Egypt

Book Adventures in Egypt!

Today, Jaclyn, our friend Koren and I have teamed up to bring you our Top Ten Favorite Adventures in Egypt. Mystery, history, and romance backed by lush and exciting scenery. So, if you’ve ever wanted to go to Egypt, or you’ve been, and you miss it, or even if you just want to read about an exotic, historical locale this summer… check out one of these books!

Jaclyn’s picks

The Other Guy's Bride (Braxtons 32)

The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway. If you enjoyed The Mummy at all, you will find this historical romance an absolute fantastic adventure. This book is funny and romantic and exactly how I fantasize an Egyptian adventure would unfold. This one likely isn’t the most historically accurate of the bunch, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Shadows on the Nile

Shadows on the Nile by Kate Furnivall. Although I read this one quite some time ago, it has continued to stay with me. It’s set just after the first world war and has more of a mystery element to it. Quite a bit of the novel actually takes place in London, England, but I loved seeing the heroine’s reaction to traveling to Egypt.

Resurrection

Resurrection by Tucker Malarkey. Is another Egyptian adventure that’s similar to Shadows on the Nile. However, the novel is set completely in Egypt. What I liked about this one is that readers are treated to a more involved look at colonial life in Egypt. Again, there’s a dash of mystery here, but on the whole, Resurrection is much more introspective.

The Sacred River

The Sacred River by Wendy Wallace. I recently reviewed this one and I recommend it if you’re looking for a quieter adventure. While on the surface this one is an adventure to Egypt for three very different women, this journey is a metaphor for the internal transformation that each woman goes through. This one is beautifully written.

Koren’s picks

Memoirs of Cleopatra

Memoirs of Cleopatra: This is a long haul, but worth it. A dying Cleopatra recounts her life following her personal and political struggles (sometimes one and the same) up until her suicide. George paints a brilliant, detailed picture of Egyptian court life and politics during this period, from the relationships between the pharaohs to the strengthening hold of Rome over the country. If you really want to get to know Cleopatra, Memoirs does a great job of connecting the reader with the famous pharaoh.

The October Horse: A Novel of Caesar and Cleopatra (Masters of Rome #6)

The October Horse is the sixth book in McCullough’s Masters of Rome series and though the title suggests this is the story of Caesar and Cleopatra, that is only a portion of the book. It also covers Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination, as well as the rise of Octavian. Cleopatra and Caesar’s relationship is a different than what is usually portrayed – it is a lot more calculated (on his part) and Cleopatra comes off as more of a girl in love than a “sex-pot” set on securing her own power. McCullough makes ancient history so readable. She’s able to take oft-dry topics of ancient politics and military campaigns and makes them come alive.

The Queen of the Damned (The Vampire Chronicles #3)

The Queen of the Damned is the third book in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Akasha, the titular “Queen of the Damned”, is an ancient Egyptian queen who is cursed to become the mother of vampires. I love Rice’s vampires – sparkly they ain’t – and this origin story is fascinating.

The Red Tent

The Red Tent is the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah (and Rachel, and Zilpah, and Bilhah). Through the teaching of Rachel and others, Dinah becomes a skilled midwife. Her life takes her into Egypt where, unknown to her, her brother Joseph (of the technicolor dreamcoat) is prime minister. There’s only a brief mention of Dinah in the Bible, but Diamant has fleshed out her story so that we have a vivid picture of the lives of women in the ancient world.

Stacey’s picks

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Mara, Daughter of the Nile is an enchanting ancient historical romance about a proud, determined young slave named Mara. In her quest for freedom, she becomes a double agent, spying for two masters – and finds herself falling in love with one of them. I loved this quick, evocative tale that brought to life not only this clever young slave, but also the world of ancient Egypt. Marked as, and written for, young adults, it works equally well for adults.

The Beacon at Alexandria

The Beacon at Alexandria features a woman who disguises herself as a man to enter a “man’s” profession, travels to Alexandria and moves on to become a doctor on the Roman war front in Thrace. It is a wonderful tale that will surely please historical fiction fans. Bonus: it covers ancient Roman history and the war with the Visigoths.

 Honorable Mentions (by Stacey)

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

Twelve Rooms of the Nile – the fictional tale of a passionate meeting between Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert as they both travel down the Nile. Based in fact – they both traveled up the Nile at the same time – it weaves in a beautiful story of how they might have met and become soulmates. I’ve only read part of this one, but what I did read had wonderful imagery and great, boating-on-the-Nile pace.

