HarperAudio. Jan. 2023. 11:30 hrs. ISBN 9780063280045. $27.99. F
Set in 1799 London, Stokes-Chapman’s atmospheric debut follows Pandora “Dora” Blake, who helps her controlling uncle Hezekiah run Blake’s Emporium, an antiquities shop originally owned by her parents, who were noted antiquities experts. Though many of the shop’s goods are fakes, Dora discovers a mysterious, seemingly authentic vase that may allow her to escape from her detestable guardian and achieve her long-held aspirations. While this novel seems to be a part of the recent wave of Greek legends retold, it shares more with gothic suspense novels, with the disreputable antiquities shop standing in for the classic crumbling manor house. Hints of the supernatural add spice to the story, although it is the mystery and the simmering romance between Dora and antiquarian Edward Lawrence that takes center stage. Narrator Olivia Vinall truly sells the characters, bringing courage and urgency to Dora’s struggles to find her place in London society, even when it feels like her talents will never be recognized. The other points of view come from bookish Edward and scheming Hezekiah.
VERDICT Vinall’s gripping characterizations combined with Stokes-Chapman’s intriguing mystery should appeal to fans of light historical suspense in the vein of Dana Schwartz’s Anatomy: A Love Story.
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