This was a book that I was drawn to by the cover, which I don’t usually say. The art is gorgeous, as you can see. It looked like an interesting book, right away – and it was!
Agnes is a reluctant debutante (were they all reluctant? Or just the ones worth writing about?) in 1800s England. She speaks about 14 languages (felt a LITTLE far-fetched to me, but I suppose there are people that talented. Unlike me.), she’s obsessed with Jane Austen books (before Austen had been revealed! The books were by “A Lady” then!).
Sorry, that’s a lot of parenthesis. Moving on. Agnes is awesome, and she is dragged around to dress fittings and garden parties by her lovingly enthusiastic mother. The mother actually reminds me of the mom from “She’s the Man”, which I mean as a compliment. She’s not mean, she’s not trying to force her daughter to do these things – she just sees it as a coming of age and a very exciting time, and wants desperately to be there herself again. And she loves the gowns, and the fuss. Agnes does not, nor does she like the man who half of London is expecting her to marry. Lord Showalter is a bit of a snob, though Agnes has a hard time thinking anything really mean about him. He’s just boring, and she doesn’t love him.
But, she plays nice, and lets herself be courted. It’s at one of Lord Showalter’s parties that her life changes drastically. He has hosted an “unwrapping party” – which was apparently in vogue – rich people would buy mummies for the museums, and then host these parties, where their guests got to hack the wrappings apart and keep little trinkets from the body – charms and figurines buried with the mummy. The remains of the remains went to the museums, and they were glad to have them, I guess. Makes me cringe to think of how badly those precious relics were butchered and scattered. Erg.
Anyhow – Agnes is first up at the mummy, and though she and I agree on the whole hacking apart mummies thing, she goes for it anyway so she doesn’t look like a coward. In the wrappings, she finds a small metal figurine of a dog’s head. She gets to keep it – at least until the museum realizes that the party got the wrong mummy, and they actually need this one back, and everything that was wrapped with it. Agnes keeps the figurine, for reasons she manages to justify to herself.
Then someone is killed, houses are ransacked, and everyone is convinced there is a curse of the mummy – and he’s after the figurine Agnes kept! Agnes is mortified that she kept the figurine, but doesn’t want to raise a fuss or admit to anyone that she had it. So, she sneaks to the British Museum and enlists the help of a young – and very gorgeous – museum worker. Agnes and Caedmon (excellent name!) become friends and partners in solving the mystery of the figurine – which turns out to be the key in an international conspiracy plot by Napoleon himself!
The stakes get quite a bit higher now that Agnes realizes crown and country are in danger. She and Caedmon must outwit some very clever bad guys to save their country and their own lives.
In general, I liked this book. Agnes is a great heroine, very down to earth and I loved her inner monologue. I was a little skeptical of the ending, it felt very convenient, and not terribly realistic. But it made you cheer for the characters nonetheless. I really enjoyed the historical fiction aspect, I really had no idea Londoners unwrapped mummies like this! The author does note at the end that she messed with the timeline a little to fit her plot, but I’m fine with that. It certainly made for a fun story.
The little romance was very cute as well. Again, little too happy of an ending, but hey – isn’t that what novels are for sometimes?