Desert Isle Keeper
I’ve been meaning to pick up one of M.J. Rose’s novels for the past couple of years, but I always seemed to get distracted by other books. But when I learned her latest novel, Cartier’s Hope, was set in early 1900’s New York, I moved it to the top of my TBR list, and I’m so glad I did!
Vera Garland is leading anything but a conventional life. She’s thirty-two and has absolutely no interest in making a good match and settling into a life of motherhood and society gossip. Instead, she longs to be a successful journalist, someone whose work is taken seriously beyond the weekly gossip column she’s been writing for years. Her family is pretty well-off, so Vera has created a separate identity she slips into while she’s working, and she goes to great lengths to keep her two lives completely separate from one another.
When the story opens, Vera’s father has recently passed away, and she is faced with the difficult task of sorting through his personal papers and putting his affairs in order. The two were extremely close, so Vera is understandably devastated by his loss. As she’s going through the desk in his study, she runs across what appears to be a suicide note written by someone with a secret connection to her father. Vera is determined to get to the bottom of her father’s hidden past and get justice for a series of wrongs hinted at in the note.
At around the same time, Vera begins hearing rumors that the legendary Hope diamond, a beautiful stone believed to bring bad luck to anyone who touches it, has recently shown up in the city. She’s long been intrigued by the stories surrounding the stone, and so she comes up with a plan that could help her achieve all of her dreams, a plan that puts her life in danger even as it presents her with the opportunity to claim a deep and abiding love she never thought she’d find.
Cartier’s Hope is brimming with period detail; the author has a definite knack for bringing the past to life on the page. She manages to capture not only the glitter and gaiety of the upper classes, but the extreme poverty that existed in the city as well. Through Vera’s eyes, the reader is privy to life in Gilded Age New York, and I was enchanted from start to finish.
I liked Vera from pretty much the beginning of the novel. She’s passionate about her beliefs and wants desperately to make a positive difference in the lives of those less fortunate than herself. Unfortunately, she doesn’t always go about this in the right way, but I never doubted that her heart was in the right place. She’s a little too idealistic at times, but as the story progresses and she learns some difficult truths, her world view does change for the better.
The romance isn’t the novel’s central focus, but the author does a good job weaving it into the story arc in a way that feels completely authentic. Vera and her love interest are both keeping some big secrets from one another, and I did get a little exasperated by Vera’s unwillingness to come clean once she realized she was in love. Fortunately, the author was able to help me understand Vera’s reluctance so the secrets were only a minor annoyance in what is otherwise a strong and compelling story.
If you like your romances mixed with complicated mysteries and vibrant historical settings, you should check out Cartier’s Hope as soon as you can. It’s a gem of a book, one whose characters will remain with me for a long time to come.