There are a few things you can always count on with a Deanna Raybourn novel: a plucky heroine, stellar dialogue, wonderful descriptions, copious amounts of wit, a smouldering romance and a bit of history to ground it all in reality. City of Jasmine (★★★★) has all of that, as well as a textbook MacGuffin to keep the plot moving forward through the Syrian desert in 1920. Raybourne's greatest achievement might be always making me want to visit whatever setting she's selling. Since vacationing to Syria isn't an option right now, I'll just round up some friends and head to the hooka bar down the street. What I loved most about City of Jasmine, though, were the little connections to her Lady Julia Grey series, as well as her Africa novel, A Spear of Summer Grass. I can get easily bored by a series - the same characters doing the same thing over and over - but connecting her books through past characters (Tarquin March from Lady Julia, Ryder from A Spear of Summer Grass) gives readers the series they crave while keeping the characters, plots and settings fresh. Plus, sussing out all of the connections is like hunting for little Easter eggs. If I'm not much mistaken, Raybourn obliquely mentioned Nicholas Brisbane in the City of Jasmine denouement. These little tidbits make me want to go back and re-read her previous novels to see what other connections there might be. (It is also going to drive me crazy if I don't figure out how old Julia and Brisbane would be in 1920. Are they still alive? For someone who hates math, I am constantly trying to figure out ages and dates in novels. It makes my head hurt, but it weirdly makes me love a novel more.)
If I had one complaint, and this is a complaint I have for almost all Historical Fiction novels: there wasn't a map! Publishers listen up: It should be the Golden Rule of Historical Fiction to include maps, especially in novels where there's a journey. Please?
In short, if you are looking for a fun read with enjoyable characters doing adventurous things in lush settings, you can never go wrong with a Deanna Raybourn novel and City of Jasmine fits the bill nicely.
(I received an Advanced Reader Copy of City of Jasmine through a contest on Raybourn's blog.)