The Copper Egg

The Copper Egg - Catherine Friend Good old-fashioned lesfic adventures are so rare I want to give them 5 stars just for being published. :) I think I might have actually done that too, lol. This book deserves it though, for the most part.

Let's start with the cover. The book's almost worth picking up just for that alone. It's uncannily spot on and so totally Claire--Indiana Jones in a tank top and cargo shorts--so much so that it feels like the author wrote the whole book around that picture. :) The other reason I snapped this up without a second thought is the author. I loved all her lesfic, which just happen to be all old-fashioned adventures with a heavy dose of romance.

Claire Adams is an archaeologist who dreams of landing a prestigious and well-paid job at the Smithsonian to further her career. But her plans take a mighty tumble in Peru in an incident involving her ex, Sochi and the local Peruvian press. Shame at her 'exposure' makes her hightail it out of Peru and into the safety of a mid-level but completely unexciting job at the Smithsonian overseeing artifact transfers. Three years later she receives a mystery package postmarked Peru containing a gold, a silver and a copper egg... with a note from the anonymous sender enjoining her to use her 'gift' to search for the most fabulous treasure in all of Peru--King Chaco's tomb. And so the adventure begins...

Any time you have an archaeologist main character in an action adventure story, it's hard not to compare it against the most popular archaeologist in pop culture. Our resident Indy, Claire Adams, shares his fearlessness, self-deprecating sense of humor, and even.. his rugged charm :), but thankfully, none of his recklessness and carelessness in treating newly discovered archaeological sites. She's all for preserving the artifacts and leaving the site intact.

Like the Indiana Jones series, this book takes a semi-serious and slightly irreverent tone, with the usual ingredients these kinds of stories favor: a fabulous tomb filled with treasure, an over-the-top megalomaniac villain, evil and/or inept henchmen, and of course, romance. There was a surprising dearth of action though. Instead of her fists, our Indy uses mostly her 'special gift' and some interesting but improbable astronomical trick to try to suss out the location of the treasure.

Note: I re-read through the rest of this review for possible spoilers. There aren't any major ones beyond what is already hinted by the blurb. So it's safe. Fans of the author and lesfic adventure tales (like me) who want to experience everything fresh from the first read-through may prefer not to read further. Suffice it to say there's enough romance and drama to satisfy the typical romance reader, and enough excitement, surprises and twists for the rest of us.

The book features alternating chapters told from Claire and Sochi's point of view. Sochi is quite a bit of an enigma. She's very devoted to her native Peruvian culture, and would do literally anything to see that everything dug out of Peru stays in Peru. For her, the end justifies the means...any means. So she leads a double life. Artifact cop by day. Artifact thief by night. How did that happen, and how does it even work? Just imagine the mental gymnastics Sochi has to go through everyday. And then her old flame Claire shows up with the ultimate quest for the mythical treasure-laden tomb. How does she keep her hands off that?

The plot is at once extremely complex and overly simplistic--if that were possible. Complex because there are a good number of personalities involved, everyone with their own agenda and hidden motives, who are also after the treasure for one reason or another. And too simplistic because even the main character Claire had trouble believing the evil villain's motivation for all his grand plans. Some major suspension of disbelief required for this, as well as for some of the plot developments that ranged from illogical to eye-rolling to comical e.g. the three stooges, I mean, the three bad guys repeatedly and openly following Claire around, Claire's confrontation with Higuchi to extract his entire confession without even thinking of recording him, Higuchi assisting on the final ritual, lack of Higuchi security at the dig site, etc.. Even so, I was thoroughly entertained. The trick is to not overthink it and just let the story take you along for the ride.

The supporting characters are a curious mix--most are well-rounded while a few seem straight out of a comic book.

The romance is... let's just say that romance readers won't be disappointed. Claire and Sochi's relationship start off with the mother of all betrayals. Flashbacks throughout the book show how intense things were and could be again, if only they can get past the hurts, the stubbornness and the mistrust and survive the treasure hunt in one piece.

4.75 stars

ARC from Netgalley and BSB

P.S. If still in doubt, check out some choice excerpts from my status updates. :)