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Like Clockwork by Bonnie Dee

December 9, 2010

December 13, 2010

Publishers: Carina Press

Publication Date: December 13, 2010

Format: Galley

Status: Stand alone

Source: NetGalley

Genre: Steampunk Romance

Location: London, England

Other Info: Bonnie Dee is the author of many other titles from fantasy to contemporary romance.

Description (from the author’s website):

Contains murder, mayhem, espionage, inventions, romance and steam.

Victoria Waters is a woman ahead of her time, part of a team of scientists that created working automatons. She intended the machines to replace human laborers in dangerous occupations, but the original project idea mushroomed beyond her expectations. The mechanical people have replaced all types of workers, putting much of the lower class out of work.

Dash is a man who has lived a life of poverty in one of the worst slums in London. Only the intervention of a kindly mentor taught him to use his keen mind. He is part of a subversive group called the Brotherhood which speaks against the influx of automatons. To draw attention to their cause they plan to kidnap Victoria and hold her ransom until their demand for representation on the Commission for Animatronic Affairs is met.

Dash soon finds his captive is on the same page in her beliefs and willing to help the Brotherhood reach their goal. But when the Whitechapel Butcher strikes again, murdering a woman who was close to Dash, he and Victoria’s relationship abruptly changes. They become close very quickly, sharing personal history and discovering a mutual attraction.

Danger looms as Victoria learns more from a colleague about the Commission and their long term agenda for the automatons. Romance blooms as Dash and Victoria grow closer. And death threatens when Victoria comes face to face with the Southwark Slasher.

I got this book from NetGalley and so I was able to read it for free, so I am determined not to complain too much. Steampunk Romance is a subgenre I am happy to get behind, so I jumped at this title when I found it on NetGalley. I hadn’t heard a peep about it on the blogosphere and had no idea what to expect. One thing I found was that Like Clockwork is more novella than book. I read it on my spanking new Kindle so I can’t tell you the page count. Suffice to say, it’s very short.

Like Clockwork tells the story of Victoria Waters, lady scientist. Victoria was raised to her father’s son and daughter, all at once. This means that she was able to become a successful scientist in a time when ladies were expected to be mothers and wives. It’s a common theme in Victorian fiction, so you can’t be surprised. Victoria’s role in a group of scientists that made automatons in order to replace workers in dangerous jobs (i.e., mining) has resulted in a great deal of job loss and poverty for the poor. More directly, it leads her to be kidnapped by a man who is fighting for the rights of the underclass, a man named Dash.

Dash’s kidnapping of Victoria doesn’t turn out the way he planned. Unexpectedly, he finds that Victoria is willing to support his cause. In fact, she had planned on speaking to a committee about the very issue of worker’s rights when he kidnapped her. Now, I don’t particularly have a problem with kidnap plotlines, but it doesn’t work in a novella. Victoria is never afraid of the man who chloroformed her and brought her to a bizarre underground world in order to further his cause. She is almost immediately attracted to Dash, and he to her. The swiftness with which both characters succumb to lust had me rolling my eyes. Especially since Victoria was supposed to be at once “sheltered” and a well-educated scientist.

Dee also fails to capture the flavor of Victorian London. Victoria, for example, never wears gloves. For some reason this really, really bothered me. It stuck out like a red flag. Sure, the characters ride in carriages and Victoria wears her hair in intricate hairstyles and wears fancy dresses, but everything else was lip service. The social mores of the time? Mentioned, but quickly forgotten. The idea of an upper class woman marrying a man who started life as a thief? Quickly resolved and really not much of an obstacle in the end.The short length of the novel means that everything happens too fast, in particular the resolutions. They came too easy for this reader to enjoy.

The worst offense this novel perpetrated was the ending. It skips ahead five months. Victoria and Dash have their happily ever after and hop into bed together. We miss out on their first time together. After all the tension that was built up in the first part of the book, the next time we see them is after months of marriage. It was kind of like Dee wanted to skip the “Victoria’s first time” scene.  In the epilogue, Dash has had an opportunity to teach Victoria all about the delights of the bedchamber. I felt both cheated and bored.

I didn’t hate this novel. It didn’t offend me in any way. The writing wasn’t great, by far the worst thing the author did was make it so short. On the other hand, it was an ambitious story, and the author wasn’t able to pull it off what she did write, so length might not be the answer. I’ll have to look for my Steampunk Romance somewhere else.

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