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    Steampunk, romance and social justice

    <i>Steel Kisses</i> is set in Buffalo/Niagara in a Victorian Steampunk age. Reynold is a gentle man who works at a local funeral home and has a crush on a beautiful woman he sees everyday getting off the tram. Unbeknownst to him, this woman - Lily - is actually an automaton and she is a prostitute at the Crystal Palace. When one of his co-workers buys him a trip to the Crystal Palace, he discovers that the truth about this beautiful woman... but it doesn't stop his feelings. Lily is not just a machine - her creator, a nasty woman named Dr. Landry, also managed to create within Lily and her sisters artificial intelligence. Now, they are learning and developing on their own, bringing to the forefront automaton rights. I will say that how the automaton like Lily are created is actually quite disgusting though it is mentioned only briefly. It is, however, perhaps appropriate that a man like Reynold, who has no distaste for dealing with the dead, is the main character. This is a cute romance story that doesn't glamorize or romanticize prostitution. The abuse that Lily and her sisters suffer is not pretty and perhaps slightly more horrifying in that Dr. Landry can simply shut them down if they disobey. Since shutting them down is akin to death, it is a horrific punishment. It is mentioned quite often that Reynold is not the smartest man in Buffalo (perhaps too often) but he is, without a doubt, one of the kindest. His infatuation with Lily is sweet and watching it develop into love as he is drawn deeper and deeper into the plot of automaton rights is beautiful to watch. And while he and Lily end up with a happy ending, one does have to wonder how long it will last. The cast of characters are nicely developed, from the other automatons to the humans. While social justice is very central to this book, romance is still at it's heart.

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