After the set up in Whisper of Jasmine, I was properly intrigued to jump into this story. It is set against the days just following WWI in the politically unstable area of newly emerging Syria. Against the back drop of mystery and intrigue along with desert adventure, a woman intrepidly pursues the truth about the husband she once thought dead. From the sweeping colorful descriptions of the place and time period, to the deft handling of the characters, and to the engaging twisting plot, this book delivered on all my heightened expectations.
Evie Starke, adventurous female aviatrix, along with her eccentric Aunt Dove and stolid mechanic friend, Wally are traversing the world on a sponsored tour with her plane when she receives a photo of a man she thought was dead. Five years before, Evie’s soon to be ex-husband, Gabriel Starke, had been listed as one of those who died in the Lusitania disaster. Either the photo is a hoax or Gabriel is very much alive. And if he’s alive, there are a slew more questions that she wants answered. She walked away once when the man she loved and married changed and practically drove her away with his cold, odd behavior, but that was a lifetime ago in which she has grown up. Now she wants answers.
The photo was sent from Damascus so to that ancient city she goes with Aunt Dove providing a splash of color and her different view on life. Evie immerses herself into the city and culture even as someone drops her breadcrumb-like clues that continue to hint that Gabriel is indeed still alive. She keeps her eyes open and allow the clues to lead her along to figure out what is going on. What she discovers leads her into the desert to join an archeological expedition where all is not as it seems and that leads her further into danger out in the desert sand where desperate people are all seeking the same thing. Evie’s need for the truth crosses with other people’s greed and it will take her guts, a bit of luck, and a jaunty Jolly Roger to see her through.
I was into this one from cover to cover. I loved the feel of being dropped into the Near East during the early part of the 20s when so much was going on. There was a mysterious and yet romantic feel to this one like being dropped into a modish Arabian nights. It’s a romantic suspense story set in Lawrence of Arabia if that makes sense. Along with admiring the way the story made me feel, was my enjoyment for how the romance and suspense plots played out.
Since I read the prequel, I was well aware of what contributed to the break-up of Gabriel and Evie’s marriage and I also knew what he had been up to for the last five years even though she was forced to figure it all out. In ways, I wish I had read the prequel after this book so I could be properly surprised by the secret reveals as Evie. In fact, I’ll say it now that if you’re reading this and haven’t read either book and prefer a more suspenseful story then don’t read the prequel until after. Trust me it will keep just fine. This story can be read without the other.
There is a point in the story that I had so many characters on the suspect list and I wasn’t even entirely sure that I had right end of the stick anyway. Even the trustworthy people had their secrets and their own agendas going. I love that feeling.
Naturally, the romance was more of a delicate thing. There was so much that needed to be cleared between Evie and Gabriel, but it always had to wait until other pressing issues were dealt with. The tension was palpable. The story is all from Evie’s perspective so there were only hints of what Gabriel was thinking and feeling. He hid behind a face of indifference much of the time, but Evie managed to crack his facade once in a while and I felt the triumph in this right along with her. She had every reason to bring down a storm around his ears for what he put her through, but she was one tough, admirable heroine. Yeah, she fired off some snark, but it’s not like he didn’t bait her into it half the time. Five years made a huge difference with these two. I enjoyed watching them realize the changes in each other and accept them. I really liked them both and I liked them together when all is said and done.
To wrap it up, this was another smashing hit by one of my favorite authors. I can easily recommend this book to those who love historical romantic suspense with the added bonus of an exotic setting.
My thanks to Net Galley for providing this book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.
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