Saturday, February 15, 2014

An adventure in the great Syrian Desert of the 1920's

Deanna Raybourn
Harlequin MIRA
February 25, 2014

Deanna Raybourn's newest book, City of Jasmine, set in the wide open 1920's, takes us on a quest from Damascus into the Badiyat ash-Sham or the great Syrian desert. Evangeline Starke has gained fame but little fortune as a celebrity aviatrix.  Accompanied by her eccentric and adventuresome Aunt Dove, she is embarking upon a flight across the seven seas of antiquity. Just before embarking from Rome she receives a photograph of her husband, Gabriel Starke, marked "Damascus, 1920". However, Gabriel supposedly was lost in the Lusitania disaster of 1915. The two parted company in China after a whirlwind courtship and brief marriage and Evie headed back to England to sue for divorce. The divorce was not finalized before his reported death and Evie has never been quite sure that Gabriel really is dead. The photograph sends her to Damascus to find out what she can about Gabriel.

Evie's search for Gabriel leads her to an archaeological dig in the desert run by a staff that is not what it seems, encounters with bedouin and bandits, some highly questionable Hungarian aristocracy and the quest for an ancient antiquity. The hardships and dangers are very real and life threatening. I really admire Deanna Raybourn's ability to bring the sights and smells of other times and places to life and this may be her best book yet. The characters are vivid and memorable. She has even cleverly woven in characters from other books into the plot. Who would expect to meet one of the "Mad Marches" in the 1920's? There is a prequel, "Whisper of Jasmine", available in ebook and on kindle that covers Evie and Gabriel's first meeting and marriage. Evie has come quite a long way since their meeting at the beginning of WWI!

Now for the not so good- the cover. The cover of City of Jasmine is in no way representative of the book's contents. Raybourn's books have been blessed with some gorgeous covers, but this one misses the mark. Evie was not wearing lace and pearls in the desert. Neither was she sharing playful glances with Gabriel as they picnicked! It's a small thing to some, I suppose, but it bugged me. Not the author's fault I'm sure, as I don't think authors have much, or sometimes any, input into covers.

I highly recommend City of Jasmine to anyone who enjoys adventure, historical fiction and romance.

RATING- 5 Stars

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