I requested this novel because I have a proper period fascination with Egypt, a country I have yet to see despite my time in nearby regions, and the description promised a fun frolic. Between the meddling of the three irrepressible old ladies cough lady travelers cough, and two honorable people having made shady decisions in their pasts or not so long ago, the book lived up to my every hope.
A clash between a treasure hunter turned serious Egyptologist Harry Armstrong and the little traveled but well studied Sidney Althea Gordon Honeywell forms the heart of this tale. Sidney never set out to deceive, but readers are ever deciding fiction must be nothing else but fact. Harry lashed out in a fit of pique when his writings were found wanting while hers were adored, and though he heartily regretted the compulsion, is too prideful to back down.
This brings Sidney (along with her three elderly companions) to the land that has owned her every dream for most of her adult life. There, she attempts to prove a falsehood not of her making based on second-hand knowledge and much of that two generations old. I enjoyed seeing Egypt through her eyes and laughed at Harry’s factual but jaded offerings.
Where I expected a romp with lively personalities, though, I did not anticipate the story showing glimpses of the true contradictions and complications of a country like Egypt. It dismissed many fanciful notions held by the Western world even today and made the visit feel tangible.
Then there are the lady travelers. If Sidney has a knack for deception, which by all accounts she does not, she earned it at the knees of her dearest friends. The trouble they get her into…and out of…makes for half of the fun.
Really, I don’t know what to say beyond a wholehearted recommendation. It’s not life altering though the story does raise questions to ponder. There are definite growth moments and times of self-reflection providing interesting fodder to those with similar traits. But most of all, it was a joy to read. I’ll miss hanging out with these characters and discovering whatever else they manage to get themselves mixed up in.
P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley and am delighted to offer my honest review.
P.P.S. Two other things I should mention: There’s a bit of a history dump for Harry in the beginning, but it will smooth out and is worth it. The second is that despite the rather Georgette Heyer tone, there is at least one ahem descriptive intimate scene and some rather blushingly indiscreet conversations.