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The process of writing The Iron Duke was a bit like the book itself: there was an enormous risk that was taken out of love, followed by an exciting adventure. Luckily for me, however, I didn’t have to write it while aboard an airship or fighting off a giant kraken.
But there were definitely doubts and hurdles to overcome. When I first pitched this series to my editor, “steampunk” as a genre hadn’t yet made it to the mainstream ... and I still receive many questions asking me what steampunk is. But it’s quite simple, really: imagine a movie like Sherlock Holmes combined with steamy romance, or Pirates of the Caribbean with airships, clockwork gadgets, and bizarre monsters. It’s a historical romance...with a steampunk twist.
And it’s an enormous amount of fun. Because the history of my Iron Seas world is different from our own history, I was able to create an England that looked very much like the Victorian England that we know and love in our romances, but with some significant cultural and physical changes. In this alternate history, the Mongol Horde didn’t stop their military advance into Europe in 1241 A.D. (as they did in our history), but came later with war machines and powerful technology. Most of Europe and Africa fled to the New World. At the opening of The Iron Duke, England has just come out from under the Horde’s two-hundred year occupation ... and the man who freed them all – pirate captain Rhys Trahaearn – is the hero of my story.
I suppose it is also a little unusual to set The Iron Duke nine years after the ultimate victory – he freed all of England, after all, and became a national hero! – but even though Rhys’s actions had an amazing impact upon the lives of everyone who had been oppressed by the Horde (including our heroine, Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth), he wasn’t exactly a hero. No, he was a pirate captain through and through, a man who was in the right place at the right time. Certainly not worthy of romance hero status!
But I wanted to give him a chance to be worthy of that status – and to be worthy of love. And even though the Horde has been defeated, England isn’t safe from threat ... no, there are far worse dangers than the Horde for Rhys to face – dangers which might destroy the woman he’s come to love.
It’s never enough for a hero to be big and sexy and to defeat the bad guys – a romance hero needs to have his heart in the right place as he does it. And it doesn’t matter whether he’s a historical romance hero, a vampire or a demon, a contemporary hero, or a captain in a science fiction romance – a hero is a hero, and steampunk romance isn’t any different. And so even though I’m writing in a new, unfamiliar genre, I have no doubt that readers will recognize the element that is common to every romance: A strong hero.
In my story, the Iron Duke will do anything to have Mina, even if that means changing the world to be with her. That, to me, is pure romance ... and I hope that everyone enjoys the adventure with me.
- Meljean Brook
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