly Irish immigrants so that they could remove pieces of their flesh, and create more advanced versions of steam-robots. Um…excuse me? What started out as an unlikely love story turns into a fight for the rights of Irishmen and steam-robots alike! Maybe it would have been better to just pick one victimized group to focus on, or end the book 30 pages early.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Nope

Should you read it? It’s definitely a unique story, but it was a bit too out there for my tastes. However, if you really like books which blend reality with fantasy, it might be up your alley. There were way too many references though to how Liam was “dead handsome”. At first it was cute, but after the fourth or fifth time I had some eye-roll happening.

Smut Level: Frustrating!! These two would get all hot and bothered, and just when we would get to the good stuff the chapter would end, and cut to a scene of the morning after. I want details!

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