About this book: (from the publisher) February, 1906. As the personal secretary of the recently departed Duke of Olympia—and a woman of scrupulous character—Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove never expected her duties to involve steaming through the Mediterranean on a private yacht, under the prodigal eye of one Lord Silverton, the most charmingly corrupt bachelor in London. But here they are, improperly bound on a quest to find the duke’s enigmatic heir, current whereabouts unknown.
An expert on anachronisms, Maximilian Haywood was last seen at an archaeological dig on the island of Crete. And from the moment Truelove and Silverton disembark, they are met with incidents of a suspicious nature: a ransacked flat, a murdered government employee, an assassination attempt. As they travel from port to port on Max’s trail, piecing together the strange events of the days before his disappearance, Truelove will discover the folly of her misconceptions—about the whims of the heart, the motives of men, and the nature of time itself…
About the author: Juliana Gray is a pseudonym for New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams, the author of Along the Infinite Sea, Tiny Little Thing, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, A Hundred Summers and Overseas. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and four unsupervised children.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG, barring the flurry of profanity in chapter one.
Reminds me of: the novels of Deanna Raybourn
[Tweet “Another round of witty histfic from the consistently clever @BCWilliamsBooks “]
Reflection: I wouldn’t normally pick up a histfic featuring an intrepid young British female traipsing by yacht around the turn-of-the-last-century Mediterranean. But when I learned Juliana Gray, author of said novel, is none other than Beatriz Williams, I couldn’t resist. I have been delighted before by Williams’ whip-sharp prose and cleverly rendered plots and hoped I would find the same here.
I most certainly did.
By example, let me share but one sampling of the author’s prose:
“I gazed at the razor parting of her hair, exactly down the middle, as if Moses himself had stood on her forehead and commanded the two sides to separate.”
This is absolutely typical of Williams’ — er, Gray’s — writing. And the head so irreverently described? Belonging to none other than Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. I had the impression as I read that the author was having so much fun. An impression I’ve similarly held while reading the work of, say, Joshilyn Jackson, who — while penning very different stuff — contains the same kind of vibrant energy. I also thought that if Jane Austen were to write a mystery set in pre-WWI Europe, it might look something like this — with shades of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View thrown into the mix.
How a novelist maintains such a steady surge of wit I can only attribute to sheer talent. To my poor pedestrian brain, it’s little short of genius.
The story itself I found intriguing if not riveting. The weaving in of ancient Greek mythology was a plus. My only real complaint was discovering that this book is a set-up for a sequel, with one thread in particular left dangling that I’m quite eager to see stitched up.
Guess I’ll just have to get in line for the next one. If this book’s anything to go on, I know I’ll not be disappointed.
Thanks to Berkley Books for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: What other authors do you know whose prose contains a certain irrepressible energy?