City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

In brief: Evie thought her husband died when the Lusitania
sunk. Now she’s battling to make ends meet as a daredevil aviatrix. But why has she received a recent photo of Gabriel? Could he still be alive?

The good: Very interesting historical setting and Evie is a fiercely independent heroine. Plus a gorgeous cover!

The not-so-good: The scenes in the desert got a bit repetitive for me.

Why I chose it: From Harlequin Books– thank you.

Year: 2014

Pages: 326

Publisher: Harlequin Mira

Setting: England, Europe and Damascus

My rating: 7.5 out of 10

Who could resist a gorgeous cover like the one for City of Jasmine? It epitomises all that is glamorous about the 1920s from the fashion, freedom and fabulous locations. I was intrigued to read this just by the cover and then when I saw that the book was about a female aviatrix, I loved the idea even more. Besides piloting her own plane (complete with famous aunt and parrot as passengers), Evangeline Stark is trying to keep herself out of debt by courting the press and sponsors. It’s been that way since her husband Gabriel died – although the marriage was on the rocks long before then.

Going through her mail, Evie finds what appears to be a recent photo of Gabriel in Damascus. What on earth could he be doing there? Naturally her curiosity is piqued and she flies to there to search for him. Evie is immediately enchanted by the city and even picks up an admirer. When she goes to visit an archaeological dig, she finds secrets galore which send her and her companion fleeing and fighting across the desert.

It’s difficult to explain the plot without giving away a key detail, so be aware that I’m going to spill all below!

It turns out that Gabriel has been living and working in the desert under a disguise – Evie figures this out via a number of clues he leaves for her in Damascus. Why does Gabriel make contact after such a long period of time? Well, he has something he wants to give Evie (a sort of apology for what he’s put her through) – but everyone else wants Gabriel’s treasure, which is what makes for dangerous times in the desert. There is a lot of ambush and fighting that goes on in the desert, which I found got a little repetitive. (Plus, who was on which side was incredibly convoluted!) Evie’s snappy dialogue and verbal whipping of Gabriel was fun and witty at first, but I think there were too many times where they were in danger and then just scraped through. I would have preferred a little less adventure and more explanation/background of why Gabriel was doing what he did.

Evie is an incredibly fun character – she’s witty, independent and very modern. Her Aunt Dove is just as fantastic, if not more so – she’s eccentric, a famous Victorian explorer, has incredible fashion choices and has her own parrot called Arthur Wellesley. I would have loved to read more about her – perhaps another book? Gabriel I found a little weaker – he seems to accept Evie’s barbs and taunts a little too easily. I know he has things to atone for, but given his background, I think he should have stuck up for himself more.

Raybourn is a master with dialogue – it just sparkles and crackles off the page. The conversations between Evie and Gabriel are loaded with wit and emotion running under the surface. The pain that Evie has suffered is shown through her jaded, weary responses and Aunt Dove’s modern, free love thoughts in her answers!

One criticism that may be levelled at this book is that the reader is unaware of Evie and Gabriel’s backstory – if you’re interested, this is told in a prequel novella, Whisper of Jasmine which explains how they met and married.

So is this book the glamour suggested on the cover? Not quite, but you may enjoy this book if you like romantic action/adventure in a historical context.

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