Stories of Erotic Romance, Corsets, and an England That Never Was
Genre: erotica, erotic romance, steampunk romance, steampunk erotica, steampunk Regency
Number of pages: 200
Word Count: 50,000
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
A collection of erotic romance in the Age of Steam, featuring a Regency novella...
Cara St. Cross is determined to play at the highest-stakes poker club in all of Great Britain... even if getting in requires her to dress like a man. Stanley, Lord Greenhope, doesn’t truly believe that “Mister” St. Cross has had relations with his wife, but that doesn’t stop him from challenging the (wo)man to a duel.
In the early Age of Steam, duels are still legal, young ladies get kidnapped to Gretna Green, and only the villains seem to care whether Cara wins at the tables.
As well as the Regency novella, My Lady Gambler, this collection includes three short stories of Victorian-style steampunk erotica:
Miss Carlotta Stembridge crafts her own troupe of dancing automatons in “The Clockwork Dancers”. When she meets a flesh-and-blood dancer who steals her heart, she must fight society and her own creations if she wants to keep him in her life.
In “On the Curious Condition of the Anachronism in Modern Aviation Structures,” First Mate Jess Priory of the merchant airship Aer Nova offers passage to a handsome doctor. Lucky thing she did, since his skills come in handy when the ship is attacked!
The possibility of a time machine causes more problems than it solves in “Dorothea Franklin’s Marvelous Machine,” Thankfully, the inventor can console herself with the darkly sexy, powerful Sir George, Grand Master of the London Masons.
Being What You’re Not: Cross-dressing in Pop Media
Thanks for inviting me to talk a bit about one of my favorite literary and cinematic themes, Alisia. You see, I've always loved books and movies where someone cross-dresses to get what they want. Usually, these also include a theme of "hiding your true nature" coupled with a romance that dare not speak its name.
Since writers are often told to “write the book you want to read,” I set out to do exactly that when I wrote the first story in my recently published collection, My Lady Gambler. All right, so my “Mister St. Cross” isn’t hiding her true nature. She is most definitely a woman, and the gentlemen of her 18th century poker club merely pretend not to notice her femininity. Out of politeness.
But that’s all right because what I like best about all the cross-dressing is not the fear of discovery or the romantic hijinks. It’s that the characters trade such an integral part of their identities for some important cause, and then they have to live with the consequences. For Cara St. Cross, that means giving up femininity in order to play high-stakes poker, at the loss of pretty dresses and immunity from duels of honor. It's a price she's more than willing to pay.
Here are my five favorite movies and books on this theme:
1. Almost a Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal. Also a Regency romance that revolves around a poker player, Rosenthal’s heroine is a distraught widow taking control of her life. As Phizz Marsten, she proves just how ridiculous masculine society is by being better at it then the men around her… with the exception of the one man she comes to love.
2. Yentl. The film version of this classic Jewish tale stars Barbara Streisand as a girl pretending to be her brother so that she can study at a Yeshiva. Of course, there is romantic drama with one of her classmates, but I particularly like that she goes off and finds better things to do than remain enmeshed in a love story.
This is a fairly standard folk tale and there’s a neat corollary in the Chinese classic, Mulan, which you probably saw as an animated film.
3. Just One of the Guys. This 1980s highschool film follows journalism student Terry who didn’t get a particular internship. She decides to apply again as a boy and goes undercover at a different school where she’s confronted with machismo, aggressive girls, and a burgeoning love for a very confused young man. Really, though, my favorite part is where she (as a he) helps a girl who’s lost an earring back. Just break the eraser off the back of your pencil. (Maybe that’s a bit dated now?)
4. Men get to cross-dress too. This film is oddly both juvenile and culturally relevant at the same time: Sorority Boys. In this film, a team of frat boys hide from some not-very-memorable danger by dressing up as girls. They become friends with the girls from the “ugly sorority,” find love, and question their gender identities. There’s also a great reversal by the group’s ringleader when he goes from “guy who date-maybe-rapes sorority girls” to “guy who maybe gets date-raped.” While the film treats this all very lightly, the themes run deep and can lead to some serious cultural discussions if you let yourself get carried away.
In the same vein of “men get to cross-dress and it looks light and fluffy,” I also recommend Some Like It Hot (a Marilyn Monroe vehicle).
5. This last one is really about gender identity. It will make you cry and be scared of men for years: Boys Don't Cry. Perhaps this one isn’t a “cross-dressing” film in the traditional sense. Main character Brandon is a man, just one who’s been born in a girl’s body. He journeys to a new town and makes friends who don’t know about his terrible biological secret. He’s a wonderful boyfriend, a nice guy, and trying to find his place in the world. Too bad the other men in his life are vengeful and cruel.
BONUS: That last one was super-depressing, so let me tell you all about the classic novel by Georgett Heyer, The Masqueraders. Published in the 1930s, it’s a Regency romance about a brother-sister pair who are in hiding from the government. (Their father is a Jacobite agitator.) Sent to London to stay out of harm’s way, they have the brilliant idea: “Since law enforcement are looking for a brother and sister, let’s cross-dress!” Amusingly, this is still effective, even though they both switch genders to remain a brother-sister pair. (Oops.) The sister falls in love with a gentleman of her club; the brother falls in love with his new hat shopping partner. Everyone lives happily ever after after a delight of snappy quips and outrageous plot movements.
Victoria Pond is a professional writer on projects ranging from video games to novels. She lives in Seattle with a husband and a cat, where she sings with a Celtic band and is working on the next novella in her steampunk erotica universe.
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