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Monday, March 10, 2014

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

Title:  City of Jasmine

Author: Deanna Raybourn
Published February 1st 2014 by MIRA
Pages:  ebook 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC
Genre: women’s fiction, historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 4.5 Crowns

New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn delivers the captivating tale set against the lush, exotic European colonial outposts of the 1920s...
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...

My thoughts:

First of all, I highly recommend reading the prequel to this novel: Whisper of Jasmine. It shows how Evie and Gabriel met, and gives good insight into the beginning of their relationship. I started with the prequel and instantly fell in love with the characters. Raybourn's writing is such a wonderful blend of descriptive settings, mystery, humour and romance.  Unlike in the prequel, however, Evie is not naïve anymore. She has grown up to be quite the strong capable woman, and she doesn't let anyone push her around. “It’s time to stop. Face down your ghosts. Exorcise them once and for all. Forgive them, forgive yourself and get on with the business of living”.

The story is set in Syria in 1920, and it’s very interesting to read about a place not often the subject of tales. Raybourn provides historical detail into a place rarely recalled and highlights the subtle yet serious undertones of warfare in Northern Africa and the fallout afterwards – issues not to be disregarded in this rollicking tale. Evie and Gabriel were thrown into lots of adventures and came across a lot of suspicious and dangerous characters. The descriptions of nomadic life in the desert and seeing the area through the eyes of Evie brought the country to life.

Not only were there in-depth main characters but some wonderful secondary characters as well. Aunt Dove is a classic, “Is it very wrong that I want to grow up to be your Aunt Dove?” (don’t we all!) They added so much to the story and revealed the wonderful writer that Raybourn is. So many fun, feisty humorous moments in the story - “I do apologise Mr. Halliday. My husband always did have a filthy temper and death hasn’t improved it”.

I don't want to say too much more about this other than there is lots of action, humour - “Good God, if your stomach roars any louder they’ll be able to track us by the sound of it” - romance (the comedic chemistry and bantering between Evie and Gabriel will put such a smile on your face) and mystery. Raybourn's writing is just something you need to pick up for yourself and read, because you are going to love it. Her work always transports you back in time, into another place, another world and another lifetime. On this occasion I was reminded of the 1940s movie ‘Casablanca’ – desert style.

I couldn't put this down! Deanna Raybourn is fast becoming one of my favourite historical authors. And you will eagerly be turning the pages to the very end.  For all the fun, there is an admirable underlying tone: “Yes, you do. Peter takes Wendy home. And he tells her to leave a window open for him because he always comes back in the end”.

Reviewed by Helen

1 comment:

Mystica said...

Thanks for the review. I like her books very much and think this one with its setting in Syria will be different.