Book Reviews

The Tea Machine by Gill McKnight at Ylva Publishing

Genre Lesbian / Time Travel / Alternate Reality / 17th Century / Warriors/Soldiers / Romance
Reviewed by Iris (Guest Reviewer) on 12-January-2016

Book 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 mews house is overrun with Roman space warriors and giant squid.


Book Review

If you read one sentence of this review, let it be this: The Tea Machine is one of the best books I read in 2015, and I totally didn’t see that coming. Which is not to say that I wasn’t pretty sure from the beginning that I would enjoy it. It seemed up my alley: I like sci-fi, I’m a sucker for a Victorian-style novel with a determined female protagonist. It was clear that The Tea Machine had this. I opened this on my Kindle expecting rollicking good fun and some good laughs. The Tea Machine description promised me a satirical, steampunk tale of time travel, and spacefaring Roman legionnaires colliding with a prim and proper Victorian spinster and a deadly intergalactic squid. It delivered all of this. And I loved The Tea Machine – so passionately that I want to gift copies of it to friends. But I loved it not only for the reasons I expected.

The plot is deceptively simple: In another historical timeline, the Roman Empire never fell; it just kept expanding throughout history until it managed the technological feat of colonizing space. Meanwhile in our timeline, Millicent Aberly, a Victorian English spinster, lives in the nineteenth century with her genius scientist brother, Hubert, who has recently invented a time machine. When Millicent meddles with her brother’s invention, she ends up teleported to a spaceship where two gun-toting Roman warrior women - Sangfroid and Gallo – are in the middle of a doomed extraction mission to save their planet’s scientific researchers, who have been pinned down by some very deadly space squid. Death for everyone is a certainty, but Sangfroid’s last heroic deed is to die saving Millicent’s life.

Dumped abruptly back into her own time, the feisty Millicent, with a typically Victorian sense of her own power, can’t let such a heavy debt of gratitude stand. She decides to travel back to Sangfroid’s timeline over and over again until she learns how to prevent Sangfroid’s death. She does finally succeed, but Sangfroid ends up back in England with her.  As you might imagine, time-travel adventures and comedic hijinks ensue, as does a heartfelt yet appropriately quiet Victorian romance between Millicent and Sangfroid. These are all the details that make The Tea Machine a good genre read. Strong females appear everywhere, including a group of Amazon warriors you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of. But if you want, there can be another, even more gratifying layer to this story.

In much the way that the late Terry Pratchett hid insightful musings on human nature deep within hilarious satirical fantasy, ‘The Tea Machine’ sneaks into a pulp sci-fi romp some serious (and sometimes distressing) ideas about humanity’s ingenious ability to grow and improve and acquire greater respect for civility throughout time while somehow never quite outgrowing its tendency to exploit the weak and meet cultural confusion with violence. Long after ‘The Tea Machine’s page-turning adventures through time ended, I found myself pondering the novel’s deeper observations about religion, about civilization as an idea defined by victors, and about the human will to power. It’s not a far mental leap from thinking about the consequences of alternate-history Rome’s breakneck pace of technological advancement and the consequences of our own doing the same.

But to the very end, ‘The Tea Machine’ never loses sight of the genre conventions to which it has committed itself – romance, steampunk, and satire. Even if you read it on simply that level, I think it still delivers one cracking good tale worth your money.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Ylva Publishing for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 97000 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 04-November-2015
Price $9.99 ebook
Buy Link