Cleopatra and Antony

I haven’t read Cleopatra and Antony yet, but it appeals to me because the focus (even in the title) is (supposedly) on Cleopatra. This is a historical nonfiction, about the life and times of Cleopatra, Octavian, Caesar, and Antony. Have you read this? Did you like it? What were your impressions?

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Journey Down the Nile in ‘The Sacred River’

17729563The Sacred River by Wendy Wallace
Scribner, July 4, 2014 (Historical)*

My Rating: I’d go there again (4/5)

The Sacred River was a lovely historical novel, beautifully written, and totally evocative of colonial Egypt. It was a somber novel, filled with the themes of death; however, it ends with rebirth, bringing a sense of hope to the final chapters.

The novel focuses on a short period for three very different, but related women. First, we have Harriet Heron, a young woman, who has been bedridden for most of her life due to asthma. When her doctor hints that there’s very little that he can do for her, Harriet begs him to recommend to her parents that she should travel to a warmer climate to help her breathing. Harriet has long had a fascination with Egypt and would love to explore the city of Thebes before she dies.

Harriet’s mother, Louisa, is convinced that traveling to Egypt will help her daughter so she cautiously takes on the adventure without the accompaniment of her husband. What Louisa doesn’t count on is the resurrection of her past during the journey. A past she desperately doesn’t want anyone to kow about.

Lastly, Louisa’s sister-in-law and Harriet’s aunt, Yael, is also joining the ladies on the journey to Egypt. Yael is the last person to ever want to go on a spontaneous adventure, but her brother insists and Yael finds herself growing in the foreign city in an unexpected way. A staunch charity worker and devout woman, Yael finds herself learning much about the city and gaining a sense of freedom that she’s never before experienced. (more…)

Egyptian Adventure in ‘The Other Guy’s Bride’

11292879The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway
Montlake Romance, December 11, 2011 (Historical Romance)

My Rating: Outstanding adventure!

The Other Guy’s Bride was an absolute delight and I am so glad that I picked it up. I was intrigued by the Egyptian setting, so I ended up getting it inter-library loaned, since my library didn’t have a copy. It was worth the effort. This also happened to be my first time reading Connie Brockway, and as a huge historical romance fan, I have to wonder why? This was excellent!

Ginesse Braxton is the daughter of very famous parents in the archeological world, and I suppose this world is very small in 1905. Ginesse has always felt out of place and has the unfortunate ability to attract trouble everywhere she goes. On her return to Egypt Ginesse is determined to make her own mark and become know as someone other than a trouble maker or just a member of the large Braxton clan. Ginesse thinks she’s found her ticket in the lost city of Zerzura, which she aims to discover.  However, Ginesse has no idea how to get there. Ginesse needs a guide, and she’ll get one by impersonating Miss Mildred Whimpelhall, who will be met in Cario by Jim Owens, hired by Mildred’s fiance as an escort. Of course, Ginesse’s disguise is complicated when she starts to develop feelings for the rough maybe-American.

Jim Owens has been living in North Africa since giving up his claim to his inheritance and having his heart broken by a woman he loved. Since then Jim has been living as a jack-of-all-trades, which sometimes includes being a grave robber: this does not help his reputation. Due to a debt of honour, Jim finds himself the guide of a very impetuous, impulsive and inquisitive young lady and he finds himself completely riveted by her. Because Jim is an honourable man, he has no intention of doing anything about his growing feelings because Mildred (aka Ginesse) is already spoken for. However, dangerous circumstances force them to rely on one another and both are confronted by their feelings for one another.

I loved this Egyptian adventure! As soon as I started reading, I was reminded of the movie, The Mummy, which has to be one of my favourites of all time. Both Jim and Ginesse are very much like the main characters of the movie, Rick and Evie. So if you like movie, this one will definitely appeal. Both Jim and Ginesse were great characters and their interaction were funny and moving. I liked how quickly Jim fell for Ginesse and how he became accustomed to the trouble that constantly followed her:

The pistol shot rang out across the desert floor, and Pomfrey’s soldiers dove for cover, including Neely, their grizzled lieutenant.

On the far side of the camp, Miss Whimpelhall started and looked down at the newly minted hole in the sand beside her and at what remained of the large, yellowish scorpion that had been sitting in it a second earlier. Then she looked at the rock in her hand, the one she’d just lifted from the same place.

