Book Review – Clockwork Blue by Gloria Harchar

Back in July I went on a Kindle binge, buying up a lot of really cheap or free ebooks because they all happened to be on sale the same weekend Clockwork Blue was one of the books I grabbed.

Clockwork Blue CoverReading Clockwork Blue was ultimately frustrating for a number of reasons: poor editing, a jerk of a hero (for at least the first half of the book), and way too many extraneous genre elements.

It’s a shame, because there were parts I liked and I think it could have been a good story.

Synopsis, courtesy Amazon:

Mission… Impossible: The pixies’ mission—if Allegro and Glissando are to accept it—is to secure the future of a troubled England. To achieve this, the Earl of Falconwood, better known as the Black Falcon, must marry Nicola Moore. Never mind the woman is a hoyden who makes the most atrocious hats decorated with machine parts, which she then dyes with her famous Clockwork Blue.

And certainly forget the earl is atoning for his brother’s death by purposely hovering on the fringes of the ton. Add to the mix Glissando’s tendency to slip to the side of the Mrasek, the ones who work to free the evil Lord Sethos.

But Maestro depends on the pixies—for better or for worse. To release the magic trapped in the Clockwork Blue dye—a magic that will safeguard England’s future—Malcolm and Nicola must not only wed, but they must also fall in love.

For the first half of this story, I got so irritated with Malcolm, our “hero,” that I wanted Nicola to punt him to the curb. With the whole forced marriage thing, we’re so much in Nicola’s point of view that it is difficult to ascertain Malcolm’s (or Falcon’s) motives.

Everything he does is, ostensibly, to get ahold of the dye. Which is fine, but Nicola alternates between seeing it in that light and seeing him as a project that needs to be fixed. And the back-and-forth gets really, really frustrating, particularly since he has given her NO reason to think he wants anything other than the dye.

It also doesn’t help that Nicola is constantly manipulated and pushed around for the first half of the book. She doesn’t win any victories with Malcolm. He occasionally accedes to her, but not because she’s outsmarted him or pushed him into a corner. I get the feeling that it’s all, very consciously, his decision. I hated that Malcolm saw Nicola as “malleable.” He doesn’t think he’s won a skirmish with her; he thinks he’s manipulated her into doing things his way. And that doesn’t endear me to either of the characters.

Fortunately, that aspect changed about halfway through the story, when we started getting more from Malcolm’s point of view and seeing why he thought and acted the way he did. It made him more sympathetic, but by that point I was so angry at him that it took most of the rest of the book for me to come around.

It bothers me especially because there are a few parts—a line here, a conversation there—where the characters intrigued me or made me laugh out loud, where I could see the glimmer of a relationship building. But it wasn’t enough to outweigh the problems.

Also, I have no idea why this is steampunk. Yes, Nicola puts clockwork gears on her hats and has a “barrelabout” (a…I don’t even know), but that’s it. Steampunk plays absolutely no part in the actual plot, which would’ve worked just as well as a regular historical romance.

This note on the Amazon page has been added since I read the book:

Note: This is a Christian New Adult Fantasy Romance. There are equal parts of Fantasy and Romance with hints of the Steampunk wave which is starting to become popular in the Alternate World. In Book 2, The Copper Tuners, the reader will see the Steampunk wave affecting society more.

I kind of wish this had been there when I’d picked the story up, because I would’ve expected less from the steampunk part of the story. That being said, I still wish those elements had been integrated more into the story instead of being so much window dressing.

In fact, it was the genre parts—particularly the stuff with the fairies—that made me keep rolling my eyes.

Now, I’m normally all for throwing in magic and fantasy wherever you can, but it just didn’t work quite as well here. I liked Allegro and Glissando well enough, but I was much more intrigued by the story between Nicola and Malcolm. There were a few parts where the fairies came in handy, but I don’t think it would’ve hurt the book at all if they hadn’t been there.

Besides, it seems Glissando got a makeover at some point, because the novel alternates between describing him as fat or thin or as having orange hair or green hair. I’d totally buy this if it had mentioned fairies could change their appearance at some point, but it never did, and Allegro’s description was consistent throughout the story. So I’d have a picture of Glissando in my head, and then I’d have to revise it every time I came across a conflicting description.

Then there are the Mrasek, or rather, aren’t the Mrasek. They show up in one scene early on and then vanish from the story, so completely that when one of them showed up at the climax (only mentioned by name; he doesn’t say a word) I had to search his name to figure out who he was. Why mention these super-evil villains if you aren’t going to DO anything with them?

And really, none of this extra stuff was needed. I actually liked the normal plot: Malcolm wants the dye, which just happens to be Nicola’s dowry. She doesn’t want to get forced into marriage because she saw how horrible it was for her grandmother; she wants to marry for love like her parents did. He, however, is up for doing just about anything to get said dye. There is plenty there for conflict and tension in the relationship.

Plus, there was the interesting stuff going on with the stockingers and the hosiers and the Luddite Rebellion. All of that would have been MORE than enough to craft an engrossing historical romance, but then there were fairies and “steampunk” for no good reason I could ascertain.

I don’t mind the addition of those things at all. But it has to be necessary to the story. There has to be a world built up where that’s a part of it. It has to be an ingredient in the cake, not just a decoration thrown on top at the last minute.

Now, this is the first book of a series, and maybe the fantastical aspects of this world play a larger, more integral role in future stories. (The added note on Amazon makes me think this is so.) But I really wish that had been brought in more in this book. As it is, it feels like too much was crammed into what could’ve been a really sweet historical romance.

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