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Review: Heart of Brass by Kate Cross

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Heart of Brass
Author: Kate Cross 
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Signet
Clockwork Agents #1
ISBN: #978-0451236593
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Format(s): Paperback (398 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher
About the book:
Arden is an undercover agent for one of the most powerful organizations of this steam-powered world—the Wardens of the Realm, a group with extraordinary abilities, dedicated to protecting England against evil.
Arden Grey enjoys a life most women in 1898 London can’t even dream of: she has the social status, wealth, and independence of a countess. She also has the ability to witness the final moments of a murder victim’s life. But ever since the disappearance of her husband, Lucas, none of this means anything to her. Until one night, when Arden spies a man watching her—a man she recognizes as her missing husband.
He’s been ordered to assassinate Arden as retribution for her part in the killing of a Company agent. Luke remembers nothing of his life before The Company, a corrupt agency that has erased his memory. Even so, something prevents him from completing his assignment. There is something familiar about his lovely target, something that attracts him and fills him with dread. For he knows that if he doesn’t kill her, someone else will—and kill him as well.
What Una is talking about:
Steampunk is a relative new genre to me.  Meljean Brook was the author responsible for introducing me to this genre.  Now, with Ms. Cross’s new series, the Clockwork Agents, I am finding steampunk to be right up my alley – a beautiful symbiosis of historical romance and paranormal/science fiction (depending on the author’s mythos).  
Heart of Brass begins with Arden on the job, so to speak.  As a Clockwork Agent for the Queen, she assists Scotland Yard with investigations.  However, some feel that it is not the right place for a lady of her stature.  This particular investigation is a gruesome murder of a young aristocratic woman – and it seems that our killer is a member of the upper crust.  Later that evening, as she slumbers, she is awakened by an intruder who tries to kill her.  The only problem is that her murderer is also her lost, presumed dead, husband Luke.  However, Luke, upon seeing Arden, finds he is unable to complete his mission – and for the first time in the past seven years he can remember.
This novel unravels slowly and deliciously.  I enjoyed the pace of the interactions of Arden and Luke.  Their story is a gripping read and from the snippet at the end of the novel, we will get more of their ongoing story in upcoming books.  But before I get ahead of myself, there seemed to be several story strands in this novel.  The first being the challenge of Arden, who pined for the return of her husband, only to have her wish granted… with a few drawbacks.  Luke has no memory of Arden, only faints wisps – most he cannot grasp.  
However, Luke’s impaired memory is not the only problem.  He has been physically altered to be a Company assassin.  This means he could stand as a traitor to the Wardens and the Country, a crime punishable by death.  In Heart of Brass Luke is not the man she remembers, and Luke, as he discovers more about his “old” self, finds he is in some ways a much better man now.  Due to his memory loss and the path of his life since being abducted, Luke is truly a different person.  
As Arden struggles with not only Luke’s condition but also their rekindled relationship, she also endeavors to solve the mystery of the murdered woman and other murders that seem to follow.  Complicating matters from the beginning is her brother-in-law who wants to assume the family title by declaring Luke dead by absentia.  Arden must also delicately balance the affections of Luke’s best friend who would be more than willing to “replace” Luke in Arden’s life.  Arden has struggled the past years holding out hope while it seems everyone else had given up on Luke’s returning.  All these differing plot points weave together well in setting up this new series and the world it lives in.
Heart of Brass is a great read for someone who wants to test the waters of steampunk.  It is not as heavily science based but geared a little more towards historical romance.  One of the aspects I truly enjoy is the dichotomy of Arden – being a good “lady” of the period while also being a brilliant inventor and working for the good of the realm.  I enjoy how the historical societal norms clash with the way technology and its advancement seems to eradicate the difference between the genders.  Caught in the middle are the more aristocratic females and those middle class females who are recognized for their exemplary abilities, but are, of a different class level.
If you have been interested in trying steampunk, I would highly recommend Heart of Brass the debut novel in the new Clockwork Agents series.  It is an engrossing and enjoyable read.
Unas Rating:
Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)
Purchase Info:
Heart of Brass
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