“I fear I am once more in your debt, Mr. Owens,” she said, her voice shaking a bit,

“Think nothing of it,” Jim said, calmly replacing his pistol in its shoulder holster and leaning back on his bedroll. He no longer got rattled at having to shoot things, climb things, chase things, or dive into things to snatch her back from the precipices she seemed always to be leaning over. It was all in the day’s work. (p. 115-116)

Jim is probably the only one to feel calm about the mishaps that Ginesse finds herself in and simply accepts it as the way of things. I really liked this acceptance element of the story and just simply showed how nice Jim was as a character. It was refreshing to have just a nice guy as the male lead in a historical. I know we all like the rake character, but there’s something rather sweet about having someone totally ordinary get the girl. Not that Jim was that ordinary (he was a secret Earl, after all), but he was just a nice guy that wanted to do what’s best for the woman he loved, even if he was a little bit of a blockhead about. It just wouldn’t be romancelandia without these complications.

Ginesse was also a lovely character, and her continued troubles were rather amusing. What I really liked about Ginesse was that she was a character with depth. She starts off as a naive and impulsive young woman who doesn’t really think through her actions, but I think by the end she’s learned to be more comfortable in her own skin and it was nice to see this kind of development.

The setting was also totally awesome. I really enjoy stories set in Egypt during this period (see my review for Daughter of the God-King from last week) and I really felt that the setting was well conveyed by Brockway. The Egyptian desert wasn’t just set dressing, it was believable and I enjoyed all the other details about life for the British in Egypt at this time. This detail made The Other Guy’s Bride more than just a historical romance, it was an adventure story and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Now that I’ve raved about The Other Guy’s Bride I will immediately have to seek out more of Brockway’s novels because clearly I’ve been missing out in my historical romance reading. The to-read pile grows larger every day, but it’s not something I really feel I need to complain about.

Read-Alikes:

Shadows on the NileResurrectionCrocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1)The Map of Lost MemoriesThe Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1)

Shadow on the Nile: A great mystery set in England and Egypt, although it’s not as heavy on the romance, there are some similar elements.

Resurrection: Also set in Cario; however, it’s set a little later, in the 1940s. The setting is great, but the romance is fairly subdued, but would appeal to those intrigued by Egypt during this time.

Crocodile on the Sandbank: Pure mystery, but we have a great Egyptian setting and an archeological mystery. Amelia Peabody also reminds me somewhat of Ginesse, probably a similar take-charge attitude.

The Map of Lost Memories: I have to admit that I haven’t read this one, but it looks very similar. Close in time period, lady archeologist trying to prove herself, a hint of romance. Looks to be set in Cambodia, but I’m intrigued.

Pink Carnation Series: I’m throwing this series on her because the modern story involving Eloise reminds me of Ginesse, although the actual mystery and spy stories are considerably lighter fare.

Egyptian Adventure – with Spies! in ‘Daughter of the God-King’

17683788Daughter of the God-King by Anne Cleeland
Soucebooks Landmark, November 5, 2013 (Historical Fiction)*

My Rating: Beach Vacation

Daughter of the God-King is my second encounter with Anne Cleeland, my first being Murder in Thrall. These two novels couldn’t be more different, especially considering Murder in Thrall was a contemporary murder-mystery. But, in Daughter of the God-King we will have some of those same elements of intrigue; in this case, they just happen to be set in Egypt during the Napoleonic Wars.

Hattie Blackhouse has had it with her famous parents leaving her behind in the English countryside while they travel the ruins of Egypt. Hattie’s not all that interested in ancient Egypt, but she is interested in having an adventure. With that in mind, Hattie and her unflappable companion, Bing, travel to Paris never guessing that it will lead to an impromptu trip to Egypt, while on the run from some overly solicitous suitors and dangerous men. Of course, Hattie does not mind when the mysterious and handsome Berry seems to be following along as well. As long as you’re being followed by a handsome spy, your worries are apparently non-existent.

When in Egypt Hattie learns things about the parents that she never really knew. But, the attention it is a revelation that she is getting from everyone – the British, the French, the Egyptians. They all want something from Hattie, a secret that her parents were apparently killed for. The mysterious Berry assures Hattie that he will protect her, but she wonders if she can really trust him despite her growing feelings for him. But can Hattie trust anyone else? It becomes clear that she didn’t know her parents at all. Her childhood friend is clearly out for the information she can provide rather than supporting her as a friend. The only person Hattie truly seems to be able to rely on is her companion, Bing.

I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I loved the setting. I think this colonial period is fascinating (terrible, but interesting). The fact that the British and French could just come into a country and essentially rob its graves for their museums is hard to comprehend. Although, the practice certainly continues into present day, throwing controversy into the museum world when the public finds out. If you’re interested in the facts behind this, I would recommend Chasing Aphrodite, a very interesting look at the dubious practices of the Getty Museum. While I find this an interesting read, archeological practices are not the focus of Daughter of the God-King, rather the focus is on the spies and Hattie’s questionable family history. I also thought it was very interesting how the Egyptian setting was incorporated into the novel as there was a very specific reason why events came to a head in Egypt. I won’t go into the details since it would spoil the big reveal, but I will say that it wasn’t something I was expecting.

