Clockwork Heart by Heidi Cullinan #Review

Posted February 6, 2016 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 22 Comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Clockwork Heart by Heidi Cullinan #Review
Clockwork Heart

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Series: #1 Clockwork Love
Genres: M/M Romance, Steampunk Romance
Published by Samhain Publishing
Released on February 2, 2016
Pages: 250
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Get it at: add to goodreads

It has been a while since I read a steampunk story so I perked right up when I noticed this one starting up a new series by an author I have enjoyed in the past.  And it was fantastic getting a parallel earth situation, some colorful characters, and a forbidden romance between a kinky inventor and a stalwart soldier from the opposing sides of a war.

The book opens with French clockwork genius, pacifist, and bastard son of the country’s greatest generals, Cornelius Stevens finding an Austrian soldier barely alive and slated for death.  A spontaneous decision to secret the young man away and keep him alive leads Cornelius to repair destroyed limbs, inner parts, and an eye with his finest clockwork.  But that is not all.  Cornelius takes the master clockwork inventor’s greatest invention that Master Felix wish he had destroyed since both armies would kill to possess it- the clockwork heart- and Cornelius puts it into his soldier.

Cornelius’ actions would be seen as those of a traitor, but when Johann regains consciousness and Cornelius encounters that wholesome, sweet smile, he knows he has done the right thing.  But now he needs to keep Johann safe from discovery as he continues to heal, adjust to his new clockwork parts, and figure out a plan.  Unfortunately, the only guise Cornelius can think of is to present Johann as his lover.  Taking Johann into his lusty, kinky bohemian society leaves Cornelius more than uncomfortable.  For the first time in his life, he cares- truly cares what someone thinks of him.  And watching Johann’s reaction to Cornelius’ ways and those of his friends and acquaintance make him very uneasy.  With the language barrier, he has no way to tell Johann or to gauge Johann’s experience.

Meanwhile, someone knows of the clockwork heart’s existence and the noose tightens as someone figures Cornelius might very well know where it is if they can’t get the information out of Master Felix.  With enemies chasing them, Cornelius, Johann, and Cornelius’ bestie Valentin escape to the adventure of their lives- pirates, orgies, intrigue, and romance.  Maybe along the way, they can figure out a way to stop the war, keep the technology out of greedy, ambitious hands, and figure out their relationship.

So yes, this one started off with some excitement and the intro to an intriguing steampunk world based on the premise that when Napoleon started conquering Europe that he never actually lost at Waterloo, but won and that his only big opponent isn’t Britain, but the Austrian Empire and that the war has been going on for decades.  The industrial revolution only produced clockwork and either powered technology with other fuel far behind except in other parts of the world.  America is isolationist and Europe is a war zone.  Airships rule the skies and clockwork parts are found in everything even the wounded warriors of the armies.  It’s a fascinating parallel earth world.

I was into it through the opening and beginning portion of the book.  Then it drew back for some character and relationship development and some kinky passion.  While this wasn’t bad and was enjoyable to a certain extent, the story dragged through it.  Then things picked up against for an intense and exciting ending.  I think I wouldn’t have minded the changes so much if there was a blend and not all of one or the other in the parts.

The characters were interesting and engaging.  Cornelius is a bit of a beta hero, I think.  Not because he is anti-war, but because of his personality.  He has a warmongering, ambitious, and villainous father who only sees him as a pawn on his chess board.  And his mother is a spy who was never really there for him either.  He pretty much does his own thing which has been working hard as an apprentice to a clockwork inventor-surgeon becoming second best under Felix’s tutelage during the day and going full on hedonistic in the night with his friends in the cafes and clubs.  But as shallow as he seems, Cornelius has a mind and a heart.  He uses both work and his nightlife to stop the direction of his thoughts which are burdened by the war and what it is doing to everything.  Now about that hedonistic side- Cornelius is a guy who likes to get slutty, exhibit, and he has a clockwork fetish.  He wants Johann, but isn’t sure how fast and far he can push the guy who is an innocent both to men loving men, but men acting out their desires the way Cornelius does.  Johann seems to be his anchor and helps him sort out direction and purpose in his life.

