“In the Shadow of the Clouds”: A Steampunk Romance

In the Shadow of the Clouds

In the Shadow of the Clouds, by Jordan Elizabeth is book 4 in her Return to Amston series, but it works equally well as a stand alone novel. It’s a top rate steampunk adventure with a dash of romance. I’m familiar with the steampunk worlds of this author, and always find her steampunk tales engaging and entertaintaining. (See my review of Runners & Riders, the first book in the series.) This story is no exception. 

For Bianca, life hasn’t been easy. After being ignored by her indifferent mother, being turned out into the streets by the madame of the brothel where her mother makes her living, and being sold off by her grandparents to be the bride of an oppressive man, it is no wonder she trusts no one and feels as if there is nowhere where she really belongs. But when her husband dies unexpectedly, she inherits his airship company and sees a way to provide a living for herself, if she can straighten out the mess he left it in. And she’s just headstrong enough to do it with the help of her handsome young pilot.

Charlie hired on as pilot in hopes of one day regaining the air ship company, which once belonged to his family, who were killed by cloud pirates when he was just a boy. He flies every trip with an eye out for an opportunity to exact revenge on those who attacked his family’s air ship so many years ago. He denies the feelings developing for his boss, but when cloud pirates capture Bianca and Charlie rescues her, he learns what truly happened to his family and why, he gets an unexpected surprise that could change his entire life.

In the Shadow of the Clouds is an exceptional YA tale of young romance and adventure. Thoroughly entertaining. This is one of those stories that leaves you smiling. I give it five quills.

Five Quills

In the Shadow of the Clouds is available on Amazon.

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Writing for a YA Audience: Romance Darkly

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My mom and uncle are obsessed with Westerns. They grew up watching Westerns and still make time for them every weekend. While watching a Western with my mom, I had the idea of writing a young adult Western…with a steampunk twist. I brainstormed a ranch with a family secret. Along came TREASURE DARKLY.

After the first draft, it was recommended I add in a romantic theme. Thus, Clark and Amethyst fell in love. It worked. I didn’t have to force them together. They were already best friends, and it flowed that they should develop romantic feelings for each other.

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Then came the challenging part. My first editor for the story wanted more romance.  I wasn’t a romance writer.  Sure, my main characters each had a love interest, but I wouldn’t call my early works romances.

I set out to read romance novels to get a feel for the genre. I read some young adult romances, some Harlequins, and then I discovered a love of paranormal romance. I devoured those and wanted more. Eventually, I felt ready to write my own romance.

Young adult romances are tricky. Some people don’t want any sex in YA novels; some people say its okay. I struggled with that fine line before firmly stepping onto the “no sex” side. Yes, the book does get a bit steamy, but there is never explicit sex.

“But teens already know everything about sex,” I’ve been told.

Okay, that might be the case, but it doesn’t mean every young adult book has to contain graphic sex scenes. I want my books to be more about the adventure and setting than erotica.

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Photo by Anderson Weiss on Pexels.com

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who dapples in the steampunk realm.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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Writing for a YA Audience: Writing about a Dollhouse

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

Dollhouses have always intrigued me.  That and steampunk, but we’ll get to that later.

As a child, I had three dollhouses.  One was wooden, made by my maternal grandfather.  One was metal.  I used it for my Little People.  The third was plastic and I used it for my Victorian Playmobile set (I still feel bad that I never got the official dollhouse that went with the sets!).  I loved setting up the rooms and just looking at them.  My dolls didn’t always move around in them.  It was more for show.  I used my imagination to act out scenes.

There’s another dollhouse that sticks out in my mind, only I didn’t own it.  As a child, my mother and I went through an estate sale in the neighborhood.  In the basement, there was a dollhouse built to replicate the actual house.  I fell in love with it.  Unfortunately, it was expensive.  It was old and showed the effects of being in a basement.  Plus, it didn’t fit through the door!  I can still picture that dollhouse to this day.  I became obsessed with having an intricate dollhouse just like that one.

