Guest blog by Nikki Woolfolk, author of The Men of Summerly
When I decided to write the second installment in my Steampunk romance Sweet & Steamy series I never imagined that of the mashup, but the results caused my own heart to flutter and be swept up in the magic that only Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream play can do.
In my reimagining the Cinderella fairytale with two male characters wasn’t a challenge in my Steampunk world, but figuring out how to slip in some of my favorite Shakespeare was a happy challenge I was willing to accept.
We are all aware of the Ball and its significance to the Cinderella story, but I wanted to go a little different. In my little Appalachian town of Stubborn, I decided that not only was the Ball happening at the Summerly mansion, but it was to be a Midsummer Night’s Dream themed ball.
There is something wonderful and sincere about being out under the stars during a Summer Solstice. That time of the year on its own is magical, add an estate filled with fairies, dragonfly winged ladies and luminaries scattered across a vast estate and it can’t be any dreamier. Here’s an excerpt:
Ash strolled up the path passing the automated kerosene fueled lamps that lit the walkway to the double wooden door wearing the donkey head. Standing on either side of the entrance were two mature women, one dressed in flowing iridescent silks of a Roman gown and her partner in loose fitting trousers wearing a flowered crown. Both their faces shimmered with glitter.
“Greetings fair one. May I see your invitation?” the woman in trousers said.
Ash patted his breast pocket of his cream colored jacket and pulled out his card stock.
The woman in the gown took it from his grasp, looked it over. “Bless thee, Bottom. Bless thee!” The two women laughed and stepped aside to let Ash by.
Ash let out a playful bray. The waiting guests behind him chuckled. He heard music coming from the ballroom but the growling of his stomach led him to the dining area where a grand buffet stood in the middle of the room.
Tiered plates held bite-sized portions of decadent food. In the center of the table was a fountain gently pouring forth a dark violet liquid. Ash read the card. “Blueberry soup.”
A server held out two bowls filled with the liquid with a dollop of cream in the center. He took both, turned on his heel and found himself facing Neville.
Ash held perfectly still.
Neville gave him a disgusted look. “I believe the word is excuse me,” he said pushing past Ash to get to the buffet.
Ash found he had lost his appetite. He left the room hoping to put as much distance as he could between him and his tormentor. Ash continued through the doorway into the library in which several railways were set up. People made friendly wagers as they raced miniature steam trains. He passed a gentleman on a chaise being fed grapes by several men. Women dressed as sprites giggled. One offered Ash a caster sugar covered grape. He nodded his donkey head. The sprite slid a grape underneath the mask searching by feel for his mouth. He ate the grape and the sprite patted the top of his donkey head before returning her attention to the chaise lounge.
He wandered through the rooms each offering different forms of entertainment. Music grew louder as he stepped into the hallway and followed it to the ballroom. He watched a quartet dressed as woodland creatures playing sweeping tunes from Mendelssohn. Ash stood near the doorway swaying to the music and watching the dancers with rice paper wings twirling around the ballroom floor. Ash’s gaze travelled up to the ceiling painted a deep navy color with constellations painted in gold. Orion looking down on the celebration below. Ash noticed a couple with sparklers dancing in front of the ballroom window.
Ash stepped outside.
The cool grass surrounded his slippered feet.
A crowd had gathered at a large canvas circle that lay under a metal canopy. A man in tight fitting trousers sat at the top bound by red silks. The aerialist spun and tumbled down along the silks. The glow of several paper lanterns showed his muscled arms and chest. Some on lookers gasped as they watched the man in silks defy gravity.
A woman wearing nothing but bloomers, a corset, and dragonfly wings ran past him. A woman juggling clear glass spheres grabbed Ash’s attention. Ash following the juggler into the garden labyrinth.
The music faded as he followed the maze path searching for a vacant bench. Finally, after several incorrect turns, he found what he was looking for. He set the soups down and removed the donkey head before sitting down. He brought one of the small bowls to his lips to take a sip when he heard movement.
It was a joy to write this tale and see the memories that Ash and Simon create during this enchanted summer evening.
The Men of Summerly
Tradition is as quaint tradition does.
So thinks British trade envoy Simon Leatherby as he settles into his temporary home in the mountains of Stubborn, West Virginia, to negotiate an equitable export trade agreement. As the guest of honor at the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream Costume Ball, Simon is charmed by the beauty of this rugged country and matchmaking townsfolk, but only business is on his mind.
Ashland “Ash” Gottschalk, a sweet tempered glassblower, is caught up in a horrible set of circumstances, no thanks to an evil manager and his two wicked assistants heaping abuse on all the downtrodden workers of the Pantoufle Glass Factory. With a clever plan, borrowed items, and a touch of magic, Ash’s friends transform the kind cinderfella into a proper gentleman for one stolen evening at the ball.
A chance meeting at the celebration turns into a magical evening to remember as Ash and Simon meet their match. When the clock strikes midnight and the mysterious Ash disappears as suddenly as he appeared, Simon moves heaven and earth to seek out the keeper of the glass trinket left behind on that starry night.
Will Simon find his ‘prince’ before time runs out or will the evil management’s last cruel trick destroy his happy ending with Ash?
Nikki Woolfolk grew up with her southern father’s good cooking and tall-tales and her mother’s science fiction loving influence early Silicon Valley. In 2013, a friend challenged her to mix her two loves, science and writing, to create a romance novella. Considering herself more nerd than a romantic, Nikki wrote her version of a romance in which she gets to “have a parkour chase scene, blow sh*t up, and make sure the good guy and gal get the girl” with food on the side when the adventures work up an appetite.
Nikki lives in New England with her son and her partner and is working on the next book with more original recipes for the Steampunk Romance Sweet & Steamy series. For more details go to her blog: thedrunkenmousse.wordpress.com or find her on Twitter!