Review: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford

The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

I’m a super picky pain in the ass when it comes to fantasy, sci-fi and steampunk. Not because I know much, but because I know what I need to make these genres completely work for me. And when I find the flavor of these genres I love, I want more, more, more! Then, after that, I want some more.

I just finished Clockwork Tangerine and damn I want some more. This was the flavor I love. I love when a story doesn’t take itself too seriously but isn’t patronizing either. I want one MC who’s big, strong, brave, powerful and still the biggest softie when it comes to the one he loves. I want my other MC to be brilliant, eccentric, damaged and loyal to a fault. I want the setting to be proper on the surface with all the niceties of a Victorian parlor but with rust around the edges and an underlying sense of decay and danger. I want villains with no redeeming qualities and evil intentions. I want the language to be full of visceral words, ones that, even if I’m not completely sure of their meaning, I can feel their definition in the phrasing. I want my secondary characters to be full of dry wit and have unexpectedly understanding natures. And mostly, I want smark* and true love. Clockwork Tangerine has ALL of that and I loved it.

Set in an alternate reality of San Francisco, Marcus Stenhill, the Viscount of Westwood is traveling through the dangerous are of the Little Orient after running out to fetch his grandmother’s favorite tea when he comes upon a group of thugs beating on a man who is already down on the ground. Marcus remembers what his deceased father always taught him, “A man with power protects and serves those lesser than he is. It is only the weak who use their power to do harm.” Little does he know at the time, the man he rescues is Robin Harris, The Toymaker, the inventor of the device that killed his father. There is so much more to Robin and his history and Marcus is intrigued by the man and how he went from being the golden boy of The Society to a marked prisoner at New Bedlam, to an outcast of society. Robin’s story is heartbreaking, damn, the shite he endured as the scapegoat of The Society was brutal.

As Marcus nurses Robin back to health, the best description I can think of for their blossoming friendship is a slow and sweet courtship. I loved reading of the little things they did together and it made me melty. My only gripe, and it’s both a big and little one is I wanted more. As I said earlier, this story made me want more. I wanted ALL the details and background. I wanted to read about young Robin and how The Society took advantage of his youth and brilliance. I wanted to read about Marcus and his family. I wanted Robin’s time in New Bedlam and I wanted more of Robin’s redemption. So, those are lots of big things that I want, but it’s not like I didn’t get a full story without them. I’m just greedy and when I get a taste of something I like, I want MORE. The sexy times were extra sexy and the tension between these guys was palpable, making the payoff that much sweeter.

A highly recommended fun and sexy read.

*smark = snark + smut