by Deanna Raybourn
Five years after the sudden death of her husband Gabriel, Evangeline Stark – Evie to her friends – must earn her own way in the world. She’s reinvented herself as an aviatrix, and flies her beloved plane around the world, her adventures promoted by newspapers and funded by sponsors. As Evie flies her latest route with her eccentric aunt and an aged parrot for companions, she receives a photograph of her husband that indicates that he’s alive and well somewhere near Damascus. Evie immediately travels to the famed City of Jasmine to track down her missing spouse, but the moment her plane lands she is sucked into a miasma of disguise, deception, and danger revolving around a priceless relic. She is also reunited with Gabriel, and struggles to reconcile her still-burning passion for him with her fury over being abandoned.
As a romp through the desert on an archaeological quest for missing treasure, Evie and Gabriel can rival Indiana Jones for excitement and unexpected twists. Fast-paced, with multiple gun fights, daring kidnappings and rescues by rival Bedouin tribes, and treks through endless seas of sand, the story is filled with endless action.
There’s also the epic romance between Evie and Gabriel, and for me it fell a bit flat. Both characters are argumentative, and bicker constantly – not in that cute-couple way that nauseates viewers, but rather in the awkward way that makes the reader wish she could escape to another room while they’re going at it. Evie is furious that her husband faked his death and hid out in the desert for five years, naturally, and even after he reveals his reasons for doing so (which were quite predictable, actually) he still comes off as kind of a dick. Evie, meanwhile, just seems a bit shallow in characterization. Evie pities a middle-aged female archaeologist who has dedicated her life to her career as “sad” even though she has more or less committed herself to the same route. I’m not sure if Evie considers herelf “better” because she loved and lost, or if she simply lacks the introspection to realize her similarity to this woman, but either way it doesn’t paint her in a positive light. At least she’s brave to the point of recklessness, because sometimes only the most audacious scheme will save the day.
Some of the side characters are much more entertaining. Evie’s aunt Dove is quite delightful, a lively character that brightens the scenes she appears in. I wish we could have spent more time exploring the older woman’s history and less time wandering about in the desert.
Still, this book is lively and fast-paced. It’s an easy-to-read, solid beach read that would also translate well to the big screen. Fans of the Indiana Jones and The Mummy franchises would definitely get a kick out of City of Jasmine.
3 out of 5 stars
To read more about City of Jasmine, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Silver Falcon by Katia Fox
2012: The Kingmaker’s Daughter (Cousins’ War #4) by Philippa Gregory
2011: Graveminder by Melissa Marr
2010: News: Press “Pause” on the Piranha
2009: The White Queen (Cousins’ War #1) by Philippa Gregory
2008: The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. Atkins