My grandmother bought me a wooden dollhouse kit.  It came with working windows, shingles, and a drainpipe.  It also came with a bit of trouble – none of us were carpentry inclined.  The dollhouse sat in its box in my basement for years.  Eventually, my then-boyfriend (now husband) attempted to put it together, but didn’t get farther than popping out the pieces.  A few years ago, a friend’s husband put it together.  It looks just as amazing as I’d always hoped it would.

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My mother and I bought wallpaper, wainscoting, furniture, dolls… We’re in love with it, but we haven’t done too much decoration-wise.  Some of the furniture came in sets and we already know we’re horrible at putting sets together.  This dollhouse, sitting on the hall table, with its beautiful dolls keeps pulling at my imagination.  I wanted to create a story about a dollhouse, one with secrets.  Since I love the steampunk genre, I wanted to add in a taste of that.   Thus, along came CLOCKWORK DOLLHOUSE, a short story about dolls and secrets.

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Have you ever seen a dollhouse that beckoned you into its walls?

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  If you have any spooky dollhouse furniture you want to part with, she would be happy to take it off your hands! You can connect with Jordan  via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.

 

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Writing for a YA Audience: Interview with FANYA’S illustrator.

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

Every book is a collaboration. I work with editors, cover artists, and the publishers in so many ways behind the scenes.  A few years ago, I got to collaborate in a different way.  This time it was with a local illustrator, Aaron Siddall.  He had an idea for a YA steampunk story.  He would illustrate it and I would write it.  We created a world of magic and mysterious creatures, and the book was released on November 14, 2018 from CHBB Publishing.  *Hold for applause, wink wink.*

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I would like to introduce Aaron Siddall to all of you. We met years ago when I joined the Utica Writers Club.

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JE: When did you join the Utica Writers Club?  What do you like most about it?

AS:  The Utica Writers Club and I came together in 2010. I do write and occasionally read from things that I am working on, but I mostly attend for the creative energy. That and I find that writers make for excellent friends.

JE: How long have you been an illustrator?

AS: I’ve had a passion for art all of my life, but I had my first professional experience as an illustrator in 2001 working for Kenzer & Company and White Wolf Studios, both as a freelancer.

JE: What are some of the projects you’ve illustrated?

AS: Its hard to narrow down to favorites. But several stand out, such as; High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History of Middle Earth by Tim Furnish and published by Oloris Publishing.  How Robin Hood Became an Outlaw by Learning A-Z. Ravenloft Denizens of Darkness by White Wolf Studios.

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JE: How did you come up with the idea for FANYA?

AS:  In a discussion concerning Steampunk and Fairy tales that I was involved with, I compared elements from both in relation to our world in the late 1800s (the Victorian era). In doing so, Russia and Alaska at the time were in the midst of tumultuous times, as there are many marvelous Russian Fairy Tales and the legends of the First Nations have many similar legends, these elements came together naturally in my mind.

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JE: How did you come up with the title?

AS: Fanya is a name that shows up in both Russian and Inuit and Aleut peoples.

JE: What do you hope people take away from FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD?

AS: Overall, I hope that people enjoy the action and magic of the setting. There is a great deal to think on and enjoy.

JE: What is your favorite illustration from the book?

AS: The one of Mr. Beisy on the doorstep in chapter two.

We hope you enjoy reading FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD.  Reviews and emails are always appreciated.  If you love the artwork as much as I do, merchandise is available here.

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Someone is winding up the “Clockwork Doll House”

Clockwork Dollhouse

Clockwork Dollhouse, by Jordan Elizabeth is a short steampunk tale which may give readers the chills. Robert has many secrets, but Jane’s clockwork dollhouse sees and reveals things Robert would rather stay hidden. But what is really going on? Who’s winding the dollhouse after all these years and setting the stage? Is it Ainsley, his niece, the ghost of his dead sister, Jane, or is the dollhouse haunted? And can it be stopped before the truth comes out?

