Marcel is a mathematician who theorizes new ways to get science to work with magic. Gilbert is his childhood friend, an entomologist, and the youngest prince in the realm. Marcel has been in love with Bertie since their teens, and when the king announces the two should marry, Marcel is over the moon. Until he learns Gilbert has had his heart broken during the two years they’ve spent apart and he’s far less than thrilled about the prospect of marrying his best friend whom he doesn’t love that way. Can they marry? Can they even salvage their friendship?
This tale is set in the Mechanical Universe series, but it’s a standalone. There isn’t much plot, as this is a character-driven tale. Not much is given about Marcel or Bertie’s careers, just little scenes with bugs and a couple of speeches about math. This is basically a friends-to-lovers tale, with an added theme of arranged marriage. Nothing else happens, really, so plot-wise this is a bit thin.
Editing-wise, there’s an alarming amount of editing snafus, to the point they are impossible to miss. That was a drag, and not up to the high standard Less Than Three Press is capable of.
What I liked about the characterization was that neither man was perfect. This could easily have fallen to the cheesy royal-men-getting-it-on subgenre. Thankfully, this isn’t the case here. Gilbert is short and stocky, and he sees himself as ugly. Easy to do since other people say that to his face. Marcel, on the other hand, was born without one arm, and he’s got a limp leg too. These men are flawed, inside and out, which is realistic and attractive in itself. Bertie suffers from poor self-esteem and he doesn’t know how to see his friend as a lover; Marcel is kind and understanding to a fault, having decided long ago never to reveal his true feelings to his best friend. Both men know sacrifice, and that makes for a good story.
As far as steampunk is concerned, that shows only in Marcel’s mechanical hands, which he varies according to the situation at hand (pardon the pun), and in vague references of combining magic and science, forming the industrial basis of their society. Perhaps in the other stories in the series there’s more meat on the bones.
All in all, a nicely crafted M/M love story between friends who try to adapt to the change in their new relationship. This is a bit light on sex, but that’s okay, since this is more about friends falling in love than friends hopping in the sack. Recommended.