Title/Author: City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn
Publisher/Year Published: March 2014 by Harlequin MIRA
How I got this book: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Why I read this book: I read the back and it sounded interesting. I've not read many novels set in the 1920s nor in the Middle East.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Set against the lush, exotic European colonial outposts of the 1920s, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn delivers the captivating tale of one woman who embarks upon a journey to see the world—and ends up finding intrigue, danger and a love beyond all reason.
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 prewar 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 artifact 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...
City of Jasmine is an interesting read. I can't say that I have read many post WWII historical fiction books, but I guess now I can say I've at least read one. The book starts off with our lead character, Evie, getting ready to fly the last leg of her tour is interrupted by some pretty solid evidence that her husband is still alive. She delays her last leg and heads to Demascus with her aunt in tow. They spend some time in Demascus before the real story starts, and that is when we get out into the dessert to see the dig site where Gabriel is.
That was the first hundred pages, and honestly I almost gave up the book because of that. Everything was so slow and it could have all started at a different point and been tighter and easier to read. But once we got past all that, the most interesting part of which was the setting, things started to get better. I loved the parts in the desert and once Gabriel and Evie had more interaction together, it was fun to read.
I really enjoyed the setting and it makes me think I should branch out into different areas of history more often! The setting is probably my favorite part of the story, but how does everything else stack up? The plot is shaky at best. It is plodding in the beginning and all over the place in the middle and then sort of gets vary vague at the end. The middle, while overwhelmed with characters and subplots, was entertaining though (or else I would have stopped reading). The book is teaming with twsts. By the last character who wasn't who they said they were I was rolling my eyes.
Evie and Gabriel are the main characters, but really it's Evie's story. She is really independent and sometimes that makes her make the stupidest decisions ever. But she wasn't annoying and actually a pretty decent narrator. Sometimes I was surprised at what she didn't pick up on, though, like one of those pretty obvious twists.
This is primarily historical fiction, with a little dash of romance (it is harlequin). If you worried about sex, it's not there. The relationship between Gabriel and Evie is important though and pretty interesting. I liked seeing how they changed from the way they were described as being in the past.
Overall the book was interesting, the setting really so, and the plot engaging enough. I would recommend it for people who like to read historical fiction in exotic locales. This is the first Raybourn I read and I am not amiss to reading another.