A brief story which captivates. Clockwork Dollhouse is a tale of murder unraveled in short fiction format. Perfect for YA audiences. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Starting Off the New Year with YA Author Jordan Hallak

Jordan Hallak

I’m pleased to be able to start the New Year off with a YA author who I have interviewed for both my Book Marketing -What Works? series this past year, and my 2015 Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing series. I’ve reviewed many of her novels, (Escape From Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, Treasure DarklyVictorianThe Goat ChildrenRunners and RidersThe Path to Old TalbotWicked TreasureKistishi Island)as well as collections featuring her short stories, such as Darkscapes, Cast No Shadows, Under a Brass Moon, Chronology.

If you’re feeling a little confused right now, that’s okay, because all of the interviews and reviews were done for an author named Jordan Elizabeth, and in the very early reviews she was booked as Jordan Elizabeth Mierek. However, she’s starting off 2018 as Jordan Hallak, and we’ll hear an explanation for the different name soon. In addition to being the author of at least ten young adult novels and countless short stories, Jordan is a wife and mother, as well as often having a day job on the side. She runs a tight juggling act to keep it all balanced and still manages to craft some quality stories which are all quite entertaining. Join me in giving a warm welcome to Jordan Hallak today, on Writing to be Read.

Kaye: You’ve had a change to your last name. It threw me off and might throw of readers who know your work under the name Jordan Elizabeth. Were you recently married?

Jordan: I got married over a year ago, but I didn’t change my name right away.  I still write as “Jordan Elizabeth,” but little by little I’ve been altering Mierek to Hallak.  The most recent thing I changed was my name for my gmail account.  Even though I signed things as “Jordan Hallak,” people were getting confused who Jordan Mierek was.  I was getting documents for work to the wrong name!

Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Jordan: Haha, I haven’t mastered it yet!  Most nights now I’m too tired to do more than scroll through facebook.  When I push myself, though, I have my husband watch the baby for an hour and I do all my writing.  Once the baby goes to bed, then I do my marketing because it isn’t as emotionally draining.  Writing leaves me breathless.

Kaye: Other than the last name, what do you think will be different for you in 2018, and why?

Jordan: My marketing budget is a lot different for this year.  I’m only going to be using what I make off royalties.  This might ruin my marketing plan, but we’ll see.  2018 is the first year where I won’t have a full time job starting out.

Kaye: What’s in store from Jordan Hallak in 2018?

Jordan: Other than my goal of landing a full time job, I want to write more novels and work on my marketing techniques.  I usually fly by my seat for the year, but this time I want to concentrate on planning out all my marketing events.  I’ve heard that’s better, so we’ll see.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Jordan: I can’t plan.  I start writing with a general sense of where the story will lead.  If I try to plot, the book becomes a chore.  It never follows the written storyline anyway.

Kaye: Any New Year’s resolutions?
Jordan:  Oh, man, this question!  Nothing really comes to mind.  I usually make resolutions as I go along.  I guess I’m going to try to get more writing time in and I’m going to try to stick to my exercise routine.  I fell out of it while I was pregnant, and then I picked it back up, and fell off the wagon (so to speak) when I got a temp job where I was working 10 hour days.  I miss exercising.  For exercise, I do yoga and belly dancing.  I also have an exercise routine to help with diastis recti.

Kaye: What is the working title of your latest book?

Jordan: My newest book will be Secrets of Bennett Hall.  It is going to be a steampunk Gothic.  I’ve always been entranced by Gothic novels, and I love the steampunk genre, so I decided to blend the two and see how it came out.

Kaye: How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?

Jordan: The titles always come at the end.  I usually call the book by the main character’s name as I’m writing, and then I see how it feels when I’m all done.  Secrets of Bennett Hall started off as Adelaide.  Adelaide is the main character who moves to Bennett Hall to work as a governess.  Secrets from the past – both her past and the estate’s past – return to haunt her.  Secrets of Bennett Hall had more of a Gothic ring to it.

