A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: Intrinsically a cute story, this one fell short for me due to too many inconsistencies and awkward writing style.
The Blurb: If you build it, love will come.
Jonathan P. Quiverbotton freely admits he is fussy, punctual…and terribly lonely. All his attempts to build a companion have failed miserably. Desperate, he rents a man-of-all-work bot from a local factory, intent on uncovering its secrets.
When the manbot arrives, though, it bears a stunningly familiar face. The face of a notorious con man—with whom Jonathan once had a fleeting assignation.
Marcus isn’t quite certain why this doorstep seems so familiar, but once he lays eyes on Jonathan, memories flood back so strong only one thing matters. To convince Jonathan that he’s a changed man.
Raw sexual passion quickly forges a deep emotional bond, fueled by the knowledge that Marcus must soon return to the factory. Before their time ticks down, another man emerges from Marcus’s murky past, reminding him of his unfulfilled part in a blackmail scheme.
Marcus wants no part of his old life, but refusal not only exposes Jonathan to danger, it puts him at the mercy of those who would use his illegal enhancements at the cost of his humanity.
Warning: Contains one very fussy inventor, a decidedly wicked man-of-all-work bot, clockwork homecare creatures, and blazing hot sex between a man and his mechanical manservant.
The Review: Let me say in advance that Steampunk isn’t something I’m overly familiar with. So if I state some things that are an absolute given in the genre for aficionados, just ignore me, okay?
This story is set in North America, in an AR 1910; the narrative as well as the dialogue are written in a fittingly acient-ish sounding language. During the recent war, the “Man-o-war” factory built soldiers, using the bodies of recently deceased humans and enhancing then with mechanical devices. Now that the war is over, the factory builds “men of all jobs bots” instead. Jonathan Quiverbottom is the epitome of a quirky inventor, independently rich through inheritance and genius when it comes to create clockwork creatures. He’s also socially awkward to the point of misanthropy, and has managed to alienate just about everybody in his vicinity. But in the bottom of the bottoms of his heart, Jonathan yearns for company. He tried to build a man-bot of his own for years, but always failed, mostly from lack of a convenient human body. So in his desperation, he surreptitiously orders from Man-o-war, planning to steal their secrets by taking the man-bot apart. Yet, what he receives is anything but a simple mechanical device, it’s more something of a very human, and above this a very HOT human being with emotions and ideas of its own.
There is more to Marcus than a gorgeous body, artificially improved senses and strength and a single-minded intent on seducing Jonathan. The affection between them grows quickly, and soon Jonathan can’t bear the thought of sending Marcus back after his lease is off. Yet, Jonathan’s newly developed feelings for Marcus face an acid test when a nasty incident brings him to doubt Marcus’s integrity. Is Marcus human enough that he was capable of being honest with Jonathan, or was the man-bot really only a device in the hands of Jonathan’s enemies, cleverly crafted to bring him down?
When we first meet Jonathan, he appears at the same time like a spoiled child and a gruff, old Scrooge. His intentions in regard to the man-bot are sneaky, and the way he “welcomes” Marcus can only be called arrogant. But Marcus soon manages to win him over. Within the first day of their acquaintance, Marcus peels away the repelling layers of self-protection Jonathan seems to have built since childhood to reveal the shy, affectionate man beneath. Actually, Jonathan turns out a very likeable character, endearingly fussy, quick-witted, and capable to love deeply.
I liked Marcus and Jonathan together, they were a sweet couple even though their pillow talk occasionally bordered on saccharine. They had good balance with Marcus being more of a physical personality and Jonathan the intellectually stronger. Also, I liked Jonathan’s clockwork creatures very much; they were well thought out and lovingly pictured.
Unfortunately, the issues I had with this story outweighted its strong points for me. Beginning with the writing; this story had a bad case of body parts mixup due to the single-pronoun problem. Here’s an example:
“…Curious, Jonathan cupped his balls first, exploring the weight, the heat, the way they rolled smoothly within their safe covering. Moving his head between his legs, marveling at how the sounds of the parlor faded away until all he heard was his own heartbeat, Jonathan took his first tentative taste of Marcus. Sliding his tongue out, he swiped across his sac, catching the edges of his hairs and tugging them with the rough texture of his tongue….”
This problem didn’t only occur during sex scenes, but this was where I found it the most annoying – I find it hard to enjoy eroticism while I’m busy figuring out who is doing what to whom at a given moment.
My next problem might be due to the short format of the story, but the storyline left too many questions unanswered for me. While the romance and the sex scenes between Marcus and Jonathan took up much room, the actual plot, to me, read quite sketchy. Convenient coincidences or occurences popping out of nothing to often took the place of actual developments. (On a more personal note, I found that Marcus and Jonathan moved from attraction to love awfully fast, but that might be only my dislike for insta!love.)
Jonathan’s backstory was quite detailed, but Marcus’s past was only hinted at. Where he came from, how he was changed, who did this, how and why – a few details were repeatedly mentioned while the rest remained vague like the entire concept of man-bots. To me, this read like semi-finished worldbuilding. The same is true for the motivations of the characters in this story, particularly for the villains, which seemed threadbare at best. Why they actually wanted to see Jonathan brought to harm never became clear to me.
Also, I found some of the stated facts incredulous. To mention only one example, supposedly, Marcus’s actual creators were two creepy crooks who apparently had no problems crafting him in a short amount of time while Jonathan, with all his geniality, should have failed to figure out the technicalities of creating a man-bot for years? Not very likely.
All in all, those issues added up to spoil this steampunk novella for me to a point where I can’t really recommend it.
Then again, fans of the genre or fans of the author might still enjoy it. Once you’ve sorted out the body parts, the sex scenes are steaming, and the story has some delightfully humorous lines.