Title: The Curiosity Keeper
Author: Sarah E. Ladd
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc. [Trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc.]
Format: E-Book, 338 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Historical Thriller, Christian Fiction
Price: $11.99 [Kindle], $20.91 [Audible], $16.99 [Barnes and Noble Paperback], $11.99 [Nook], $24.99 [Barnes and Noble Audio CD], $11.99 [Google Play], $11.99 [Apple Books], $19.99 [Apple Books Audiobook]
“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.
The year is 1812 and Regency England is in full swing. Just the year before, famous authoress Jane Austen debuted with her breakout novel of Sense & Sensibility and in 1813, she would go on to publish the highly-esteemed Pride & Prejudice. Regency Era England was called thus based simply on the fact that King George III was considered not fit to rule and it was his son, also named George (later known as George IV) who took up the mantle of ruler in his father’s place. This time saw many fantastic poets, known as the Romantic Poets, such as Byron, Keats, Shelley, and Wordsworth. They wrote a plethora splendid pieces that had to do with nature, fantasy, and the supernatural.
In this time, fashions women wore completely transformed. All throughout the eighteenth century, women wore the rigid heavily-brocaded gowns with many petticoats and powdered wigs. Regency era England found inspiration from old Grecian statues with the cloth draped naturally over the human body. The women of this era wore gowns that were considered empire-waistline and which for the first time in a long time, honored the natural shape of the body. The Victorian women decades later would be scandalized by the muslin dresses worn by their mothers and grandmothers, choosing to wear dresses with many layers that were considered more “modest.”
The year 1812 saw a great deal of conflict between various European powers. Great Britain dealt with the upstart Napoleon Bonaparte who seemed to set a good deal of Western Europe ablaze with his empire. On the other hand, the War of 1812 began in the newly-formed United States of America, causing the already terrible relationship between two nations to worsen altogether. World-famous composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky decades later wrote the infamous 1812 Overture in honor of his native Russia successfully repelling Napoleon’s forces.
Camille Iverness lives with her father in a curiosity shop [Iverness Curiosity Shop] on Blinkett Street in London. The daily minutiae of Camille’s life revolves around the operation of this shop while her father happens to vanish for days at a time, meeting with buyers. Camille is used to being firm and strong, a lot of the time dealing with those who are clearly unhappy with her father, a man who is known for his terrible reputation. James Iverness seems altogether to be a shadowy figure looming in the background while the dark-haired Camille is front and center.
Elsewhere in England, there is a young man by the name of Jonathan Gilchrist and his family harbors a great secret. His own father, Ian Gilchrist has lost his most treasured possession, a great ruby known as the Bevoy. It is a controversial stone that is known for either cursing or blessing its possessor. Moreover, the entire Gilchrist fortune, which was so carelessly squandered by Ian Gilchrist in decades past, is now dependent on the great ruby. Jonathan, who is heir to the Gilchrist fortune and Kettering Hall, is charged by his father with the mission of tracking down the Bevoy himself. To add insult to injury, Jonathan’s sister, Penelope Gilchrist hopes to wed her betrothed, Alfred Dowden. If Alfred discovers Penelope’s family’s penurious state, it is very likely that he will break things off with her and it will lessen her desirability as a potential wife. In short, everything is highly dependent on uncovering the Bevoy.
In his search for the Bevoy, Jonathan enlists the help of Henry Darbin, an investigator who was a childhood friend of his deceased older brother, Thomas Gilchrist. Darbin seems to be diligent in his work and the two men seem to trace the trail to the shop where the Bevoy was originally procured, the Iverness Curiosity Shop. One night, however, while the two men are watching the shop, they witness the young Camille who is accosted by another man, a Mr. McCready. It is clear from the dialogue that transpires that Mr. McCready intends to buy the Bevoy, and seeing that it isn’t there, he wounds Camille in the arm. Our handsome hero, Jonathan cannot stand by as a helpless woman is hurt, so he swoops in and takes Camille into his care.
What follows is a dark, twisted mystery that leads from the sinister alleyways of London to the open countryside around Gilchrist’s own Kettering Hall. Camille is taken in by the Gilchrist family, who suspect that she may be harboring a secret about the Bevoy, and eventually applies for a post at the Fellsworth School. The superintendent of the school, Edward Langsby soon hires Camille as a junior teacher and, while at the school, she happens to run into the fair-haired but handsome Mr. Gilchrist several times.
From start to finish, The Curiosity Keeper was an absolute dream. I confess that I couldn’t quite put it down. The characters were rich with their flaws (I like a good character flaw), their dreams, and their goals. It was a mystery that quickly drew me in and was so fascinating that I felt like I was there in the story with Miss Iverness as she worked in the curiosity shop or along on the ride with Mr. Gilchrist in his desperate search for the Bevoy. For that reason, I give this book five stars. The author did a fantastic job by constantly keeping me guessing and providing a wealth of dialogue from the various characters. I want to point out that I did not see the end coming at all and that there were a few good twists to keep things exciting. All-in-all, a jewel of a read.
What is the Bevoy all about?
In the book, it is whispered that the Bevoy, a mysterious ruby in the possession of the Gilchrist family could either be blessed or cursed. Essentially, the Bevoy is at the very center of the story — the single most important object that everything surrounds. If it wasn’t for the Bevoy, Camille would never have met the kind and handsome Mr. Gilchrist. Aside from it being central to the plot, it imbues the story with a subtle supernatural aura. When the Gilchrist family loses the Bevoy, they do whatever they can to recover it, especially on account of it being the most valuable possession that they own. If one looks back in history, one will find that rubies oftentimes played a very important part in ancient as well as medieval life. The royals have always worn and still continue to wear rubies.