Greetings, Kittens! Today I bring you The Tea Machine by Gill McKnight. Let’s take a look at the blurb.
The story of a love that never dies…except it does, over and over again.
London 1862, and Millicent Aberly, spinster by choice, has found her future love—in the future! She meddled with her brother’s time machine and has been catapulted into an alternative world where the Roman Empire has neither declined nor fell. In fact, it has gone on to annex most of the known universe.
Millicent is rescued from Rome’s greatest enemy, the giant space squid, by Sangfroid, a tough and wily centurion who, unfortunately, dies while protecting her. Wracked by guilt and a peculiar fascination for the woman soldier, Millicent is determined to return in time and save Sangfroid from her fatal heroics. Instead, she finds her sexy centurion in her own timeline. And Sangfroid is not alone; several stowaways have come along with her.
Soon Millicent’s house is overrun with Roman space warriors and giant squid.
What I Loved: Sentient colossal space squid. Just writing that out makes me happy.
What I Liked: When Sangfroid is transported to Millicent’s time period, the society ladies that meet her are unable to perceive her as female. From her height, to her hair cut, to her trousers and clear military persona, she is read as male by all but Millicent and Millicent’s brother Hubert.
Despite this, Sangfroid herself never questions her gender, nor does she take offense at being misgendered once the confusion of why is explained. The fact that she feels no internal pressure to perform femininity in a particular way, nor to play up a masculine persona to keep up the ruse was a refreshing approach to gendered expression vs. societal expectation.
What I Tolerated: True Love. Sangfroid only remembers the last timeline each time she is saved. However, the romance that develops between her and Millicent over the time jumps is strong enough to linger. Within minutes of talking to Millicent in 1862 and trying to figure out what’s happened, Sangfroid realizes she’s in love with Millicent, completely and fully.
It’s the love at first sight trope explained away by the wibbly-wobbliness of traversing the space-time continuum. I tolerated it because this is the first book in a series and I fully expect to see the relationship unfold along its several core points of the intersecting timelines.
What Made Me Cringe: Biomech/cyborgs. Ancient Rome is thrown off it’s natural course by the accidental discovery of steam power, well before Rome is anything more than far flung family farms. Over a couple of hundred years at most, this results in experimentation of animals and sophisticated hybrids of animal and machine used to fight in the arenas. It makes absolutely no sense.
There is no reason why a culture capable of creating mechanical creations would instead create hybrid creatures that still have to be fed and cared for. Yes, the ruler of the time is a cruel and sadistic bastard that apparently loves seeing living things suffer, but he isn’t the creator of these creatures, he merely orders them up for his amusement. What I had trouble believing is that the technology for the creatures would have been a natural development and mastered to such a degree to create the poor hybrids described and that they would be so cheap to make that they could be thrown to ruin in the pits.
Final Verdict: Walk, don’t run, but read it. It’s an interesting take on H.G. Well’s Time Machine and all the mischief that could have been wrought if the protagonist had a brilliant and compassionate sister and a less brilliant or compassionate fiancé.
Title: The Tea Machine
Author: Gill McKnight
Publisher: Bella Books