Title: Nefertiti’s Heart (Artifact Hunters #1)
Author: A.W. Exley
Orignal language: English
Cara Devon is a young woman who has returned to London after 7 years of exile, upon the death of her abusive father. As a child, Cara was given to a lord who beat and raped her, until she managed to escape his grasp. Cara returns with the intention of selling off her father’s priceless artifacts, forcing her to enter into a business contract with Viscount Nathaniel Lyons (Nate), a rich and handsome underworld lord. In exchange for his help, she gives him the right to touch her. In the meantime, gruesome murders shake the capital, sending Cara on a hunt for a missing artifact, and a killer.
Well now, this wasn’t what I expected. At all. The premise said this would be a steampunk murder-mystery adventure, and I got a *vaguely* steampunk romance/erotica with a tiny mystery in the background. I think the author was a little bit confused as to what the subject of her book was.
The steampunk elements were overused and unoriginal and didn’t add to the story. I think it’s rather unfair to put this book in the steampunk category. Also, can I take a moment to comment on how every new scene featuring Cara, described her clothing for the day? These descriptions weren’t even cleverly woven into the story. The author just straight out wrote obvious descriptions such as “today, she wore a corset that accentuated all of her curves”. Apart from the here and there mentions of automatons, clogs and gears, the overall feeling wasn’t one of a rich steampunk world. Even the Victorian elements were lacking, with erroneous clothing articles and styles described.
The heart device was interesting but sadly, ever really explained. The author glossed over the details and chose to leave the reader in the dark as to the heart’s functionality and inner workings. This could have redeemed the usage of the steampunk label, had it been more developed.
Strong female lead
Apparently our protagonist is a “strong woman” and “kick-ass”, when in fact, the only thing our young lady does is *carry* guns and knives, without ever using them (granted, she does once in the opening chapter). Cara is also said to be an excellent boxer, showing off her skills in the ring more than once. A violent woman does not make her a strong woman. I disagree with the portrayal of a so-called “strong female character”. Cara constantly depends on the men in her life for support and strength, even declaring that she can do what she wants because the most powerful man in London ‘has her back’.
Cara continuously shuns other women, saying that while they love petticoats and pretty things, she walks around in pants and has guns slung around her hips. The deprecation of her own sex only makes her weaker in my opinion.
I didn’t believe Cara’s emotional/physical recovery. I honestly don’t believe that a woman, who spent her childhood being beaten and raped, would barter her body in a business proposition. Nate’s stalking and physical advances would be too much to bear for an abused woman. Cara continuously battles demons within her heart, refusing even to shake hands with old friends. However, for some unknown reason, she lets Nate touch her intimately with no forewarning.
Predictable, mildly interesting, it could have been much better if it had been the central point in the story (rather than Cara’s sex life). I liked the inspector, he was promising but sadly, didn’t have much ‘screen time’, in favour of the pirate/lord/mobster male lead. The murders were interesting and unusual but lacked detailing. There was no sense of impeding doom, or any sense of danger for the characters. The murderer himself was only a device used by the author to bring even more attention to Cara.
All in all, the premise was really interesting and promising but the book fell short. There were too many elements in the story that didn’t blend in well together. The different elements weren’t cohesive and had me wondering what the actual plot was. The relationship between Nate and Cara was weird and unrealistic, I didn’t believe their (mostly Cara’s) evolution. The murder-mystery element could have been interesting but wasn’t given enough attention.