Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exley

Nefertiti's Heart
Author:  A.W. Exley
Publisher:  Curiosity Quills Press
Pages: 280
Release Date: February 11, 2013
Source: Purchased on Amazon

Cara Devon has always suffered curiosity and impetuousness, but tangling with a serial killer might cure that. Permanently.

London, 1861. Impoverished noble Cara has a simple mission after the strange death of her father - sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when aristocratic beauties start dying of broken hearts, an eight inch long brass key hammered through their chests. A killer hunts amongst the nobility, searching for a regal beauty and an ancient Egyptian relic rumored to hold the key to immortality.

Her Majesty's Enforcers are in pursuit of the murderer and they see a connection between the gruesome deaths and Cara. So does she, somewhere in London her father hid Nefertiti's Heart, a fist sized diamond with strange mechanical workings. Adding further complication to her life, notorious crime lord, Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on Cara and the priceless artifact. If only she could figure out his motive.

Self-preservation fuels Cara's search for the gem. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she makes a fatal mistake.

I picked up this book on Amazon awhile back, because I was a sucker for a pretty cover. Overall, the interior rose the the expectations, although there were a few places where I was a bit let down. When you mix a mystery, romance, and steampunk, it usually has pretty satisfying results, and this was no exception. Well-paced, like a blended concoction of some of my favorite novels, I was glad I picked it up all in all.

In the beginning, I loved the Sherlock Holmes sort of feel this world had. Even with the mix of steampunk elements, the old-timey mystery and hunt goes hand in hand with some of my favorite classics. Initially, I loved Cara and how headstrong she had become. I liked that we got to see her open up to someone and learn to let someone help after years of being alone, but I can't say I liked how Nate went about things. 

Honestly, I saw reasons for Nate's attraction, but it was hard to understand why Cara reciprocated. Nate seemed manipulative, self-centered, and intent on dominating her, which I didn't like. I really loved Cara's self-assuredsness, which the romance sort of took away. I wanted Cara to be able to at least fight back and defend herself when trouble hit. Instead, like many readers, I was disappointed in the way she ran to Nate like a damsel in distress. That didn't match the tomcat I loved in the beginning. 

The book does get steamy in a few places, and the ending was perhaps a little overkill for me. I thought it was well written, but I was reading the book for the smut so too much of it distracted from that. It felt like the romance took precedent in a few too many places. For a character who has been a victim in the past, her response to the manipulation was troubling. Where is the character who shot intruders and is armed to the teeth? Why is she swayed by a pretty face so easily, when the guy rarely shows qualities to back it up? Cara doesn't seem like someone who would have fallen for the dangerous and handsome pirate type. Even she questioned it at many placed, but other than her hormones going out of whack, there didn't seem to be a good reasoning there, so that was a disappointment.

Overall, I am still looking forward to reading more of these books, but I did feel the initial relationship weakened Cara as a character. She's tougher than that. Let her fight her own battles a bit so I can really root for her. I wanted Nate to earn her love rather than just seduce it, and I wanted Cara to maintain her independence, even when she learns to trust others. 

A few critical words, but that comes out of love for the character rather than dislike for the overall story. There is promise here, so long as the steaminess doesn't get in the way. Steamy as in romance, not er, steampunk. 

Onto the next book!

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