Saturday, July 11, 2015
'The Curiosity Keeper' by Sarah E. Ladd
“It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail’s egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whomever possesses it.”
Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.
Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.
Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.
Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.
I was very much looking forward to getting stuck into this book. It's great when a scenario that could have come straight out of Dickens is written by a contemporary author, because we can enjoy the action without being held up by arcane language and waffle. For the first three quarters, this story met my expectations.
I love the characters. Camille has lived through some tough and seamy times without destroying her natural sweet disposition. Her dad is not very paternal, to say the least, but she still loves him as much as she can while she gets on with what she has to do. Jonathan is a really nice guy, who honours his family without stooping to all the Victorian snobbery he's been raised in, even though his brother and sister didn't escape it. He's found a caring path in life and sticks to it, despite his father's very outspoken disapproval. And we can't help loving his dad's gruff character just because he's such a mad antique collector. I would have been interested to find out how the eldest brother died, but we weren't told.
I enjoyed the description of place, including the huge chasm between the lifestyles of the rich and poor in London, and the freshness of the countryside, which Camille truly deserved to experience after all she'd had to put up with. On the whole, the mystery and drama surrounding the Bevoy Ruby drew me in. There was just a crazy plot snag toward the end which I couldn't bring myself to believe. It stretched my credibility to breaking point, and that was disappointing, as I'd been enjoying the story. I try not to give plot spoilers in reviews, but feel I must here. Stop reading if you want to.
The baddies are desperate to find a precious object which they know for sure is in a person's possession. They've already tracked her down and searched thoroughly through her belongings on the premises where she's staying, to no avail. Next, they capture her and tie her up, intending to force the truth out of her. But the treasure is in Camille's apron pocket the whole time, and none of the crooks even think to frisk her person! It's in a box which would have made a fairly decent bulge, and these three experienced and forceful desperadoes still overlook it. I wanted to just ignore this and go with the flow, but found my belief was stretched that bit too far.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for my review copy.