Kaye: In my review of Runners and Riders, I identified the book as a part of your Treasure Chronicles Apparently, this isn’t the case, as it is the first book in a series of its own. Would you like to share how that came about?

Jordan: Runners and Riders features the same world as in the Treasure Chronicles.  I called it a “companion” novel because of that, but it was mislabeled as a novella in many places.  It is a full-length novel, and it was getting a lot of heat for being “misleading.”  People who hadn’t read the Treasure Chronicles weren’t willing to give it a chance.  It will now be book one in Return to Amston, with Secrets of Bennett Hall being book two.  Secrets will be in the same world again, but with a new cast of characters.

Kaye: So, tell us a little about this second book in the Runners and Riders.

Jordan: Joseph from Treasure Darkly will make an appearance. Remember him as Amethyst’s spurned lover?  I always felt bad about how things went down with the two of them and I wanted to give him his own story.  As I started writing about Adelaide, he just fell into place as her love interest, and they are perfect for each other.  He deserves a sweet, but strong, girl like Adelaide.  In the novel, Adelaide loses her teaching job in Hedlund and finds a new position as a governess.  Once she arrives at Bennett Hall, she meets its handsome occupant – Joseph – as well as some shady figures.  People in the village warn her about the darkness on the estate, but it isn’t until she sees the Villain lurking in the forbidden wing that she begins to believe the rumors.

Kaye: A lot of your books are of the steampunk genre. What is it that appeals to you about steampunk?

Jordan: I love the nifty inventions paired with corsets and long skirts.  I am obsessed with corsets and long skirts.  You should see my closet!

Kaye: Most of your work has been published through Curiosity Quills Press, but it sounded like you might be striking out independently. Will this second book in the Runners and Riders series be independently published?

Jordan: Secrets of Bennett Hall will be published by Curiosity Quills Press.  I haven’t decided to go the self-publishing route yet, but I might someday.  I know people who have left their publishers to try self-publishing with great results.  For now, I like having a publishing house behind me.  The support I get has been awesome.  I’m currently published by Curiosity Quills, CHBB, and Clean Reads.

Kaye: When will Secrets of Bennett Hall be available?

Jordan: Secrets releases January 30.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Jordan: It is so hard to get your book out there.  I know people are sick of me always talking about my books, but that’s the only way to spread the word.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?

Jordan: The best part is actually writing it.  I become lost in the setting and the characters become my best friends.  I have an awesome time visiting this new world.  The least fun part would have to be the marketing that comes after.  When you have to push people to review and when you have to pay for ads, you start to doubt if your writing is worth it.  Then you write a new story and remember how much it is worth it.

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Jordan: I wouldn’t worry about money anymore!  I would be happy being a stay-at-home mom and full-time writer.  There would be a lot of traveling.  I need fresh fodder for my stories.

I want to thank you, Jordan, for joining us on Writing to be Read to start the New Year off right. I wish you the best of luck in 2018, and I know Secrets of Bennett Hall will be a huge success.

Until next time, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!

2018 Happy New Year

 

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“Wicked Treasure” is a Wicked Story

Wicked Treasure

Wicked Treasure, by Jordan Elizabeth is a read you won’t want to put down. Elizabeth captures the reader’s attention from the first page. It’s a truly enjoyable read. Wicked Treasure is the third novel in her Treasure Chronicle series. Preceding it are Treasure Darkly and Born of Treasure. As with all of Elizabeth’s YA steampunk romance novels, (including Runners and Riders, from her Return to Amston series). Wicked Treasure is an enticing adventure that leaves you wanting more.

Garth and Amethyst are thrown into sleuthing out a new mystery, when the kidnapping of their daughter  throws them onto the trail of a diabolical conspiracy of government cover up that threatens to rock the entire country. Exposing the cover up threatens to rock the very structure of the government, making all Treasures and Grishams dispensable liabilities and they find themselves in a race to save their own lives. Full of twists, turns and outright surprises, Wicked Treasure keeps readers guessing and pages turning.

Wicked Treasure is a well crafted YA steampunk novel, filled with suspense and intrigue, that holds readers’ interest from the very first page. I give it five quills.

