It is England 1872 and the country is at war. Karol and Hart have dedicated their lives to promoting and protecting the peace. Karol is an eccentric, genius inventor and Hart was a spy and for years was Karol’s bodyguard. Their working relationship became known and everyone was used to seeing the two of them together. Hart, however, could no longer bear to see the string of men in Karol’s bed and although Karol tried to seduce him repeatedly, Hart would not stand to be just another of Karol’s one time playthings. Karol, for his part, was terrified that harm would come to Hart. A life altering accident separated the men and they have not had contact for several years. Now, the enemy will stop at nothing to silence Karol and if they can’t read his coded notes, well, they will just kidnap the man himself. When Hart is made of aware of the plan in place, he once again goes to guard the life of the man who gets under his skin like no one else. They have not spoken of the pain they have both endured and attempting to confront the past may be just enough to destroy any hope of a future.
If you are a true steampunk fan, this will most likely go into the category of Steampunk Light. The book is shorter and while it does offer a blended feel at times, the story focuses more on the relationship between Hart and Karol. It was only by reading the published synopsis that I was aware that the story was taking place in 1872, and the time frame was not the focus. What is the focus is the oh-so complicated relationship between Karol and Hart.
We are dropped into the middle of the story and the men have a past that comes through slowly. They were not exactly friends and they were not exactly enemies and they just worked well together on missions. The story only allows us twenty-four hours with the men and it takes a bit to piece everything together. Karol is the brilliant scientist who lives for his work, but can also take a man to bed for the night and have him begging for more. Hart is focused and for years his focus was Karol. The men have been circling around each other for so long that’s all they know how to do. But, when the walls start to come down, there is a quite a story with these guys. The sexual tension between the two of them is almost its own character it is so prominent.
I did have several issues with this story that were harder to overcome. It did take a while to get caught up and understand exactly what was going on. Not that everything should be laid out up front, but there were several areas, such as the time frame, the war, and the relationship between the men, that needed to be figured out. I also would have really liked to know how old the men were. It then took a while to become immersed into and attached to the story. There was also a lot of inner dialog from Hart’s POV, which helped to understand him more, which was great. But, the inner musings would be mixed in with questions asked and the ongoing conversation and when Hart came out of his own thoughts, it was not always evident which character was then speaking or what exactly they were then speaking about.
The longing between these men was palpable and well done. Where the book suffered for me was being placed into the middle of the story with not enough time to fully appreciate all that had transpired. There was a lot to learn with these men and I could have used a prologue. And, then the ending, on the other side, I could have used an epilogue. When Karol and Hart got together, it was something to see. In the moment, there was lust, anger, love, and hate pushing and pulling all at the same time. But that one scene sort of carried the entire story and while I would certainly recommend that portion of the book, there was not enough to be able to fully recommend this story as a whole.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.