Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nefertiti's Heart by A. W. Exley

The Basics:
Nefertiti's Heart by A W Exley
Curiosity Quills
Book One in the Artifact Hunters 
Mystery / New Adult / Steampunk / Romance
Published Feb 4, 2013

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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.

Why I picked up this book:

Steampunk romance ? Yes.

My thoughts:

Do you ever start to read a book and think the author must have been writing with your personal hotspots in mind? This book has so many of the discrete elements I love in books all wrapped together that I couldn't help but fall for Nefertiti's Heart.

First, nineteenth century steampunk. The time period is near and dear to my heart. And the steampunk element was obvious even in the cover image - a clockwork heart. I like that the book is definitely set in a steampunk world but that it doesn't go overboard playing up those elements. Yes, we have automatons and mechanical horses, messages being zapped about the aether and airships for long range transport. But these are part of the fabric of everyday life in this book, not used to sledgehammer the reader into believing the setting.  

Second, paranormal. From the first chapter, we have a house that seems to have some autonomy. Whether or not this is true, Cara certainly talks about it as if it is so. Her father's artifacts also seem to be more than simply hunks of gold and jewels - part of the book's mystery is determining whether this is true or not. 

Third, romance. Cara has an attraction to Lyons from the start, but her past makes it difficult for her to comprehend that. Lyons knows what he wants, and that's Cara. His patience and determination are extremely sexy. They have a way of fitting together, sharp edges and all, that I found appealing.

Above and beyond these genre and setting components, I also loved Cara and cared about what happened to her. She's that rarely truly successful combination of spunky, capable and vulnerable. I wanted to know more about her childhood even though I kind of didn't because I knew it was going to be awful. I wanted to see her conquer her fears with Lyons' help. I wanted her to solve the murders. I liked that she and Lyons seemed to be well matched - her autonomy never felt jeopardized by his interest, and that really attracted me to this romance. 

I was reminded a little bit of Eve and Roarke from Nora Roberts as JD Robb's In Death series, in a really positive and favourable way. Cara and Lyons work even better for me than Eve and Roarke do. I think that if you're a fan of the In Death series and you like steampunk, you might enjoy this book as well. Beyond the romance, there's also a significant murder-mystery, plus the ongoing hunt for Cara's father's artifacts.

The Bottom Line:

I want to rave about Nefertiti's Heart! It's fun with a sharp-witted, plucky heroine and a sexy, supportive hero. I enjoyed the mystery, with the creepy 'from the killer's perspective' chapters. I loved the setting details and the atmosphere. The pacing was perfect for me. Love love love.  

Please read this book because I already want many, many more in the series!

5 stars
For fans of steampunk mysteries and/or steampunk romance, capable heroines and the men who want them.

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