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“Runners & Riders”: Steampunk at it’s Best

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Brass glass! Jordan Elizabeth has once again created an extremely well crafted steampunk romance in her latest addition to her Treasure Chronicles series. Runners & Riders is filled with mystery and intrigue, as well as plenty of steam powered gadgets and inventions that bogle the mind. Elizabeth captures the Victorian tone in every detail, taking readers of all ages on a steam powered journey that won’t soon be forgotten.

There’s an age old battle going on in New Addison City between Runners and Riders. A bored young Juliet Darcy finds herself smack dab in the middle of it all when she falls in with the notorious Runners, a brutal gang of thugs who take what they want, by force if necessary, terrorizing the city. Jonathan Montgomery is the newest young Rider, sworn to bring the Runners down after they murdered his parents when he was a child. Add an ancient mechanical princess who navigates the tunnels beneath the city with an agenda of her own and you have the makings of a great steampunk adventure.

Princess Arlene enlists the help of Juliet, who after being betrayed by the Runners, teams up with Jonathan to bring them down. But the Runners are ruthless, with little regard for anyone who stands in their way of their goals. Jonathan and Juliet risk it all to destroy the Runners and their merciless leader, but to do so, they must stay one step ahead in this deadly game.

Runners & Riders is well structured and full of surprises at every turn. I give it five quills.

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Kaye gives honest book reviews and she does not charge for them. If you have a book you would like reviewed contact Kaye at kayebooth[at]yahoo[dot]com


Chronology is full of surprises

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I’ve just had the pleasure of reviewing a new anthology of short fiction put out by Curiosity Quills Press. When asked if I’d like to review Chronology, I had the impression that it was a steampunk anthology, which is a genre I’m newly discovering. Some of the stories in this collection do have steampunk elements, such as Wind Up Hearts, the steampunk-ish romance that is sure to break readers’ hearts, by Bram Stoker Award finalist, Stan Swanson, or Flight of the Pegasus by Dr. Darin Kennedy. There’s also That Which is Hidden, a haunted steampunk-ish werewolf romance, by Julie Frost. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find the stories in Chronology to be a diverse mixture of speculative fiction.

Some are futuristic, leaning more toward science fiction, such as the apocalyptic Afterparty by Mark Woodring, Limited Liability, a futuristic outer space story by Matthew Graybosch or Gookie Visits Her Moma by G. Miki Hayden, an alternate universe science fiction story about a space bounty hunter whose current bounty takes her back to her home planet. Many others are more in the fantasy realm, such as Draconic King, by award winning author, James Wymore, or Yours Until the Ink Dries, a true faerie tale, as a young outcast girl discovers her true identity in her drawings, by Y.A. author Jordan Elizabeth. And then there are those stories that fall into the mythical realm, such as Strange Flesh, a well-crafted story of mythical creatures by Katie Young, or Wampus Cat, a tale of Appalachian legends come true by international bestselling author Scott Nicholson.

Still, others have a horror element or two, such as The Lair, a story of a cursed treasure hunt in jungle swamps, by best-selling independent author, Tony Healey, or Lava, a spectral love story by New York Times bestselling author, Piers Anthony, or In the Clutches of the Mummy Prince, by B.C. Johnson, which was not very scary. Also I had trouble relating with the main character in Johnson’s story, who wasn’t very likeable. There is also The Comeback, the weirdest zombie romance I’ve ever heard of, told from the zombie’s POV, by techno-thriller and MG fantasy author, Tara Tyler, and Inmate #85298, a chilling death row tale, by author and screenwriter, Andy Rausch.

Of course, there are also those stories that weren’t so easy to classify, including White Chapel, which sheds new light on the story of Jack the Ripper, by author, editor and podcast co-host, Andrew Buckley, or Signs Unseen, the story of a small town race war, by J.P. Moyahan, or Bait and Witch, a troublesome witch story by speculative fiction author, J.P. Sloan. There is also The Bull, by novelist and short story writer, J.R. Rain, which turns a Minotaur into a superhero, and The Unattended Life, a reminder to stop and smell the roses by J.E. Anckorn, and an intriguing airship romance, Above the Clouds, by Richard Roberts.

