When Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, comes across a man being beaten by a group of young, bored aristocrats in a back alley of St. Fransisco he immediately steps in and comes to the rescue. It’s not until he’s left holding the badly concussed man that he realizes the victim is none other than Robin Harris, the Toymaker, the genius responsible for almost causing the downfall of the British Empire with a combination of magic and science. He is also the man indirectly responsible for causing the death of Marcus’s father. Nonetheless, he carries the man to his townhouse and stays with him as he heals.
Robin Harris awakens a full three weeks after the attack and discovers a handsome, well dressed man at his bedside. One who has been dedicated to taking care of him and learning about his work. Robin isn’t used to Marcus’s kindness and affection after having been publicly branded a deviant and criminal. Robin is a gentle soul who while still a young man had his life’s work twisted into weapons to try and overthrow the British Empire. Now he lives in near seclusion, trying to use his fantastical creations to help those in need. Marcus has every reason to dislike Robin, regardless of his attraction to the scientist, yet he takes care of him, gets to know him as a person and slowly starts to build a friendship with him that ends up turning into a love affair.
Clockwork Tangerine is Rhys Ford’s first foray into the steampunk genre. This romance is set in an alternate reality where magic meets science, London meets Chinese ghettos and historical romance meets fantasy . I love steampunk romances. I love that you never quite know what you’re going to get when you start to read. I love the hints of ingenious inventions set against the backdrop of old world, historical settings. While this is just a short journey into such a world, and therefore had a limited amount of page time available to establish the world building and romance, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Marcus and Robin’s relationship advances rather quickly, from strangers to friends to lovers. This is accomplished by jumping time significantly throughout the story. While I would have liked a more in depth look into the these men’s forming relationship, I understood going in that because of the size this would be hard to accomplish. I do think Rhys Ford did a good job establishing each man’s background, personality and feelings. She also did a brilliant job of creating a rich, layered steampunk world. My only complaint was that I wished this had been a full length novel instead of novella. The more I read the more I wanted this book to go on and on. In fact I’m hoping that Ms. Ford decides to revisit the steampunk genre in the future.
One last thing, one of the best parts of any Rhys Ford romance, no matter what genre, is her secondary characters and the love and support they offer the main characters. In this novella that is Marcus’s grandmother, the Dowager Duchess. I LOVED her. I adored her advice to Marcus regarding his place in the family and feelings toward Robin. Her powerful presence and support helped me believe this couple’s journey and HEA. Final Grade- B
“History is written by the victors,” Robin reminded him softly. “I certainly did not win in that conflict.”
“No,” Marcus agreed, saddened by the shadows in his lover’s eyes. “But I can ensure that you will win in its aftermath. I refuse to let you go, my mad scientist. I would rather live as a Bedlamite with you than as an aristocrat with an empty soul. I told you, I know what I’m risking. And that is you. If I don’t do this— if I don’t spend my life listening to you, breathing you in… waking up next to you, then I’ve lost everything. That is what I am risking— a life without the man who makes me feel alive.”