I had an issue with the romance aspect. I liked that this was included, and it certainly wasn’t a romance novel, but I had a problem with how it was conveyed. It just didn’t sit right with me. The entire novel is from Hattie’s point of view and we are continually told by her that Berry is attracted to her:

She did not respond immediately, thinking that it was almost amusing – he was setting up a mighty resistence to the attraction that leapt between them, the intense awareness that made him lose his train of thought while the breath caught in her throat. (p.46).

Hattie is always saying that Berry is attracted to her, but I felt that something was missing in their interactions because I never really believed that Berry was attached to Hattie. Rather than making me believe there was a relationship there, I felt more that Hattie was just being conceited and reading more into the situation than was warranted. Ultimately, I was looking for a better romance and I think it could have been stronger if we got something from Berry’s point of view, especially because he was such a mysterious character. Without actually knowing how Berry felt, I still wonder if Berry was manipulating Hattie for his own ends rather than having an emotional attachment to her.

While the romance aspect didn’t live up to my expectations, I still like the intrigue and mystery that kept me guessing till the end. I read the book fairly quickly and enjoyed the pace. If you’re looking for more of light historical mystery, I would recommend this one. It’s got a little bit of everything without being overly complicated.

*Review copy provided via NetGalley.

Read-Alikes:

Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest MuseumSilent in the Grave (Lady Julia, #1)The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1)

Chasing Aphrodite: The real story behind the looting of foreign countries for those showstoppers in Western museums. Focuses more on Italian and Grecian artifacts, but the impact would have been similar in Egypt.

Silent in the Grave: The style of writing reminds me of Cleeland’s, as does the amateur sleuth Lady Julia. Brisbane’s also another mysterious character, just like Hattie’s Berry.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation: The tone here is quite a bit sillier; however, there’s something about the heroine, Amy, that reminds me of Hattie. The Pink Carnation series is also set in the same period as Daughter of the God-King.

Intrigue in Egypt in ‘Shadows on the Nile’

17165591Shadows on the Nile by Fate Furnival*
Berkley Trade, October 1, 2013 (Historical Fiction / Mystery)
Rating: I’d Go There Again

Shadows on the Nile is a mystery set in 1932 London and Egypt. Jessica Kenton’s stable life is threatened when her younger brother, Timothy, vanishes. Jessica is charged with finding her brother, never dreaming that it will take her to exotic Egypt. Along the way, Jessica gains the “help” of impoverished aristocrat, Monty, who has his own motives for getting involved. On the trail for her brother, Jessica finds herself with more trouble than she bargained for and her family’s closely held secret will be revealed.

This was my first Furnivall novel and I loved it! The novel was very atmospheric and I loved the transition from London to Egypt and the contrast that these two made. The mystery was revealed slowly and at times I was frustrated at the pacing, but it never made me want to put the book down. Within Jessica’s narrative we also have interludes by what starts out as a mysterious voice, which we later learn is Jessica’s “true” brother. While I liked the writing style in her brother’s voice I did think it hampered the pacing a little bit. The storyline with Jessica’s “real” brother also seemed like a little bit of an awkward addition to the mystery and I have mixed feelings about its inclusion.

I also liked the romance aspect to the book, it was never the centre of the story, but added another layer to the central mystery plot. Monty was a rather ambiguous character, making it difficult to understand his motives for helping Jessica. What’s never in question is Monty’s feelings towards Jessica, but readers are kept in suspense as to whether or not Monty is the “good guy.” I liked the addition of this relationship and I think it will appeal to readers who want a more character-driven novel.

The time period in which Shadows on the Nile was set is what really made this book for me. I find Egypt in the 1930s to be extremely interesting period since it’s characterized as a time of exploration and cultural pillage. I liked that Furnivall addressed the moral ambiguity of British citizens removing Egyptian artifacts without permission. It’s an interesting period and to be honest, completely reminds me of the movie, The Mummy – minus the whole supernatural dead rising from the grave to wreak havoc on the city. Since I loved that movie, I felt predisposed to enjoy Shadows on the Nile. While Shadows did not have any supernatural elements to it, the atmospheric historical setting really appealed to me.

Overall, I loved the mystery, the historical setting and the dash of romance that rounded out this novel, which is saying something since I’m very picky about my historical fiction.

*e-ARC provided by Edelweiss

Read-Alikes (click on any of the following images to be taken to that book’s Goodreads description):

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1)ResurrectionJasmine NightsThe Dressmaker