LIKE CLOCKWORK by Bonnie Dee
Carina Press, 2010, 31,000 words, 9781426890963, ebook, $3.99
Before I begin the actual review, I’ll point out that some of the information in this book’s info line is different. I’m sure you can guess why. That’s right–Carina Press is an ebook-only publisher at present, therefore I’m giving you word count instead of page count since page counts will differ depending on what kind of device you’re using. I’ll be posting reviews of several Carina Press books in the near(ish) future, so this words-versus-pages change will be standard for them assuming the word count is listed on the website.
And now, with that said, let’s move on.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading several Carina Press titles, and I generally find them entertaining and relaxing. Like Clockwork is no exception. The focus of the story is the developing relationship between the scientist Victoria Waters and Dash, a man recently unemployed due to the increased use of automatons in service jobs. They meet in a rather unconventional way–he kidnaps her as part of a protest against the automatons. What he and his cohorts discover, however, is that Victoria is also concerned about the effect these manmade creations are having on society’s lower class. When they discover their aims are the same, they find a way to work together. In the meantime, however, a conspiracy is underway, and gruesome murders are being perpetrated against women.
Now, I’ll admit to not being a big romance reader, and because of this I don’t know how common it is for the romance to begin almost immediately upon the main characters meeting. Regardless, this sort of instantaneous attraction might normally put me off, but in the case of Like Clockwork there are a few reasons why it didn’t. First of all, this story is about half the length of an average novel. That leaves less time to get the momentum going. Second, I knew the romance was the larger point of the story when I began reading. These two things together put me in a let’s-get-to-the-point attitude, which is exactly what the story did. It got to the point by introducing Victoria and Dash, and by making it clear that they were interested in each other, before progressing with their story. This was also in keeping with the characters, I think, since Victoria and Dash aren’t the sort of people to skirt around the issue.
I liked Victoria Waters as the female lead because she was strong-willed and obviously unafraid to bend, or even break, society’s conventions. At the same time, she wasn’t arrogant or prone to rash decisions. As a scientist, she’s more than capable of working out a logical course of action, but she doesn’t ignore her emotions either. The story touched lightly on the potential obstacles a female scientist might face during the late 1800s, but this was done largely through Victoria’s description than through any particular scenes. I’m not bothered by this, though it would have added more tension to the story had this issue given her more trouble.
The science fiction/steampunk element of the story involves the automatons. Personally, I found this part very interesting, and I would have enjoyed seeeing more of them. Since the story was relatively short, I can understand why there wasn’t time to delve more deeply into their history or their operation, but they do play a significant role in the plot all the same. I’m glad that the climax revolved around an automaton, otherwise I would have felt that the steampunk elements were more window dressings than legitimate aspects of the story.
My only real qualm with Like Clockwork came at the very end. The relationship between Victoria and Dash builds over the course of the novel, but for the most part their interaction is chaste. It isn’t until the last chapter that there’s any sort of graphic sexual scenario, and the effect is to make it seem tacked on simply for the sake of including it. I would have been perfectly happy to read the same ending without the sex scene. I can understand if the author included it as a sort of reward for sticking with it until the end—since the characters did not compromise themselves during the plot portion of the story, the physical gratification doesn’t happen until all is said and done. I suppose some readers might expect to have this scene only to be annoyed if it wasn’t there. I, on the other hand, could have done without it just as easily.
Still, it was good to know what happened to Dash and Victoria in the end. In that regard, I can’t complain.
Like Clockwork is a fun and entertaining story if you like romance with a dash of steampunk. It’s quick to read, too. I expect it could be easily finished by the pool or during a lazy afternoon in bed.