Guest Post: Rhys on her Boys’ Toys,The Machines of Clockwork Tangerine


When the Tipsy Reader pinged me and said; “Hey, you know what would be cool for you to write about? The mechanicals Robin Harris creates in Clockwork Tangerine?” My first thought was, “Damn did I write about enough of them?”

And yeah, there were a few things I thought—you know, those would be good to talk about.

One mechanical object making an appearance in the novella actually plays a significant role although it does so off screen—well except for showing up on the cover; because it does that nicely.

It is the Skitter.

It has another name but that’s the term the general public came up with following its deadly appearance. A flying burrower, the skitter, was invented by a very young Robin Harris—and then used by a shadowy organization called the Heretic Society to sow chaos throughout the British Empire. Following the Society’s eradication, inactive or dud skitters were discovered. Oftentimes, something would trigger one, and it would complete its original mission; assassinating the nearest person.

In one case, this person was Marcus’ father, a duke giving a speech in the Saint Francisco Parliament.

The reader never actually sees this event, but it’s one that shapes both of the heroes’ lives. Marcus loses his beloved father but at the same time, this loss leaves him with a purpose of being. He is a man of his word and with strong ethics—which are tested when he rescues his father’s unintentional murderer, Robin Harris, from what could have been a fatal beating.

Robin, however, has spent his time since being betrayed by the Society rebuilding his life and also, trying to contribute to a world he nearly helped take down. Other mechanicals he created during the story include gyro-magical prosthesis limbs and a working eye replacement, although how well it works isn’t determined because well, issues.

Now packing this into a novella was difficult. Novellas, by their very nature, deal more with themes than characterization which makes building unforgettable and loveable characters difficult. What do you sacrifice in a story this short? I tried to sacrifice very little, and hoped I provided a good glimpse at these men who fall in love, despite the blood shed between them and the British social rules that keep their love hidden.

Building a steampunk world is not without its dangers. Too much “world” leaves the reader without a sense of people inside of it yet focusing solely on the characters means there’s not a whiff of that golden tea flavor one should get in an alternate universe story. In the end though, it is about these two men—Marcus and Robin.

I want to visit them again soon, and hope you’ll come with me.

Clockwork Tangerine Blurb

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.

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I’m Rhys Ford. I am an author and also a reader. You can find me at the following places:

My Blog:


Twitter: @Rhys_Ford

And at the Starbucks down the street. No really, they’re 24/7. And a drive-thru. It’s like heaven.

My books can be purchased, folded and first chapters read at Dreamspinner Press.

Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford and a Tasty Tempranillo

ClockworkTangerineLGRhys does steampunk…And she does it well. It is hard to believe Rhys Ford hadn’t dabbled in this genre yet. Her mind is so creative and her writing so vivid. Her style just seems like a match made in heaven for this genre. In this story she takes us to her beloved Bay Area.  San Francisco, actually, St. Francisco. We go to the city when it was part of the British Commonwealth. She takes us right into the thick of things, Little Orient, where our heroes have their fateful meeting. From the get go we are taken into a delightful adventure, with a good dose of political intrigue, very engaging characters (fiesty Dowager included!) and a vivid setting.  Marcus Stenhill, the Viscount of Westwood, happens upon a man receiving a terrible beating while on an errand in Little Orient. Marcus being a man who won’t sit idly while a gang of four, beat on a single man when he is down, comes to the fellow’s rescue. The man Marcus rescues should be his foe, a mortal enemy. Even though they have never faced each other their histories are bound in a sinister way. Robin Harris had a part in Marcus’ father murder, indirect, but a part nonetheless. He should hate him, but instead is flumoxed by his desire for the man. Things won’t be easy…Not only are his unnatural desires criminal in the commonwealth, but Robin himself is a marked man. Pursuing anything with him may be too much folly, even for someone with Marcus’ influence and wealth.

For the men of Clockwork Tangerine I chose a lovely Spanish Tempranillo, which if not a super popular wine in most of the British Empire, certainly a common one to find in territory so close to the Spanish Empire’s holding a bit to the South. The 2011 Dacu Tempranillo from the Ribera del Guadiana in Spain, is an absolute WINNER.  It is very earthy and smooth with a distinct flavoring that will appeal to Zinfandel lovers. At about $10.00, you cannot go wrong with this bottle.

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Now back to the story…Once Marcus takes on rescuing Robin, he goes all the way. He takes Robin back to his house, and does not leave his side until he is recovered. From the moment Marcus steps into Robin’s home he can see that the inventions which were taken and bastardized by the Society to bring down the Empire were not the last Robin’s mind had to give. There are all kinds of magical contraptions all over the house. Harris has apparently successfully developed prosthetics that are aiding people to walk and see. Marcus is enthralled. By the time Robin comes around a few weeks later after the beating, Marcus is a mainstay in his life.

Robin is taken aback by the kindness, by the presence of the man. Of all people, Marcus should loathe him, yet he gives him nothing but gentleness. There is also the issue of the man’s beauty. Robin can barely take being close to him without working himself up to complete discombobulation. Robin just does not understand what the man could be after…Maybe he feels the same, there have been hints here and there…But, but…No it can’t be, there is no way possible that someone as tainted as he could end up with a man like Marcus in his bed and a life of happiness. Robin can have his doubts, but Marcus will show Robin to never underestimate a man who knows EXACTLY his worth, his position and his heart, and what he is willing to do for those he loves.

For the length of this novella, all in all, we get quite the story. Not only did we get a very strong sense of the place and world, but we got to know both men and their individual stories pretty well. The world was solidly set as well, we got a good understanding of how the society works, and the foes who have and could threaten their world. I would love to see a sequel for this book where Robin and Marcus united to defend their beloved British Empire. There is a lot to love about the world Rhys created, but at the nucleus it is a strong love story. Marcus saves Robin from a life of isolation and guilt, and together the life they will build will make them both whole.

Lovely story. Totally recommend. Stop by tomorrow to read more about Clockwork Tangerine and Robin’s inventions. The lovely Ms. Ford wrote a bit about Robin’s machines and their relevance to her story!

Clockwork Tangerine will be released tomorrow from Dreamspinner Press.

Cheers and Happy Reading!