Daughter of the God-King
The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz have always been guilty pleasures for me. Granted, the story line isn’t brilliant nor the acting critically acclaimed. The history undoubtedly has its flaws. But the story is so fun, the characters so charming that I can’t help but love them. This book captures the spirit of fun and charm in those films and brings us a story of Egyptian tombs and diabolical deeds from a fresh perspective.
Miss Hathor (Hattie) Blackhouse has had her fill of Cornwall and now that she is eighteen intends to start living her life. A bit of travel. A bit of adventure. A bit more of the life her famous parents, who are renowned Egyptologists, have been enjoying while Hattie rusticates in the country. Her only solace has been her neighbors, the Tremaines, who have included her in all their escapades. Even that has been gone lately though. Robbie Tremaine joined the Foreign Office and spends much of his time doing what she longs to. Since well-bred young ladies do not gallivant all over creation unescorted she drags her faithful companion Miss Bing to Paris, determined to talk friend Robbie into marrying her.
The trip proves rather eventful. Someone tries to break into her parents’ Paris apartment and Hattie is forced to push him down the steps. After crashing a party just to see Robbie she discovers him engaged to someone else. She then encounters an ardent (elderly) admirer while at the same time seeing the man she so recently shoved down a set of stairs lurking about the party. Escaping out the window with the faithful Bing in tow lands her into the arms of a (very attractive) gentleman named Mr. Daniel Berry who claims to be her parent’s agent and warns her of grave danger. After some mild flirtation (helping her from the window has given him an excellent chance to peek up her skirts), he hails her a cab, assuring both her and Miss Bing he will call on them in the morning. Carefully alighting from the cab after her eventful day, Hattie turns to pay the driver and has her purse snatched.
Realizing that her humble self would never draw this level of attention she concludes something is going on with her parents. She is right. They are missing, presumed dead. It is believed that the most recent grave they were excavating, possibly that of a significant princess, contained a secret chamber with a hidden treasure. Everyone is convinced Hattie holds the secret to the location of that treasure. Hattie is convinced she better hightail it to Egypt and find her missing parents.
After escaping a not so subtle attempt at kidnapping Hattie and Bing are able to sail away secretly on the Sophia. Or not so secretly. Mr. Berry has followed them, a man who quite charms Hattie but whom she is also quite certain is lying regarding ever having worked for her parents. Yet more fun filled misadventures ensue with the upshot being that Hattie now finds herself in Egypt, the sole holder to the clues that can lead her to the treasure and the truth about her parents. But all the players she had escaped from in France have followed her to Egypt. And several of them are willing to kill to gain her secrets.
The first few pages of this novel had me a bit afraid I had just signed up to spend 300 pages with a TSTL heroine but I was delighted to be proved wrong. While Hattie does have some TSTL moments she is, for the most part, clever, resourceful and witty. She is youthful and exuberant but tempers it with a strong extinct for survival. I liked that she trusted herself and Bing to handle the problems thrown their way and that she took what seemed like tragedy and turned it to adventure. As a companion on an exciting and unexpected foray into danger you couldn’t ask for better than Hattie. Unless it was Bing.
Miss Bing allows her young charge to take the lead. She helps by shooting at the occasional overly zealous thief or procuring means of escape. Since Hattie does not share her parent’s love of all things Egyptian it is Bing who provides much of the knowledge needed to solve the ancient puzzles that serve as clues to the treasure. With her dry wit and ready efficiency Bing reminded me of the very best of British butlers, anticipating her charges needs before they even occurred.</p.
Daniel Berry, called Berry for most of the book, is our enigmatic hero. We know he is keeping some very big secrets but like Hattie, we simply can’t help falling for him anyway. He is the consummate gentleman, seducing with silken kisses, whispered endearments and tiny, titillating touches which send electric charges to his willing prey and leave her wanting for more. Even though he can’t tell Hattie everything that is happening he does his best to protect her even as he works to resolve the mystery. In fairness, Hattie catches on fairly quickly to the secrets and between her and Bing, they do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves and those around them.
I really enjoyed the romance here. It’s done through a seduction mixed with wit and intimacy and I found myself being swept off my feet as much as Berry or Hattie. I could see why each loved the other and having Robbie there as a contrast to familial love versus romantic love worked very well.
The mystery here is intriguing if not very complicated. The sheer number of players and the little reveals about Hattie and her family are what keep the game interesting. I also just loved the setting – while it wasn’t as detailed as it is in an Amelia Peabody adventure it was still used to good purpose and served as an appropriately chilling background to all that was going on.
Speaking of Amelia Peabody, the writing here reminded me very much of Elizabeth Peters and Gail Carringer – that sense of proper, British decorum mixed with a touch of the zany. While I like Ms. Carringer’s and Ms. Peters’ works just a bit more, this one still had enough of the sense of fun mixed with serious that I have come to treasure and it works as a nice substitute.
The novel had its flaws but that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying it. If you are a fan of The Mummy films or the works of Gail Carringer or Elizabeth Peters I would recommend giving this one a try.