The Curiosity Keeper
By Sarah E. Ladd
Nelson, Thomas, Inc., 2015
Camille Iverness has worked faithfully in her father’s curiosity shop, keeping it and him going ever since her mother left. She longs to leave the noise and stink of the city behind and return to the green countryside she remembers from her childhood, but someone has to be responsible and her father’s actions have been becoming increasingly irregular. One night, alone in the shop, she is attacked and injured by a knife-wielding man demanding information about the Bevoy, something she knows nothing about.
His only purpose for being in London is to recover a valuable ruby that has been stolen from his family and is rumored to be connected to James Iverness and his curiosity shop, but Jonathan Gilchrist can’t just stand by when a woman is threatened, even the daughter of the man he suspects is responsible for the theft.
Rescued from an untenable situation that continues to get worse and worse, Camille finds herself accompanying Mr. Gilchrist and his sister back to Kettering Hall, in search of a new position far from London. But are the Gilchrists merely pretending to care about her in order to coax information about the Bevoy ruby from her? Camille tries to put the past behind her and start a new life, but that is easier said than done when the mystery and danger surrounding the ruby continue to surprise her at every turn, culminating in a heart-breaking betrayal.
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The Curiosity Keeper is a pretty fast paced read, though the story line is rather predictable. None of the twists and surprises really caught me off guard, but it has a solid narrative with enough conflict and scandal to keep it moving. The theme deals primarily with class barriers and social expectations for men and women in early 1800 England.
Jonathan Gilchrist is an apothecary by trade, something that irks his wealthy, estate-holding father to no end. That he would prefer that profession over managing the family estate is a source of confusion and consternation to both the father and the spoiled sister. Jonathan has largely managed to avoid such responsibility thus far, but he gets guilt tripped into trying to recover the stolen Bevoy ruby because his father needs to pay down debts that will ruin them if not soon reconciled.
Camille is an independent young woman who wants to make her own way, and Jonathan likes that about her. She proves herself to be confident and competent, and of course it doesn’t hurt that she is also beautiful. Their courtship is a tumultuous one, confused by the pressure they both feel to find or give up information about the missing ruby, but in the end they both must choose between family loyalty and what they know is right.
Overall, I would recommend The Curiosity Keeper if you are looking for a fun, relaxing read that doesn’t make you work too hard.