Clockwork Heart by Heidi Cullinan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Clockwork Heart is an entertaining, erotic MM romance in a steampunk fantasy setting. This high-stakes adventure is full of action, intrigue, and heroism. Conny and Johann are a sweet and sexy couple, whose timeless love is truly something special.
The Clockwork Love series is set in an alternate universe where Napoleon wasn’t defeated at Waterloo and is intent on ruling Europe and the rest of the world. Conny is a French citizen and the illegitimate son of the Archduke leading the French army. Their main enemy is Austria, which is rich in the life-giving aether that the French covet in order to sustain their armies. Conny is also a tinker-surgeon apprenticed to a Master Tinker, who has successfully created the only clockwork heart in existence. Tinkers use clockwork, mechanical devices for all types of purposes. As a tinker-surgeon, Conny uses clockwork to repair injuries. He hates his warmongering father, has a good heart, and is a lover not a fighter.
So, when Conny comes across a nearly dead Austrian soldier in a pile of dead and abandoned Austrian soldiers, he rushes to the Austrian’s aid. Even though Conny is committing treason by saving the Austrian Johann’s life, he can’t leave him to die. Johann’s injuries are so severe Conny has to amputate his arm, leg, and half his other leg. Worse, Johann’s heart is so damaged there’s nothing Conny can do to save him. Until he remembers that his mentor had created a secret clockwork heart. What Conny doesn’t know is that all of Europe wants the heart, too, because it can be used as a weapon to create basically robotic, immortal, super soldiers.
To keep Johann’s clockwork and Conny’s treachery a secret, Conny has Johann pose as his pirate lover. When Johann first kisses Conny, he’s confused because he likes it so much and he grew up not knowing that men could like men sexually. In France, it is not only permitted but celebrated. Johann discovers that he doesn’t mind kissing Conny and wants more, because he feels so grateful and loyal to Conny, and he is falling for the pretty, charming, kindhearted Frenchman. Conny is quite a character. He wears his heart on his sleeve it’s hard not to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, it is beyond sweet how protective Johann is toward Conny and how he would do anything to make Conny happy.
When they find out their lives are in danger, they flee the country aboard an airship, whose colorful and diverse crew end up fighting for them, too. Conny’s best friend Valentin is a superb secondary character whose heart is as big as his flamboyant personality. I loved the intriguing Princess Gisa, whose intelligence and cleverness helped to save the day.
I wasn’t a big fan of Conny’s exhibitionism and three- or foursome kinks. In a different relationship, I wouldn’t mind. But it seemed like Conny and Johann had such a special love and profound loyalty that they didn’t need all that kinky stuff. I didn’t like it that Conny encouraged Johann to take drugs so he would relax more for the threesome. I get that Johann being open to Conny’s kink showed how strong their love is. But I liked it better when it was just the two of them sharing their love in private.
Still, if the alternative to love is war and invasion, I’d choose consensual free love without question. I enjoyed this book very much, and am definitely interested in reading Clockwork Love #2.
*ARC received from the author for an honest review.