her sky cowboy glorious victorious darcys
Amelia Darcy has no interest in marrying well.
Her heart belongs to the sky and the dirigibles of brass and steel that swoop over Victorian England. But when her father, an eccentric inventor, dies, the Darcy siblings are left with scrap metal—and not a penny to their names. Their only hope to save the family reputation and fortune is to embark on a quest to discover an invention of historical importance in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Armed with only her father’s stories of a forgotten da Vinci workshop, a mechanically enhanced falcon, and an Italian cook, Amelia takes flight for Florence, Italy. But her quest is altered when her kitecycle crashes into the airship of ex–Air Marshal—and scandalous dime novel hero—Tucker Gentry. Tuck agrees to escort Amelia to her destination, but the two are challenged by political unrest, a devious sky pirate, and their own sizzling attraction. Soon the pair is dragged into an international conspiracy that could change the course of history…again.
What they\’re saying
Read on for Prologue
glorious victorious darcys / book 1
berkley, november 6, 2012
2012 Best Steampunk Novel RT BOOKreviews nominee
2012 \’Seal of Excellence Award\’ RT BOOKreviews nominee
Named Editors’ Best of 2012 by RT BOOKreviews
Recommended Read – USA TODAY
Recommended Read – Chicago Tribune
Starred review – Publishers Weekly
Starred review –Book List
what people are saying
“Exhilarating riff on bodice-ripping romance, hurling 20th-century technology into an alternate Victorian England. Ciotta has the start of a delectable series.” –Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“Freaks, Mods, Vics, Flatliners, cowboys in airships, evil scientists, nefarious flying pirates, and time travel. Victorian England was never so much fun. Ciotta\’s whimsical steampunk romance, the first in the Glorious Victorious Darcy series, is too good to miss.” –Starred review, Book List
“A wildly inventive, action-packed steampunk adventure! Lady inventors, sexy renegade lawmen, airships, acid rock and flying horses—HER SKY COWBOY has it all!”—Award-winning author, Zoe Archer
“Masterfully written, with an intriguing plot and a sassy, strong and intelligent heroine at its center. Add to that a heroic cowboy love interest and a supporting cast of distinctive characters, and this story is one fanciful, flying adventure.” – Top Pick, RT BOOKreviews
“Ciotta\’s delightfully imaginative steampunk historical has just the right mix of adventure and romance.” – Chicago Tribune
“Pure charm… You\’ll be hooked!\” –New York Times bestselling author, Heather Graham
“Ms. Ciotta instills humor, wonder, and fun into a whirlwind story that you won’t want to end.” –5 Blue Ribbons, ROMANCE JUNKIES
Great Britain, 1887
Thirty-one years after the invasion of the twentieth-century Peace Rebels
“Could you have been any more rude?”
And here I was congratulating myself for being so astonishingly polite. “Apologies, Mother.” Repressing her frustration, Miss Amelia Darcy endured her mother’s disapproving glare—she was well used to it—and moved to the rear of Loco-Bug, the family’s one-of-a-kind steam-powered automocoach. Stoking the coal in the firebox, she simultaneously praised her papa’s ingenuity and cursed the extraordinary and unreasonable price of gasoline.
Since the Peace War, only the very rich could afford petrol for everyday use. Others, like Papa, hoarded such fuel for special occasions or, in his case, special projects. She supposed she shouldn’t complain about their fickle and sluggish mode of transportation. If her mother, who resisted anything relying on cogs, pipes, and belts, had her way, they’d be traveling by horse and buggy. The woman feared progress as though it were the plague. The only thing that vexed her more was her daughter’s emancipated mind-set.
Whilst Amelia replenished the boiler’s water supply, her mother stood by, tugging on her fur-lined gloves, tightening the sash of her ridiculously frilly bonnet, and arranging her thick traveling cloak to accommodate her portly frame. “I spent two months cultivating a relationship with the dowager Viscountess Bingham,” she grumbled under her breath, “and you managed to ruin my matchmaking efforts in less than two hours.”
“Proof of my restraint. Otherwise we would have earned the boot much sooner.” Not that Lady Bingham had physically shown them the door, but she’d certainly expedited their exit.
Speaking of which, Amelia glanced over her shoulder and saw the dour-faced woman in all her strait-laced glory standing on the front steps of the magnificent country estate alongside her son—the Viscount Bingham. Decorum dictated that they oversee their guests’ departure, no matter how tedious the process. Whereas Lady Bingham was no doubt scandalized by Amelia’s determination to fire up and drive a horseless carriage like an unrefined commoner, she could feel Lord Bingham studying her every move. She knew he was fascinated by her passion for aviation and flair for mechanics and somewhat amused by her father’s Frankenstein version of an automocoach. Influenced by sketches of Bollée’s La Mancelle and a time-traveling Mod’s psychedelic Beetle Bug, Papa’s hybrid, built from available scraps, was a visual curiosity. However, to someone like Amelia, who had not experienced life before the invasion of the Peace Rebels, Loco-Bug just was.
