Treasure Darkly by Jordan Elizabeth

The first part of Treasure Darkly was an intriguing dark steampunk Western that had me riveted until the half way mark. Then, inexplicably, the story changed into a bodice ripper Western historical with fantastical elements. I think where the book lost me was with the characters – I found that the more I read, the less I liked them. By the end I didn’t believe in them or really care what happened to them.

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Story: The Treasure Family rule the desert are of Hedlund – their farmstead and mines are among the richest. But in a saloon in an rusty town, young Clark has gone to find his father – the scion of the Treasure family. For Clark is illegitimate, wanted for the theft of a mysterious potion that he drank and allows him to see ghosts/revive the dead, and desperate. When he shows up on the Treasure homestead, his half brother doesn’t welcome, half sister hits on him, and stepmother oddly welcomes him. But Clark’s past is going to catch up to him and he is going to find himself falling hard for his half sister.

It all started so well – great steampunk elements, gritty and edgy feeling story, and a true Western feel. I was enjoying it immensely, curious to see where it would go after Clark shows up on the Treasure family’s porch step. But then the fantastical elements kicked in and Clark starts a whirlwind romance with his sister-who-is-not-his-sister while finding mysterious objects thanks to hints by the ghost of his real father. And my interest waned as it morphed more and more into a Clark x Amethyst insta-luv romance.

First and foremost, the author wrote Amethyst Treasure to be unlikable so that she can have a ‘growing up’ moment later on. I didn’t buy it and I still didn’t like her. Her only purpose is to be kidnapped (twice within 30 pages) so Clark can rescue her. She never seems to feel much quibble about it though and worries more about the newspaper writing about the kidnappings or her appearance that day than in being raped/murdered by someone with a strong hate for her family.

Clark started out interesting but then apparently had a lobotomy the minute he laid eyes on his ‘sister’. She’s obnoxious, petulant, annoying, but pretty. So how am I to respect a guy (especially one who grew up in a brothel and should know better) who likes a girl based on looks alone – so much so that he ignores that she’s spoiled rotten? Let’s not get into the time it takes to realize she may not be related in blood yet still lusts after her. Ew. And really, let’s also not forget no mention of a beau back in the City just waiting for her to return (while she endlessly hits on and flirts with her brother).

The bad guys are stupid. Their only point is to annoy the treasure family and kidnap Amethyst so Clark can go rushing in and easily save her. There are several bad guys and they are used rather interchangeably: Clark has guys after him (including the one who murdered his mother) and the Treasures have enemies. They move in and out, do their bit to show how much Clark and Amethyst lurve each other, then move out.

This isn’t Earth – it’s a fantastical place a lot like the American West (with a bit of Australian colonialism issues thrown in). There are statements that could be made about the enslavement of natives, but what is written is trite and gets blown off so Clark can ogle Amethyst and look saintly while promoting natives’ rights. It just seemed a waste to include the ‘noble savage’ elements at all.

The ending felt rushed and is very abrupt. As well, there are scenes in there suddenly establishing an instu luv situation for Amethyst’s brother that are really random and seemed to be filler. I imagine the author will expand on it further in later issues but its introduction in this novel feels very extraneous.

I would categorize this as a romance first, Western second, and then with some steampunk trappings in a random alternate universe American West. So I would recommend this for those who like historical romances in the Western vein. For me, I was looking for the reverse order: Western, Steampunk, and a *little* romance. Oh, and the cover? Absolutely nothing to do with the story. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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