This book has been compared in other reviews to the movie, The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. I enjoyed that movie, with the swashbuckling hero and sassy heroine; this book, not so much. Ginesse Braxton is the heroine here, and she is the progeny of renowned archeologist parents. She also has six younger brothers that are making their mark in the world, and she longs to be taken seriously as well. During her studies at Cambridge, she stumbles across some papers that convince her that a lost city of Zerzura exists in the Sahara, and that she needs to find it. There’s only one problem, she has no money to fund such an expedition on her own – and yet, she decides to hop on a ship to Cairo anyway. Along the way, a solution is presented to her in the form of Miss Mildred Whimplehall, a young woman travelling to meet her fiancé, Colonel Lord Pomfrey, in Egypt. Mildred is violently seasick and Ginesse convinces her to leave the ship at one of the other ports and take the train the rest of the way. In this way, Ginesse can impersonate Mildred and be taken to Fort Gordon, close to where she believes Zerzura to be located. She’ll have to deal with the fact she’s really not Mildred once she gets there, but that isn’t her top priority.
James Owens has been hired to escort Mildred to Fort Gordon, and he is described as “a cowboy and a ruffian of the highest order”. He is only taking this job to repay his debt to Colonel Pomfrey, and he’s not really looking forward to the task. After all, spending time with a meek spinster isn’t his thing as a soldier of fortune. Once he meets Ginesse, however, he quickly determines that she isn’t as meek and mild as he was led to believe. In fact, she is outspoken and somewhat of a jinx; disaster seems to follow her wherever she goes. Along the way, she nearly drowns, is almost stung by a scorpion and ends up captured by villains. He finds himself attracted to her, despite the fact she’s “the other guy’s bride” and does all he can to resist.
So they make this journey, with Ginesse still not fessing up about her true identity and James hiding a huge secret of his own. Some hints are dropped here and there about his past life, but you don’t get much information on that till later. Ginesse is attracted to James, but he really doesn’t meet her ideal of the romantic hero. After they are both captured, he makes a deal to trade her for an Arabian stallion in order to escape. She thinks he has abandoned her, but of course he’s just planning to sneak back and rescue her. This is the part that made me roll my eyes – he does manage to get into her tent while the bad guys are away from camp, and suddenly the sexy times happen. Like you really have time to indulge in having sex when you should be making your getaway? This happens in movies all the time too and it just doesn’t make sense. Ginny was a virgin up to that point, and he suddenly realizes that he should offer to marry her, of course. And he feels like crap because she’s supposedly engaged and here he’s seduced her. Still she doesn’t tell him the truth, and assures him that their interlude means nothing.
At this point, I was getting annoyed with Ginny. For one thing, she says she owns up to her mistakes, but she doesn’t really – she has a constant chip on her shoulder and believes that circumstances were just beyond her control. She continues to be stubborn, and even after her true identity is revealed, doesn’t waver from running off to find the lost city. She and James are at odds because she’s holding out for romance, and he’s not good at that. He loves her, but she can’t accept that at face value, she wants hearts and flowers and grand gestures. There’s even an incident after his true identity is revealed and he offers marriage again, because now he has “more horses to offer” and she punches him in the eye. She tries to hit him again another time, and I had to shake my head. True love is never easy, but violence is unacceptable. To me, it’s as bad as having the hero slap the heroine because she’s being silly – it’s wrong.
Ms. Brockway does a great job at describing the sights and sounds of Egypt, and many of the secondary characters were entertaining. The love scenes were few and far between, however. In the end, James fulfills her romantic ideals, but I never quite felt like they were ready for the happily ever after. Rating 2.5, rounded up to 3 here.