New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns with a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure.
On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.
With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.
A new novel by Deanna Raybourn is always a source of excitement and anticipation, and there is much to enjoy in her latest offering. This book starts off with a bang, full of Raybourn’s trademark action and humor, engages your interest immediately and has you laughing out loud.
As the story evolves further, one discovers that this book, while able to be read as a stand alone, is actually a follow-up of a sort to the author’s previous novel, City of Jasmine, which we loved. Much of the action is again set in Damascus, framed by rich and evocative descriptions of the setting, and several story threads from the previous book are woven into the current plotline. We were pleasantly surprised by this, and loved learning more about the Lost Boys and their exploits as well as about the organization of the Vespiary itself.
Readers of both City of Jasmine and the Lady Julia series will be delighted to see several well-known faces cropping up throughout this tale. These familiar supporting characters add tremendously to the story - so much so, in fact, that the pace seems to lag a little in the middle portion of the book when they are largely absent. The two leads don’t carry the tale quite as well on their own, and their banter, usually Raybourn’s forte, feels slightly flat at times. However, despite the underlying romance, this is very much Poppy’s story, and her journey of self-discovery definitely takes center stage overall.
“I’ve spent the whole of my life giving up, and that is not who I am now….I am a woman who follows through, who knows her mind and has a single-minded purpose to direct her.”
The pace picks up again in the latter portion of the book, and it finishes with a flourish. As an additional bonus for fans, several of the answers Poppy finds on her quest not only resolve her personal storyline, but also serve as a very effective postscript to Lady Julia’s tale as well. Although not quite as strong on its own as some of Raybourn’s other works, when considered with all of the tie-ins and allusions to previous books, this novel is a satisfying read and certainly not to be missed.
In addition to book club discussion questions, this volume also contains an excellent Q&A with the author at the back of the book, which we found to be very worthwhile.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.