When steampunk first started rising in popularity, I thought I would love it. I dig the aesthetic, I adore dirigibles, what’s not to love? But the first few books I tried reading in the genre didn’t hook me. It wasn’t until I read some steampunk romances that I really got into it.
Love, adventure and a steaming good time.
As the French army leader’s bastard son, Cornelius Stevens enjoys a great deal of latitude. But when he saves an enemy soldier using clockwork parts, he’s well aware he risks hanging for treason. That doesn’t worry him half as much, however, as the realization he’s falling for his patient.
Johann Berger never expected to survive his regiment’s suicide attack on Calais, much less wake up with mechanical parts. To avoid discovery, he’s forced to hide in plain sight as Cornelius’s lover—a role Johann finds himself taking to surprisingly well.
When a threat is made on Cornelius’s life, Johann learns the secret of the device implanted in his chest—a mythical weapon both warring countries would kill to obtain. Caught up in a political frenzy, in league with pirates, dodging rogue spies, mobsters and princesses with deadly parasols, Cornelius and Johann have no time to contemplate how they ended up in this mess. All they know is, the only way out is together—or not at all.
Warning: Contains tinkers, excessive clockwork appendages, and a cloud-sweeping tour of Europe. A little absinthe, a little theft, a little exhibitionism. Men who love men, women who love women, and some who aren’t particular.
In Clockwork Heart, the world building is so good (starting with the author’s note, which at first I found a little unnecessary, but appreciated as the story unfolded) and the characters are so fleshed out that the steampunk aspect is easier to grasp for me. The role of clockwork and tinkering, as it’s referred to here, and airships seem natural, not jarring. Not only that but the political storyline, something else I usually don’t love, is really well done. The way it motivates the main characters and their surrounding crew is plain and relatable.
The driving force, of course, is love. Between lovers, between friends, between the makeshift family that is an airship crew. The loyalty, the desire to protect, that comes with that love, is what solidifies the relationships and makes the reader care about each one.
As usual, the kink is strong in Clockwork Heart. Heidi has a thing for voyeurism, which isn’t always my bag. I like that Johann is a little resistant to some of Conny’s desires, and that they work through that resistance with two of the tools for building a good relationship: communication and compromise.
There’s political tension, danger, and a few orgies. What more could you want from an m/m romance? With clockwork appendages, filigree-adorned dirigibles, cocaine-laced absinthe, and electric parasols, you’ve also got an excellent steampunk novel.
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