Book Review: The Curiosity Keeper

cover-thecuriositykeeperTitle: The Curiosity Keeper [Treasures of Surrey 1]

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

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.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll admit, I’m a huge fan of historical romances. There’s something about the dialog that flows like poetry and dances around what it really wants to say… the absurdity of the customs and societal rules the characters have to follow, the almost naïve way that even the harshest of characters is almost entirely oblivious to the more straight-forward romance that we’re used to that makes me giggle and cheer them on. Some of my favorite books have been historical, and this book was true to its genre.

The writing was clear and easy to follow. I didn’t run into any awkward sentences, typos, or niggling bits of modern prose that broke me out of the world of Camille Iverness and The Curiosity Keeper. I was sucked into the story from the very first page, and before I knew it, I was halfway into the book already. Technically speaking, this was an excellent read.

The characters were flawed, and sometimes gullible, but didn’t come across as weak or naïve as is prone to happen in a lot of historical novels—especially concerning the female lead. Camille wasn’t brash or crass, but she was able to stand on her own two feet. She wasn’t fearless, but nor was she meek. There was a nice balance of good-heartedness and sense of dignity to her character that I appreciated. Likewise, Jonathan was equal parts defiant and warm-hearted. He wasn’t the bravest of men, but he stood up for what he believed in. Together, Jonathan and Camille made an endearing couple.

The romance in this book was lukewarm—as happens in a lot of historical novels. It’s not the author’s fault… that’s just the way polite society worked in this era. People often “fell in love” and got married without barely speaking to each other, and so while I would have liked there to have been more steamy romance, I’m not going to fault the book for the lack of it. Even without the steamy bits, the understated romance of Jonathan and Camille made me want to cheer for them.

The mystery too was understated. I’ll admit, it was a bit predictable. It didn’t take me more than 5 minutes to figure out where the fabled Bevoy ruby was or why it was in that location to begin with. So while I did appreciate the mystery aspect of the plot, it wasn’t a major draw for me… and this is why this book got 4 stars from me, rather than 5.

As much as I liked the book, as well written as it seemed to be…. I wasn’t blown away. I wasn’t gripping the pages in anticipation of the mystery behind the Bevoy, and I wasn’t squealing in delight over the romance. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really good book—just not as engaging as I think it could have been. Overall, I really liked it, but I don’t know that I liked it enough to read it more than once every few years.

If you’re looking for a clean, historical romance with a little bit of mystery thrown in, you may just love this book. I certainly enjoyed it.

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