I'm always amazed by Camden's ability to weave historical events into a solid foundation for her novels and The Spice King lives up to her skill.
Set in Washington in the year 1900, The Spice King follows the story of Annabelle Larkin, a young woman from Kansas filled with great optimism that is tinged by self-imposed burdens. Desperate to repay her father's and sister's sacrifices, Annabelle tirelessly works to earn a permanent position in Washington and repay her families efforts. This introduces her to Gray Delacroix, a reclusive spice magnet fighting his own battles. But what starts as a business venture soon turns to romance, intrigue, espionage, and betrayal.
As usual, Camden includes a lot of historical background to her story. I, personally, find that while the story may take longer to engage with because of this groundwork, Camden's research and writing skills always lead to a far richer story as a result. Getting a peak into early food regulations, life for those who were disabled, and the politics of the time was fascinating and definitely left me curious for more about the time period.
I actually quite enjoyed Annabelle and Gray as lead characters. While Annabelle had a plucky optimism that is typical of the genre, I appreciate the struggles she had to remain true to her loyalties when faced with a multitude of bad decisions. I also loved the interplay between Annabelle and her sister showing some of the realities of life with a disability and some of the fears and triumphs that can happen for those involved.
Additionally, I appreciate how Camden was not satisfied giving a straight forward romance. While the attraction is obvious to readers, I appreciate Camden's willingness to let the characters sit with their consequences and allow the relationship to proceed accordingly. Neither Gray nor Annabelle conform for plot but stay true to the character Camden developed making for a much more satisfying story.
Now, on a final note, this does say Book 1 of the Hope and Glory series so while I did feel some of the story was left incomplete (particularly Luke's fate) I expect that will be addressed in book 2. So I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt until Caroline's book is released in mid 2020.
4 out of 5 stars
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."