City of Jasmine review

City of JasmineCity of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

MIRA, March 2014

Famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke never expected to see her husband, adventurer Gabriel Starke, ever again. They had been a golden couple, enjoying a whirlwind courtship amid the backdrop of a glittering social set in pre-war London until his sudden death with the sinking of the Lusitania. Five years later, beginning to embrace life again, Evie embarks upon a flight around the world, collecting fame and admirers along the way. In the midst of her triumphant tour, she is shocked to receive a mysterious—and recent—photograph of Gabriel, which brings her ambitious stunt to a screeching halt.

With her eccentric Aunt Dove in tow, Evie tracks the source of the photo to the ancient City of Jasmine, Damascus. There she discovers that nothing is as it seems. Danger lurks at every turn, and at stake is a priceless relic, an artefact once lost to time and so valuable that criminals will stop at nothing to acquire it—even murder. Leaving the jewelled city behind, Evie sets off across the punishing sands of the desert to unearth the truth of Gabriel’s disappearance and retrieve a relic straight from the pages of history. Along the way, Evie must come to terms with the deception that parted her from Gabriel and the passion that will change her destiny forever.…

Sometimes what a girl needs is good old tale of romance, adventure and high stakes. That’s exactly what I found in this book, and I could not put it down. Raybourn has really packed it all in – we have a stunning aviatrix, the reappearance of a missing-presumed-dead husband, an ancient relic, high speed camel chases, double-crossing archaeologists, majestic Bedouin warriors, edge-of-your-seats fight scenes and a gory death or two. And a parrot who swears in Arabic.  It’s all told with a light touch and that sort of glib, isn’t-this-jolly-good fun, sparkling style I’ve come to associate with books set in the twenties (yes, we’re back in my favourite era again!).

But there is also a bit of substance to what would otherwise be a light-hearted read – the author has woven in a lot of historical detail, about the desert and its people, and the simmering political differences between the Bedouin and the various European powers trying to exert their influence over the realm. It’s all set against the backdrop of a Bedouin king’s bid for independence against the encroaching French. This made Evie and Gabriel’s adventures all the more intense for me. And the way Raybourn describes the desert, right down to the scent of jasmine drifting over the city walls of Damascus, made it really come alive.

Speaking of the un/happy couple, it’s been a while since I’ve read something where sparks seemed to literally fly off the page. Evie and Gabriel have some serious issues! Tensions are already running high between them, thanks to Gabriel abandoning Evie after their whirlwind marriage then faking his own death and disappearing for five years. Yep, he’s definitely sleeping on the sofa! But infuriatingly, when he reappears she doesn’t even get so much as an explanation! Add to this the couple being thrown into one life-or-death situation after another, and you’ve got the sort of sexual tension that can only be compared to Jack and Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone.

jack-joan

Best of all, though, there are some really strong female characters in this book, not least Evie herself. Like any good pilot she is able to box off her emotions when needed so that she can focus on the task at hand. At first I thought this made her quite cold and unforgiving, especially at the lack of emotion she shows on being reunited with Gabriel. But as the story progressed there were some satisfying outbursts as all that pent-up feeling came bubbling up. I also loved Aunt Dove, an ageing adventurer who has seen it all but still wants more – and young men, beware if she invites you upstairs to see her stamp collection!

All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read and one I would definitely recommend to take with you on your travels.

 

 

 

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  1. Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list | library4delinquents

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