What really irritated Amelia was Lord Bingham’s keen fascination with her bountiful bosom. Even the modest and hideously constricting visiting gown she’d donned to appease her mother had not detracted from her bothersome “fine figure.” Most women would have been flattered by his attention, she supposed, especially since Lord Bingham was a man of great wealth and influence. But he was also an arrogant and crafty sod and it was for that reason that Amelia had striven to alienate Lady Bingham and her son with her fervent utopian ideals. Influenced by the cautionary tales of the Mods, she took her role in policing the fate of the world most seriously.
The steam engine finally puffed to life and Amelia burst with joy. The sooner she distanced herself from Wickford Manor and the pompous Binghams, the better. She’d been duped into believing Lord Bingham was a fellow utopian, a New Worlder. After an hour in his company Amelia suspected he was, in fact, a Flatliner, someone who cared only for his future—and not the future of mankind.
Learning that he’d employed an entire staff of domestic automatons had singed Amelia’s bustle. How insensitive to purchase robotic domestics at a set cost when so many living, breathing Vics were desperate for employment! It was just one of the things that had soured Amelia on the man her mother had envisioned as her husband. Not that Amelia had any intention of marrying. Ever. Why tie herself down when there was so much of the world to see? Why bend to a man’s will and agenda when she possessed her own dreams and goals? As she lived and breathed, someday she would pilot her own airship and experience grand adventures! She imagined her exploits being reported alongside the colorful escapades of the Sky Cowboy, an American outlaw who flew the fastest airship in all of Europe. If only her mother would match her with that fearless aviator. Horrid husband material to be sure, but since she had no designs on being a wife—ever—she cared not about his notorious and scandalous reputation and only for his superior knowledge in aeronautical engineering.
Sighing, Amelia shoved aside that whimsical scenario and helped her mother up into the rear seat of the six-person cab. As the prim woman fussed and fidgeted, Amelia gathered her own bothersome skirts, compounded by the added layer of her leather duster, and climbed aboard the open-air driver’s throne. She pulled on her leather gauntlets and tinted, fur-rimmed goggles, then tugged her worn top hat, a gift from Papa, over her blond coiled braids. Unfashionable perhaps, but comfortable. Sensible as well—which was more than she could say for bustles and bonnets. Grasping the steering wheel, she rolled back her shoulders, feeling deliciously in control. Why anyone would prefer the role of passenger to pilot was beyond her imagination. Loco-Bug vibrated and puffed, primed for action—same as Amelia. She would have smiled were she not conscious of Lady Bingham’s scorn and her own mother’s disappointment; were she not repelled by Lord Bingham’s lecherous attention, damn his eyes. “Are you going to glare at me for the entire journey home, Mother?”
At least she knew what to expect. Unlike with Lord Bingham. She’d expected—or, perhaps more accurately, hoped for—a tour of his collection of aerostats and aeronefs—flying machines of all manner, each a technological marvel—but she’d never gotten farther than the drawing room, and tea and watercress sandwiches. Her own fault, true. Still . . . Blast.
“You are a beautiful young woman, Amelia, in spite of your peculiar taste in fashion. Well educated. Charming, when you strive to be. Yet you are twenty summers old and without a husband.”
Smiling now, Amelia breathed in the crisp winter air and engaged the clutch, setting them on a course for home. “Life is good.”
“Why in heaven’s name did you even agree to this meeting, only to sabotage it? You could have saved me the humiliation by simply refusing.”
“If I had refused you would have pressured me until I relented,” she said reasonably as they rolled through the ornate iron gates. “I know this, since you have tried to match me six—”
“—times before. This time I bypassed prolonged misery by giving in at the outset.”
“I would have preferred an outright refusal. At least it would have saved me the embarrassment of being tossed from the grounds.” Her mother sniffed, and Amelia knew without looking that she was using a dainty handkerchief to dab away tears. “Honestly!” she said, choking back a dramatic sob.