And Johann is nearly opposite in every way to Cornelius.  He has been a soldier, a pirate, but he is also a guy from a small poor village who hasn’t had a chance to experience the world.  Someone has always controlled him and ordered him about.  He is grateful to Cornelius and is confused when he starts to feel things for him.  He is uneasy about Cornelius’ flagrant lifestyle.  And then as he has time to think, he is really messed up about what to think now that he is half-machine and the heart inside him is the most coveted object in the world.  He has had to go through so many changes in his life and now has been hit with several more all at the same time.

The romance is slow burning as a result of them being on the run, but also other factors like Johann adjusting to his sexual orientation and to his new life and then the two of them struggle with how they can compromise on their needs since Cornelius might need more in the relationship than Johann has the power to give and vice versa.  They were both tender-hearted people that got caught up in circumstances and it was interesting to see how they worked things out even if this was the slower part of the book.

I enjoyed the intrigue element along with the occasional dangerous action scenes.  It wasn’t a story that shocked me with twists, but I still appreciated those moments of not knowing how they were going to get out of some dire ‘backs against the wall’ situations.  And alongside them was a quirky and colorful crew of characters they picked up along the way.

All in all, I had a good time with this one.  I would love more of this world and the now familiar cast of characters.  For those who enjoy steamy, suspenseful m/m steampunk romance, I can recommend this one to you.

I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #47 SR
Literary Pickers #46 parallel earth
New to Me #23 series

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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  • It has been some time since my last steampunk

    • I had quite a dry spell, too. This was a great reunion with the genre for me.

  • Oooh, it looks good, I’m adding it to my list, thanks for sharing ^^ I’m currently reading a steampunk story, but it’s more for younger readers 🙂

    • I haven’t read one for YA. I hope it’s good stuff.

  • I have yet to read a steampunk story but this sounds like it has an interesting storyline.

    • This had so much going on. I had a good time with it.

  • I love steampunk and this one looks like a great read. I’ve definitely no read M/M steampunk before. Great review!

    • It has been a while for me so I was eager to jump back into a steampunk setting. I never realized how many m/m steampunk stories were out there.

  • I love the mystery/suspense steampunk aspect..the world sounds pretty cool.

    • Very creative worldbuilding and I enjoyed the intrigue going on as everyone was after poor Johann’s clockwork heart.

  • oh my…this story sounds simply amazing, and I have been wanting to broaden my horizons with this sub genre of m/m set ups and I love steampunk but haven’t read too much yet. Great review this book sounds simply fab.

    • This one would come under the broadening of the horizons column for sure. 😉

      I never thought I’d enjoy Steampunk, but I really do love it as a cool variation on historical romance. Hope you get a chance to try a few.

  • I can see how a blending of the two elements would work better overall. I do like a blend vs the more separate sides of the rom-suspense aspects. I’m still not quite ready for m.m yet and am just now broaching the steampunk. I am enjoying that element though in the current one so will hopefully be working those in more often 😀

    • Yes, the obvious break between the sections of the story was distracting even though I liked what was in them.

      This would not be the one I would advise folks to pick up for testing out the m/m waters. 😉

      But that is great that you are pushing the lines with some steampunk. I began by going for those with PNR or UF blends with the steampunk. There are several that I loved and that led to straight up steampunk.

      • I’ve totally read ones like that before. All the elements were great but I just needed the blend more. Hopefully in the next one it’ll be a little more even with storyline layout.

        I’ve been meaning to do steampunk for ages. I read one a long while back (antho that was just eh) but you know how the tbr pile goes. I’m doing this one on audio while I walk which is torture (the walking part) and the listening is helping marginally. lol It’s more paranormal flavors with wolves and such as well as the mechanical elements. So far so good 🙂

        • That’s a good way to do it. Even if the walking is an arduous task, you can pat yourself on the back for pushing your health and reading limits at the same time. 🙂 I was doing really well with my walking and exercising last fall. I need to get back at it.

          • I’d say do it! Do it! But walking is so evil! lol (I’m totally anti-exercise) ::snort::

            • LOL! No, I really need to. I get severe headaches and I actually don’t get them as bad when I do my walking and getting moving. Trust me, I’m right there with you on being grumpy about the exercising. Hate working out and feeling like everything’s made of rubber and I’m gasping for air in desperate need of a shower. Haha!

              • LOL the gasping for air sounds about right. That’s good it helps with your headaches. I know a couple of yall that deal with headaches and can’t imagine. Just getting them now and again is bad enough 🙁

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