20 July 2015

Review: The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah Ladd

Amazon Book Description

“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 whoever 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. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille must allow a mysterious stranger to come to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content to work as the 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 be the answer to his many questions.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, these two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, they will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

My Review

The Curiosity Keeper is set during the Regency, a period I usually love, but there was nothing especially Regency about it—it could have been set at any time in nineteenth century England. There was nothing especially Regency in either the setting, the characters, or the plot—in fact, the central plot device of the missing Bevoy ruby seemed more gothic Victorian than Regency. In hindsight, this may have contributed to the general feeling of malaise I felt while reading: while it was a perfectly sound novel, with no obvious defects, I didn’t find it especially original or interesting.

Sarah Ladd won the 2011 Genesis Award for her first novel, The Heiress of Winterwood, and I very much enjoyed that and its two sequels. But The Curiosity Keeper, first in her new Treasures of Surrey series, fell flat for me. The writing was solid, but nothing sparkled. It all felt a little contrived, and I found it difficult to relate to either Camille or Jonathan. Camille was too passive for someone who was supposed to be intelligent (and if she really was that clever, why hadn’t she worked out the truth behind her family and their shop?). Jonathan was the second son who had no interest in stepping into his unwanted inheritance. And they both had fathers most charitably described as imperfect … perhaps too imperfect.

Overall, The Curiosity Keeper was unmemorable, at least for me. Perhaps a little too much Jane Eyre, and not enough Jane Austen.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sarah Ladd at her website.

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