I was thrilled to get a copy of Heart of the Nile, a recent release by Gabriella Hewitt, and for today's Thursday Thirteen I thought I'd review it. Stay tuned to the next four Thursday Thirteens as I review previous releases by Renee Field, Christine d'Abo, Red Garnier and Lillian Feisty.
1 - Heart of the Nile is an e-book from Cobblestone Press, released on February 29th. I'd read an excerpt from it on Gabriella's blog and was instantaneously hooked. I believe this was the part that snared me:
"Her eyes surveyed the prisoner, his body strong just like his will. He dripped blood and power."
2 - Once I had the whole story to read, I was delighted that the promise of ancient Egyptian gods played out with every character I came across. The hero and heroine bridge two worlds, quite like the Others from the Russian urban paranormal I'm currently reading, The Night Watch. In Hewitt's story, the world of ancient Egypt coexists below the layer of reality with which we humans are most familiar.
3 - Heart of the Nile is part of Cobblestone's Shifters category, which offers shapeshifter romances. In this story, the heroine shifts between a human form and a lioness. The hero shifts between human form and an ancient Molossian hound.
4 - We meet Kat, Stealer of Memories, a priestess of her shapeshifter pride. What she doesn't know until she meets up with the hero is that she herself carries locked doors within her mind, hiding painful memories that resurface when Nikos returns to her life.
5 - Nikos is Keeper of Secrets for his master Anubis and their pack. The dogs have been at war with the cats as long as both sides can remember, yet Nikos has used himself as bait to capture Kat for his mission.
6 - Nikos has been sent to retrieve the lioness with whom he once shared a passionate past. A greater mission revolves around their ability to find the urn containing the Heart of Bast, Ra's daughter and originator of the cat clan. But Nikos is personally focused on Kat and the pain of her returning memories.
7 - I really, really love the mythological aspects of this story. For some reason, if these two characters were contemporary ex-lovers who needed to stay one step ahead of power-hungry rivals, I couldn't really get myself into their nail-biting efforts. But once I find out she's a shapeshifting priestess from an ancient cat clan, I'm there, baby.
8 - There's a lot of sexual tension between Kat and Nikos, and wonderful verbal banter. But this is more of a paranormal thriller than a super-hot tale of passion.
9 - Kat and Nikos are about as different as one could hope to encounter in a mismatched couple. But what Hewitt does so well is make their co-operation crucial - and I mean crucial - to the success or failure of their joint mission.
10 - Hewitt really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:
"He looked back. Kat stood just outside the door, her hands gracefully fluttering in a pattern, hieroglyphics sparkling in the air before melting away.
'What are you doing?' he barked.
...'Hurry it up,' he whispered harshly. He advanced a few more feet toward the street when his gut wrenched and his vision swam. His legs strained against an invisible cord wrapped tightly around his being.
He whipped his head around again. Kat hadn’t moved an inch. Her cat‐like eyes focused on him, and a small curved smile touched her lips.
Nikos knew he was totally screwed."
11 - The writing style is spare and constantly accelerates the story. It works perfectly for Nikos' POV, giving a very natural masculine feel to his scenes. It also works well for Kat, since she's a powerful priestess and doesn't pull punches.
12 - There are aspects of the story that don't get completely resolved by the end, which only makes their world seem more real to me. And also leaves the prospect of more stories possible. I love encountering fictional worlds that seem to have a life larger than that of the novel.
13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!
"She eyed a stall that sold lamb kebobs. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips.
Fascinated, his gaze remained on her lovely pink mouth. Like a man parched from lack of water, he found himself wanting to sip and savor. To taste her.
His body hardened. His blood thickened. Heat flooded his system, making it difficult to breathe or think.
He even found himself leaning toward her.
Nikos closed his eyes and willed himself under control. Damn, he still had it bad for this woman. Centuries passed; even empires rose and fell. He’d lived through famine and feast, wars and prosperity. His lovers came and went, yet none had left her mark like Kat.
A mark he was banking on that she carried inside, too. Except, she'd shown little sign so far of remembering what they'd once shared.
Nikos shuttled them down another alley. The narrow passageway blocked out the sun; the heat beat at them in waves. He sniffed the air. He caught the scent.
'This way.' He rounded the corner. His gut tightened. The strings of the binding spell coiled around him. He slowed down. Kat lazily paired up next to him.
'Keep up,' he barked.
'It’s hot. I’m tired, and I’m hungry. I need a nap.'
'You can rest when we get to the potter.'
Kat stopped dead in her tracks. 'Oh no.' She shook her head. 'You said you would take me to the Heart of Bast; you never mentioned anyone else.'
'I will take you. First, though, I need to find out where it is.'
The look on her face was priceless.
'W…What?' She stammered. 'I assumed since you were the one entrusted with secrets…'
'That I knew where the heart was buried?' Nikos picked up. 'Sorry, I must have forgotten to mention that bit.'
- Gabriella Hewitt, 2008