Since her back was to the woman, Amelia indulged in a disrespectful eye-roll. She’d never outwardly insult her mother, but, blooming hell, it was difficult to hide her frustration. Anne Darcy possessed the extraordinary skill of crying at the drop of a hat. It was a weapon she used quite often against Amelia’s father, Reginald Darcy, a baron by happenstance, an inventor by choice, and it drove Amelia to distraction, because her papa always relented. Always. Whatever Anne wanted, which was faithfully more than was reasonable, given the family’s status and moderate wealth, her dear, sweet, brilliant, yet-oft-times scatterbrained husband strove to deliver.
Amelia, who could scarcely remember the last time she’d cried, rarely put stock in her mother’s tears. This time, however, she acknowledged a morsel of guilt. True, she’d hoped to circumvent her mother’s nagging by giving in and agreeing to at least meet with the viscount. But she’d also been driven by her desire to see and to perhaps climb aboard his magnificent zeppelin.
Oh, to pilot an airship of superior design, one that stayed afloat for longer than thirty minutes. Amelia had been obsessed with flying since she was a little girl. Thanks to her papa, who shared her obsession, she’d had the opportunity to sample the skies in his assorted flying machines. Unfortunately, like most of his inventions, his aerostats malfunctioned with extraordinary regularity, and her flights were thus often quite short.
“He was perfect for you, Amelia.”
Meaning Lord Bingham. Although she wished her mother would dismiss the thought, she could not wholly disagree. His world views, or lack thereof, aside, she supposed he was perfect in that she could discuss aviation with him for aeons and he wouldn’t grow bored. He could expose her to advanced technology and she would be mesmerized, but other than that, she saw no sense in the union. She did not love, nor was she even physically attracted to the man—in spite of his handsome features. Not to mention their extreme social and political differences. She didn’t bother to explain those differences to her mother. She wouldn’t understand. As an Old Worlder, Anne expected Amelia to conform to convention. She had no interest in technology or saving the future from chaos and destruction. She wanted everything to move forward with the natural march of time, the way things used to be, before the Peace Rebels.
As they chugged along, the vibrations from the engine invigorating Amelia’s good senses, she cursed herself for giving in to her mother. For giving over to her curiosity regarding Lord Bingham’s personal air fleet. Instead, she could’ve spent the morning assisting Papa, who, day by day, had become almost psychotic in his mission to fly to the moon. Although he’d promised not to tinker with Apollo 02 (his second attempt at a futuristic rocket ship), until she returned, she didn’t wholly trust his word or judgment of late.
“Can’t you make this thing go any faster?” Anne asked, sounding suddenly anxious to return home.
“Regrettably, no,” Amelia said as Loco-Bug’s iron wheels rolled over the pitted, snow-dusted road. As with most of the shires, Kent had fallen upon hard times, and the much-traveled roads had fallen into ill repair. Not to mention that Loco-Bug was simply not made for great speed. “For what it’s worth, the journey would have been half the duration if we had taken Bess.” Her papa’s one-of-a-kind kitecycle. Unfortunately, among other things, Anne Darcy was aerophobic.
“If people were meant to fly,” she said with a sniff, “we’d have been born with wings.”
If only, Amelia thought with a wistful sigh.
They fell into a sullen silence. Really, what was there to say? Old Worlder and New Worlder, fatalist and utopian, repressed and emancipated. They would never see eye-to-eye. For the next hour they rode in tense silence—Amelia contemplating her papa’s moonship obsession whilst her mother no doubt plotted her next marriage match.
A short mile from their home, Loco-Bug stalled for the second time in thirty minutes.
Anne ridiculed her husband’s automocoach as Amelia hopped out to inspect the engine. Unlike her mother, she had faith in Papa’s inventions. Sometimes it just took a lot of positive thinking and a bit of elbow grease. And in this case, a hair ornament. Pulling a decorative comb from her braided hair, Amelia probed and unclogged a valve. Though pleased when Loco-Bug coughed back to life, she glanced at the sky, thinking how much more enjoyable it would have been to soar the seamless air as opposed to driving along rutted roads.
A deafening boom blasted her eardrums, tripping her pulse and stealing her breath.
Pushing her goggles to her forehead, Amelia gaped at a large plume of smoke and fireworks marring the near horizon—a mushrooming cloud littered with fragments of brass, iron, and clockwork.
It came from Ashford. The Darcy estate.
Her mother gasped. “What in heaven’s name?”
Apollo 02, Amelia thought, stifling a scream as she imagined Papa tinkering, then . . .
Please, God, no.
Refusing to think the worst, Amelia scrambled back into Loco-Bug, intending to push the machine to its limits. Upon reaching Ashford, she would find Papa singed and discombobulated but very much alive. She willed it with all her heart.
Amelia refitted her goggles, then engaged the clutch. “Hang on to your bonnet, Mamma.”