All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: City Of Jasmine – Deanna Raybourn

on March 6, 2014

City Of JasmineCity Of Jasmine
Deanna Raybourn
Harlequin MIRA
2014, 354p
Copy courtesy of the publisher/Harlequin AUS

Five years ago Evangeline impulsively married Gabriel Starke. The marriage lasted four months before Evie threatened divorce. Gabriel put her on a steamer out of China and then joined a different ship, the Lusitania. Left a widow, Evie became a famed aviatrix, embarking on a flight around the world over the seven seas in her small plane accompanied by her eccentric Aunt Dove.

Then Evie receives a photo of Gabriel taken in Damascus – very recently. Intrigued – and never having quite believed her husband could be dead – Evie heads for the exotic location to find out anything she can about her mysterious husband. There she is thrown into a dangerous situation where nothing is as it seems. There is danger, disguise, intrigue and murderers at every turn. But Evie has changed a lot in the past five years and she’s not just going to go meekly away, she’s in this to find out exactly what is going on. There’s no getting rid of her. She’s ready to own her mistakes five years ago, her impetuous behaviour that has left her miserable ever since, unable to forget the man she loved so desperately.

I love Deanna Raybourn. I adore her Lady Julia Grey series with a passion and I really enjoyed A Spear Of Summer Grass. I was obviously so excited for this one and honestly, I am utterly shocked that I didn’t adore it. That for most of the first half, I was really uninterested in the plot and pretty much…bored. Thankfully it picked up a lot in the latter half of the book but it was a struggle for me to get there. And I spent a lot of time wondering why because this is an author I love so much. I would’ve said before this she could do no wrong. But now I’m beginning to wonder if there’s too much of a good thing…

Firstly, Evie is kind of like Lady Julia, but 30-40 years later in history and well, to be honest, not quite as charming. She’s not as abrasive as Delilah from A Spear of Summer Grass and her brittleness is a result of her heartbreak over what happened with Gabriel and her determination to pick herself up and do something with her life but at times, it’s so highly irritating. There’s only so much exchange of wits under threat of death I can take and it’s getting a bit old. Does no one worry when they’re about to be killed? I feel as though this book had so much potential, especially with what happened with Gabriel but so many of the reveals fell flat for me and the two of them really didn’t have the kind of chemistry that I was expecting, given how much it sizzles in other books.

There are some things I did like in this book – the setting is fabulous. It’s set in Damascus at a time when the country of Syria was struggling to establish its own regime and overthrow the French influence after the war. There’s an interesting mix of Arab and colonial influences in the city and Evie gets to experience the best of both worlds as she explores it. The book also takes the reader into the desert with the Bedouin tribes and shows their lifestyle as well as their issues. There are some plot points that strike me as decidedly far fetched and others that are borrowing quite heavily from one real life scenario with not much subtlety but I did really like most aspects of the time Evie spent in the desert, especially when she has some of preconceived ideas about the culture and role of men and women changed by the people who are there.

There are glimpses of brilliance in this – flashes of what I love so much about Raybourn’s books. She has a very clever brain and so often she has brought amazing characters together in a fantastic scenario and if this was the first of her books I’d read, I would probably enjoyed it a lot more. But I’ve read 6 others, this being #7 and it feels a bit…stale. Not as fresh and new anymore because there are quite a lot of things that are so similar to her other stories. I do like that she’s trying new things and not going on with Lady Julia and essentially writing the two of them doing the same thing over and over but at the same time, I feel like she hasn’t strayed too far from the familiar. There’s a lot of this that has a feel very similar to her other novels, we’ve just moved forward in time a bit. And Gabriel is really no Nicholas Brisbane, which is a bit of a shame. Characters in a novel like this make or break it and honestly, I’m not entirely sure either of them could carry it successfully for me. Evie reminded me a lot of Kate from the TV show Lost with her quintessential “I’m going with you” line or “You’re not leaving me behind”. I know there’d be no story without that but a lot of the time I feel the reasons for wanting to go along or refusing to be left behind are very flimsy bordering on the ridiculous.

Very mixed feelings about this one. So much potential and I feel as though I could’ve enjoyed it a lot more… can’t overly put my finger on why I didn’t and I feel like I’m nitpicking? I did like the connections that Raybourn is beginning to knit together between her books (although they are very vague). I just didn’t devour this one although the second half is a solid read.

7/10

Book #52 of 2014

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2 responses to “Review: City Of Jasmine – Deanna Raybourn

  1. Marg says:

    It will be interesting to see if Raybourn manages to create another characters as awesome as Brisbane. The setting and initial premise do sound awesome so disappointing that it didn’t work

    • It’s a problem isn’t it, when an author creates a character like Brisbane and the chemistry he has with Julia. It can be so hard for other characters and relationships to equal that and this one, for me, is SO far away from swoon-worthy.

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