To start off, I will say this will be an incredibly biased review because this is one of my favourite books of all time, and Loretta Chase is one of my favourite authors ever.
Rupert Carsington is a bit of a loveable disaster. Wherever he goes, trouble follows. He’s a bit of a bumbling idiot, but he is smarter than he appears to be, it’s just that he seems to find himself in one scrape or another no matter what he does. He’s the kind of man that would have anyone in the family throw their hands up in despair and look up at the heavens wondering why they were forced to have such a child, even if he’s so earnest, and by God, he really tries, so they love him anyway. However, as the fourth son of an earl who is pretty much tired of dealing with him, he’s been sent to Egypt to “assist the consul” in diplomatic matters so that he can prove himself useful. Somehow.
Daphne Pembroke is the widow of a rich (presumably fat) old man whom she married at 19 because he was a scholar and she wanted to explore her scholarly passions. Daphne is a genius. She speaks a shitload of languages, half of them dead, is an encyclopaedia of Egyptian knowledge and somehow has made a bit of a breakthrough in understanding hieroglyphics, which no one has been able to do before. The only catch with this is that she’s a woman, of course, and this being an era where women aren’t supposed to be smart enough to do anything, she has to pretend that she doesn’t, using her brother Miles as a front, who acts as the supposed scholar—which eventually gets them into more trouble then they bargained for.
Miles, Daphne’s brother, sees a really interesting looking papyrus in a dodgy shop somewhere in Cairo. He buys it and takes it home to her to see if it’s really worth the money. Subsequently, Miles gets kidnapped and, shortly after, someone breaks into their house to steal the papyrus. Daphne goes to the British consul for help and is given Rupert, who has just got himself into trouble again defending a poor beaten up Egyptian from the Turkish guard.
Rupert is told to humour her and assist somehow in the investigation as the British Consul believes that her brother is just wandering around and has found himself lost in a brothel somewhere. It soon becomes clear that there is a nefarious plot in the works, involving hieroglyphics and a race between the English and the French over who can amass more Egyptian antiquities. Daphne—declaring herself the brain with Rupert as the brawn—gets swept up in an adventure way beyond her usual bookish pursuits.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I’m sure you can tell by now that I’m fond of adventure. And while this wasn’t quite of Indiana Jones proportions–which is okay, because I didn’t like the last movie—it flowed along quite nicely, and the intricacies of the plot tied together to make a cohesive and entertaining story. All the secondary characters were given good page allotment, and all the little storylines came together in the end to fit with the main plot.
Chase is known for her witty dialogue and the repartee between the characters is wonderful. Rupert’s tongue-in-cheek exchange with Daphne fits his personality as a character, especially when he says things in his often deadpan but unassuming way, leading Daphne to realise—as we readers already know—that there is more to him than meets the eye. And as Rupert is not just a bumbling, giant, brainless, feckless idiot, neither is Daphne just the bookish intellectual intent on making great discoveries in Egyptian scholarship. She is a rich character full of motivations and hidden desires, which Chase does well to convey throughout the book as you watch Daphne grow as a character to become more of what she wants to be, whether she knows it or not.
The relationship between Rupert in Daphne is just lovely. This book is on my keeper shelf and every time I read it, it never fails to make me sigh and smile. Their relationship, starting from its inauspicious beginnings in, of all places, an Egyptian jail where Daphne bargains Rupert’s release price down to the price of a camel, sets the tone for the rest of their relationship: unconventional, amusing, unexpected but sweet. Despite both their valiant efforts to avoid falling into it, they do, without really realising it either. The development of their relationship flows so smoothly it’s almost like it was just there, and that it always was, and that it was always meant to be. The sex scenes are also really hot but sweet.
I could go on and on about how much I love this book, but I think that this is enough rhapsodising for now. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good book. I routinely lend or recommend this to friends who have just started reading romance or want to give it a try, or even hardened romance readers, and no one has ever come to me disappointed. (If you are, I want to know why! Or at least tell me what your other favourite Loretta Chase is, because usually you like something better instead!)
Chase has taught me that you can have a well-researched, well-written book with enough detail but that doesn’t detract from the plot or overwhelm. That you can have, as its basis, the simplest of stories—take two characters, bring them together and just watch them fall in love—while everything is still going on and moving forward. I can’t say enough about this book, so for now I’ll just end here and leave it up to you to give it a try.
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Dymocks | Ever After | Fishpond | Intrigue | Rendezvous | Romance Direct | Romantic Reflections | Siren | The Nile | More
EBOOKS: Books On Board | Dymocks | eBooks.com | Fictionwise | Kindle
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository