Review: Clockwork Heart (Clockwork Love #1) by Heidi Cullinan

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.


I'm not going to perpetrate like I've read tons of steampunk but I can say this is the best steampunk I've ever read, the most steampunky with dirigibles, oodles of clockwork and let's not forget the outfits! There's something about buckles and bodices that do it for me. 

This AU Europe that HC built beamed off the page like a beacon creating a movie in my head. I want to live there and fly around on The Brass Farthing and learn to tinker. I could pirate! What? I could. There is a pesky war between France and Austria that's been going on far too long engineered by Conny's nutters archduke of a father who's deluded himself into believing that he can unite Europe and RULE IT ALL!!!!!!!! *insert manic laugh* but clockwork and sky pirates! We all have our priorities. And I'll risk a war zone for some buckled up pirates with accents. 

Conny is a tinker apprentice to THE master tinker in France, Felix. Right from the start I liked Conny and as the story unfolded I wanted to squeeze the stuffing out of hug him (probably too tightly and too long). Conny happens across Johann half dead on a corpse barge and has to help him. Because Conny is that guy. He's the most charming blend of sweet, devoted, depraved and slutty. I love him. He has the biggest, most tender heart and the dirtiest, filthiest mouth. They just go together like bees and honey and create the magic. Did I mention how much I love him?

"I want you to fuck me while people watch us. Is that all right? Will you hate me if you find out I'm a terrible slut?"


*stares off into middle space remembering all the sweet filthy... swilthy?*


In the process of fixing up Johann's limbs he's notices a metal shard in his chest that will kill him unless... he "borrows" Master Felix's clockwork heart. It's for a good cause, right? Right.

And thus the adventure begins! I'm not sure why the clockwork heart becomes such a hot commodity shortly after Conny "borrows" it, but it does and the interested parties are quite... determined in trying to claim it. So much so that Conny, Johann and Conny's best friend, Val, are forced to go on the run with Johann's former pirate crew on The Brass Farthing. And it was so much fun! This book was a blast to read. Every time I turned around something else was happening or another great character was being introduced. I daresay it was swashbuckling. Swashbuckling sky pirates!

And it just so happens Johann is Austrian to Conny's French so... star-crossed lovers! 

The language fumbling they did initially was adorable. We got both of their perspectives and seeing how frustrated they both were until they worked out they both spoke English was so endearing. I loved all the French and German as do both of them, particularly during the sexy times. *suggestive eyebrows* I'm sorry but' fuck me' in French is oodles hotter than 'fuck me' in English and I'm glad someone has recognized this universally accepted fact. On second thought, not sorry. Because truth!

"Baise-moi. Prends-moi par derrière. Défonce-moi."

Admit it. Your undies just spontaneously shuttlecocked off your body, right?

Johann is an 18 yr old virgin who's got nein experience in the relationship/attraction/romance department. He's a little confused and surprised by his feelings for Conny but there's none of that denial nonsense. He just doesn't know what to do. Good thing Conny's been around the block and over the table and in the back rooms and in the middle of the local tavern. Have I mentioned how much I love him?

No one does humiliation and exhibition like HC. She the Mistress of these particular kinks and they are on point in Clockwork Heart.

Their relationship builds and takes them in some interesting directions some of which they struggle with, but they always work through. I appreciated that they are possessive in their own way and built their relationship prior to dabbling in polyamory. But what I kept coming back to was the way Conny sees Johann. Johann is mostly clockwork and he never once sees him has deficient, maimed or disabled. Quite the reverse actually. He's so turned on by Johann's clockwork and that clockwork gets put to some good use.

*coughs*grunts*trills* IDK what sound I'm making but it's circling this block.

HC adds layers of character development over the course of the story as well as their back stories without being information dumpy until not only were there two fully realized main characters but secondary characters that are fleshed out too. I'm just putting it out there right now. If book 2 doesn't involve Captain Crawley and Valentin I'll be having a litter of kittens. You've been forewarned.

These types of series are my favorite-the ones where strangers become family and they keep folding in members strengthening their group exponentially. And this one has swashbuckling steampunk pirates! 


Clockwork Heart is the complete package of fast paced adventure, fantastic steampunk imagery, a tender star-crossed lovers romance and face melting filth.

Couldn't recommend anything more.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Find out more on Goodreads.

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