Guest Post & Giveaway: Venturess by Betsy Cornwell

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synYoung inventor Nicolette Lampton is living her own fairy tale happy ending. She’s free of her horrible step-family, running a successful business, and is uninterested in marrying the handsome prince, Fin. Instead, she, Fin, and their friend Caro venture to the lush land of Faerie, where they seek to put an end to the bloody war their kingdom is waging. Mechanical armies and dark magic await them as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries—and for themselves.

guestYABM: From the blurb, Venturess seems a little less steampunk and a lot more fantasy driven. What inspired you to first write this steampunk twist on the classic Cinderella fairytale?

BETSY: I suppose Venturess is technically gaslight fantasy because it includes magical elements, while pure steampunk is strictly science fiction. But this book actually includes more ‘typical’ steampunk elements than its prequel Mechanica did: there are airships, steampunk-style submarines, and automaton soldiers all over the place in Venturess.

As for inspiration, I learned about steampunk while I was studying fairy tales as an English major in college. I thought that Cinderella was a perfect example of how strict and machine-like the progression to a happy ending is in fairy tales: tortured young girl + dream + magic = marry the prince. I wanted to write a steampunk Cinderella who was an inventor, who could reach into her own story like the chassis of a car and pull it apart and reinvent her own kind of happy ending.

YABM: What is Nicolette’s biggest challenge in the story?

BETSY: Nicolette has achieved her dream of becoming a successful inventor, so one of the central challenges of Venturess is how she’s going to use her success, both personally and ethically. At the beginning of the book, she’s asked to use her position to help the Fey, who the people of her own country are oppressing. Once she’s actually in Faerie, she and her friends meet with several bigger challenges, but I’m afraid most of them are spoilers!

YABM: Mechanica had a strong focus on friendship and discovery, what themes are central in this sequel?

BETSY: Friends making a family together is even more central to Venturess: Nick, Fin, and Caro love each other and face the challenges of changing relationships and priorities together, and you’ll see them becoming even closer and more intimate with each other’s lives. Discovery comes into play again too, especially when they travel to Faerie, and I try to work with themes of colonialism and human rights to the best of my ability.

YABM: If Venturess were set in modern times, what music would Nicolette be listening to during her free time?

BETSY: Ooh, that’s a great question! I think she’d really like Ingrid Michaelson and The Decemberists.

YABM: Tell me about your writing process.

BETSY: I drafted my first novel in the high-output/low-expectations environment of National Novel Writing Month (a program that I recommend to anyone dreaming of writing or finishing their first book). I still use a lot of the skills I learned from NaNoWriMo: mostly to push any perfectionism aside as aggressively as possible in order to get that horrible first draft finished. I try to write at least 1,000 to 1,500 words per day when I’m drafting, and to work as early in the day as possible. I enjoy editing much more, so it’s really getting to that complete first draft that’s the biggest challenge.

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Hi! I’m Betsy Cornwell, an American writer and teacher living in a stove-heated cottage in west Ireland, together with my horse trainer spouse, a small herd of dairy goats, and an increasing number of other animals. I write fiction and nonfiction and blog about Irish folklore, travel, wild food, goats (of course!), homesteading, and growing up.

giveaway3 winners will receive a finished copy of VENTURESS. US Only.

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Happy reading, 

Jordan

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ARC Review: Mechanica-Betsy Cornwell

Mechanica-higher-qualityGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

cooltext1889161239 copyNicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

cooltext1889171582 copy3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Clarion Books

Mechanica is a magical and enchanting retelling of the classic Cinderella story. 

PROS:

  • From the first page, I was hooked. The steampunk twist on Cinderella coupled with fae magic and romance was an enthralling, whimsical mashup. You know that sweet, wonder that takes over when you experience something so dazzling and magical that you’re flooded with warmth and happiness? Mechanica did that for me. 
  • Jules, the steampunk bugs, the quirky engineering and mysterious darkness of the ashes added something really special to the story. The surprise and excitement, the wide-eyed curiosity at the spectacle that was Nick and her mother’s creations were beyond creative and reinforced the severed connection between mother and daughter. Each invention has a life of its own. The life brought to the cogs and levers made each new creation feel special and lovable. 
  • Nick (Mechanica) is a very modern woman. She thrives on engineering books and physics, she wants to make something of herself, open her own business, to create, and be a successful entrepreneur. Nick recognizes the dire, horrible reality of her situation and makes the best of it, she builds and rebuilds, she’s resilient and won’t let anyone beat her down. No matter the tragedy, Nick hold her head high and plans for a better future. Nick yearns for companionship and lost love. She puts her heart into her work and dismisses her sadness. Nick’s ultimate decision made me incredibly proud. You don’t expect it and yet, it fits, it’s perfect. 
  • Caro is irresistably charming and kind. She’s the sultry best friend any girl needs and the best companion for Nick. Their friendship is sweet and compassionate. 
  • Fin is an enigma that is almost broody at times and flirty others. He’s artistic and poised, kind. The brewing chemistry between Nick and Fin is slow, steady, and a little like love.

CONS:

  • Parts were predictable and took away from the surprise factor. 
  • The underlying prejudice and blossoming war with the fae was extremely important and fell into the background. The truth of the ashes was left unanswered. 
  • The weird sort of ménage romance was off-putting and bizarre. It kind of felt thrown in to round out the story. How Nick could be okay with that despite her obsession with the fae notion of family was hard to understand.
  • Typically, the step sisters and stepmother and terrible, ridiculously cruel people but there was barely enough interaction to truly despise them. The stepmother had a small role and while their destruction was devastating and huge, their general impression in the story was tiny.

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