by Susan Stokes-Chapman
Publication Date: January 17, 2022
Pages: 408
Genre: Historical Fiction

London, 1799. Dora Blake, an aspiring jewelry artist, lives with her odious uncle atop her late parents’ once-famed shop of antiquities. After a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, her uncle begins to act suspiciously, keeping the vase locked in the store’s basement, away from prying eyes–including Dora’s. Intrigued by her uncle’s peculiar behavior, Dora turns to young, ambitious antiquarian scholar Edward Lawrence who eagerly agrees to help. Edward believes the ancient vase is the key that will unlock his academic future; Dora sees it as a chance to establish her own name.

But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth, she comes to understand that some doors are locked and some mysteries are buried for a reason, while others are closer to the surface than they appear.

Steeped in mystery and rich in imagination, an exhilarating historical novel set in Georgian London where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations, and romance.

This was bad.

Don’t be fooled by the book’s blurb and promise of historical fiction featuring mythology and archaeology. The book is about neither.

What the book is about in summary is a young airhead named Pandora who is an orphan, is in her early 20s, lives with her abusive uncle, wants to be a costume designer but has to work in her uncle’s run-down antiques shop, and who finally starts a romantic relationship with a guy who is another antiques enthusiast.

The only connection to mythology in this book is Pandora’s name and the fact that at some point she opens an ancient Greek vase … but nothing much happens.

The only connection to archaeology is that Pandora’s parents used to travel to Greece to dig out artefacts…or loot the Greek countryside, depending on your view … to sell them back in their shop in London.

As for the historical fiction part, the important parts that the plot hinged on in the end were more historical fantasy than fact. I.e. I think the author got her history wrong with respect to the archaeology. While it is possible that a couple of private individuals may have dug for treasure in the Greek country side at the time Pandora’s parents would have done, Greece – and particularly Mycenae – only became a destination for British archaeologists a few years later.

Also, I am not sold in the idea that Pandora’s parents would have been in possession of a safe big enough to hold a grown man, with a locking mechanism of a modern safe, and also have a cellar that hides what I can only describe as a bank’s strong room at a time when small safes only just became popular enough to replace traditional strong boxes. I’m not saying it’s impossible. It’s just not … likely.

Apart from the really annoying writing style where descriptions and info-dumping drowned out the telling of the actual story, the airheaded main character who somehow is not acquainted with society’s expectations of women in the Georgian era and somehow believes she can be a jewelry designer … (whatever, … yawn), really was not interesting in the least. Nor were any of the other characters this book bored me with.

I basically DNF’d the book, but wanted to find out what happened so skim-read to one of the most ridiculous endings ever. No spoilers, but let us just say that the MC’s salvation basically hinged on spontaneous combustion being a real threat to drunk people.

Never mind, moving on to the next book … I really should stay away from pretty covers.