Yes, it is a big book, about 530 pages, but it is definitely a good read. In addition to the stories mentioned above there are the three I enjoyed the most, which I saved to tell you about in more detail. The following stories stuck out in my mind the most, but not in any particular order.

The Room Below, by novelist Wilbert Stanton is a horror story worthy of Lovecraft, or King. This story about a stay in a mental institution that puts One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to shame. It held my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat, and had a surprising, yet satisfying ending.

The Colorado King, by Nathan Yocum is a story in which survival is the name of the game as a father and daughter travel over post-apocalyptic badlands in search of kin and refuge, bringing with it some very hard lessons. This well-crafted tale grabs readers’ attention and doesn’t let go, yet it leaves readers feeling like there should be more, probably due to the fact that it is an excerpt. I’m guessing that it is from Yocum’s novel, The Zona.

And finally, Innocent Deception, by Matthew Cox is a well-crafted story which has a surprising reveal in its final pages. The daughter of a pharmaceutical company’s CEO is kidnapped and held for ransom, but the plan falls apart when the mother doesn’t want the kid back.

Overall, I give Chronology 3 Quills.          Three Quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Treasure Darkly” presents a great genre combo

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Clark Treasure carries within himself a dark treasure, which gives him control over life and death, and allows him to communicate with spirits. The army wants his secret and drives him into a life as a fugitive, in this haunted YA steampunk romance with a western flair, Treasure Darkly, by Jordan Elizabeth. Clark seeks refuge with the man he believes to be his father, a rich man with a lot of pull in Hedlund, the Big Valley of steampunk, hoping to ride on the Treasure name for protection. His true father comes to him as a spirit after the ruse has already been set in motion and sends Clark on a mission to take care of his unfinished business. Amethyst Treasure, the feisty, spoiled sister who’s not, becomes an object of affection when they both learn there’s no blood between them, and by the end of the book they’ve fallen in love, of course.

Elizabeth sets this first book up well to carry the rest of her Treasure Chronicles series, wrapping up the romance, while leaving the main story open ended to carry on another day, or another book or two. My only criticisms lie in the fact that at times, it didn’t feel like the characters actions and reactions were genuine and that Elizabeth detours from the main storyline from about Chapter 33, after Amethyst’s male friend from the city, Joshua, shows up at the ranch unexpectedly. The family choses this exact time to all go on a family outing, making it feel as if we’ve taken an abrupt jog into a subplot involving Amethyst’s brother, Jeremiah, and a brief romance. While this was a neat little tale driven by the urge to reveal character, I had to pause and ask myself why Elizabeth chose to stray so far from the main story with this section that doesn’t seem to move the story forward.

The place in which Elizabeth choses to end this tale feels unfinished, leaving many unanswered questions, but perhaps this was purposefully crafted to carry us into the next book in the series. For me, however, it felt like an abrupt drop off, leaving many loose ends dangling. It felt like there should have been more, maybe just one more chapter to tie everything neatly together before sending readers off to ponder the story in their own minds, which they will, because Treasure Darkly is a story that inspires deeper thought processes. It has an interesting and well thought out premise, that leaves many possibilities open to discovery. I look forward to seeing what future tales will be inspired for this series.

Overall, this is a very entertaining read. I’m a sucker for westerns, even in a steampunk world. Throwing in aspects from the spirit world, Elizabeth certainly added an interesting twist, if at times too convenient, but none-the-less enjoyable. I look forward to reading its sequel and hope to have the opportunity to review it, as well.

Jordan Elizabeth is a steampunk princess well on her way to living out her fairytale dream of being a successful YA author in New York. Her other works include Escape from Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, and Book Two of the Treasure Chronicle series, Born of Treasure. I give Treasure Darkly three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.