Sunday Book Review: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

Title: A Treacherous Curse

Author:  Deanna Raybourn

Publisher: Doubleday

Release Date: January 16, 2018

Genre:  Historical Mystery

From GoodReads:  Members of an Egyptian expedition fall victim to an ancient mummy’s curse in a thrilling Veronica Speedwell novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries.
 
London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker. His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past. Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

Review:  The third installment in the Veronica Speedwell series is just the way I love it.  A cheeky, no-holds-barred heroine to both cheer on and roll my eyes at and a sexy, broody, damaged hero.  The plot is centered around Stoker’s ex-wife Carolyn (whose name he murmured to Veronica during their one and only sexual encounter) and the man she ran off with, abandoning Stoker in South America when he was near death.  This is the story I was ready to hear…with the author’s usual excellent writing and voice creating another intriguing mystery with just a touch of romance.  Victorian Egyptologist themes have been done to death, but I felt the author gave it a fresh feel.

I’d love to read a short story or a whole novel from Stoker’s point of view 😀

Thanks Net Galley and Doubleday…

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Thursday Book Review: Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Title:  Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Author:  Samantha Silva

Publisher:  Flatiron Books

Release Date: October 31, 2017

From Good Reads:   Shakespeare in Love meets A Christmas Carol in this transporting debut novel set during the whirlwind period in which Dickens wrote his beloved classic, as he embarks on a Scrooge-like journey of his own.

For Charles Dickens, each Christmas has been better than the last. His novels are literary blockbusters, and he is famous on the streets of London, where avid fans sneak up on him to snip off pieces of his hair. He and his wife have five happy children, a sixth on the way, and a home filled with every comfort they could imagine. But when Dickens’ newest book is a flop, the glorious life he has built for himself threatens to collapse around him. His publishers offer an ultimatum: either he writes a Christmas book in a month, or they will call in his debts, and he could lose everything. Grudgingly, he accepts, but with relatives hounding him for loans, his wife and children planning an excessively lavish holiday party, and jealous critics going in for the kill, he is hardly feeling the Christmas spirit.

Increasingly frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace and inspiration in London itself, his great palace of thinking. And on one of his long walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets a young woman in a purple cloak, who might be just the muse he needs. Eleanor Lovejoy and her young son, Timothy, propel Dickens on a Scrooge-like journey through his Christmases past and present—but with time running out, will he find the perfect new story to save him?

In prose laced with humor, sumptuous Victorian detail, and charming winks to A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva breathes new life into an adored classic. Perfect for fans of Dickens, for readers of immersive historical fiction, and for anyone looking for a dose of Christmas cheer, Mr. Dickens and His Carol is destined to become a perennial holiday favorite.

My Review:  This is a novel deeply steeped in Dickens’s lore and Victorian London, but probably not for the purists.  That being said, I really enjoyed this bounce through the life of the creator of “A Christmas Carol.” I wish I had read it closer to Christmas—though I’ll likely give it a re-read.   I loved the characters who inspired him, the origins of the names, Dickens’s fictional “process.”

I loved the gang of urchins following him and their motives, and the return to his roots, as it were, when he moves into the Boz museum that is actually the room he and his wife had first lived in at the start of his career, and their marriage, to cure his writer’s block.  

The author does an excellent job—you can feel his panic when his audience begins to turn away from him, how the love for his family begins to strangle him creatively. Sounds depressing, but it’s not—the prose is a joy, and this is a genuinely heartwarming story.

Thank you Net Galley and Flatiron Books