A Most Extraordinary Pursuit
By Juliana Gray
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
As the personal secretary of the recently departed Duke of Olympia—and a woman of good character—Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove never expected to be steaming through the Mediterranean on a luxuriously appointed yacht under the watchful and jovial eye of one Lord Silverton. But here they are, as improper as it is, on a quest to find the duke’s heir, whereabouts unknown.
An expert on anachronisms, the adventurous Maximilian Haywood was last seen at an archaeological dig on the island of Crete. And when Truelove and Silverton disembark, they are met with incidents of a violent nature: a ransacked flat, a murdered government employee, an assassination attempt. And as they steam from port to port on Max’s trail, dodging danger at every turn, Truelove will discover the folly of her misconceptions—about the whims of the heart, the desires of men, and the nature of time itself…(Goodreads)
A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, the first book in a proposed series by Juliana Gray (Beatriz Williams), suffers an identity crisis. Part historical mystery, part paranormal, part romance, it never really gels into one cohesive story. What had the potential to be a wonderfully quirky adventure instead was a pretty unsatisfying read.
Emmeline Truelove was the personal secretary to the now deceased Duke of Olympia, and is tasked by the Duchess to find Olympia’s heir, Max Haywood, who has not been seen or heard from for a couple of months. His last known whereabouts was at an archaeological dig on the island of Crete. Against her better judgment (and warning from the deceased Queen Victoria), she sets out with Lord Silverton, who has been assigned to serve as chaperone and fellow investigator. Once in Crete, they find that Haywood may have met with foul play. What follows is a story full of murder, kidnapping, Greek Mythology, and an unusual plot twist (apologies for being vague, but I am attempting to avoid a significant spoiler).
I read the prequel novella to this book, The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was really looking forward to reading A Most Unusual Pursuit. Unfortunately, it is nothing like the prequel. I was expecting an historical mystery with some adventure. It is set in present day, 1906, and ancient Greece. This is all fine. Our protagonist has conversations with her dead father and the also deceased Queen Victoria. Is Emmeline seeing ghosts? Having hallucinations? We do not know – it is never made clear. I have no objection to paranormal elements, but they are not well developed or explained here. Were I placed in Emmeline and Silverton’s predicament, I do not think I would just accept what was going on at face value.
This book got off to a terribly sluggish start, and I found myself looking for things to do rather than read it. The pace, and my interest, picked up about half way through the tale, but I never felt invested, but I kept reading. The characters are not particularly compelling. Emmeline is a no nonsense young lady and strong willed to a fault. Her conviction that hers is the only way grew tedious and got them into trouble. As the book progressed, and we learned more about her back story that has made her the way she is, I found her attitude and eccentricities more tolerable. Plus, I think Silverton had a somewhat mellowing effect on her. Silverton is, by far, the best part of the book. He is definitely a rake, but I think underneath all the affectation is a genuinely caring person. He also has an interesting skill set. The supporting characters are not well developed, and I can only hope that future books will allow for their growth. The book concludes with most every element of the story left open ended, and that is disappointing.
There are some charming moments in A Most Extraordinary Pursuit and some good writing, but these do not make up for its failings. I do not know if I will give the next book in the series a chance. I will just have to do some soul searching when it is published.