Author: Rhys Ford
Reviewed by: Lucy
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M Steampunk
ISBN 13: 9781627984195
Narrator: Greg Tremblay
Summary: 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.
Ever the loving grandson, Marcus, the Viscount of Westwood, is returning from an errand to get his grandmother some jasmine tea when he comes across a man being brutally beaten by three aristocrats. Because Marcus is a decent person and was taught by his father that “A man with power protects and serves those lesser than he. It is only the weak who use their power to do harm.”, well, he has to help. The fact that the beaten man is beautiful to Marcus and makes him lust even as he lies beaten makes Marcus berate himself (and good, because I was wondering about Marcus at that point!) but it’s what he finds out soon after that makes it more difficult. He has saved none other than Robin, Harris, the Toymaker, the man who’s work killed the Duke, Marcus’ father. Ouch.
It is a sign of how good a man Marcus really is that he continues to help Robin, especially after the bitchy housekeeper up and quits. He manages to get Robin home and in the care of the awesome doctor, Elle Horan. She’s a pistol, a staunch friend and a great character.
Robin has been used, set up and abused by the Society who turned his inventions into things of destruction and then allowed him to take the fall. Not many people would defend Robin. And Robin himself, he is a joy to read. He has been treated so badly and shamed so much and he still works on helping people. He has a long way to go in terms of accepting his worth, no surprise after what has been done to him.
I need to look up whether being branded as a sodomite was literal because that nearly wrecked me. Robin just has been through so much but now he has, for the first time in his life, a real friend. Marcus. I loved that Marcus is able to see beyond what Robin’s inventions did and get to know the man. The two together grow a friendship that turns romantic but doesn’t jump there. Marcus nurses Robin, respects him and allows him room, something Robin definitely needs.
We also must mention Marcus’ grandmother, who is an awesome lady. When Marcus informs her that he prefers men, her response made me want to clap. Duchess in a pique of anger, indeed. You can see from her, and the mentions of his father, what makes Marcus such a good person.
Greg Tremblay does a great job in the narration, with voices differentiated enough to always know who is talking. Since I listen to the books in my car, this is so important! I will say, I was thinking English accent for this due to the setting and we don’t have that. I myself didn’t miss it, but some purists may notice.
The indignities Robin has suffered are revealed all through the book and make you want to throttle someone – Oxford for one, and the pigs at the ball for another. Duke of Briarsham, you rock. I wish there had been more time to delve into Robin’s inventions but this is a wonderful tale just as it is. Highly recommended, especially for steampunk fans