Whisper of Jasmine is a beautifully written novella by Deanna Raybourn. It is meant as a teaser prequel to her newly released novel, City of Jasmine, but can easily be defined on its own merits. A story of Disney-like fairytale love, it gives off a sense of subtle foreboding.
The devious and delightful Delilah Drummond (the heroine of Raybourn’s previous book, A Spear of Summer Grass) decides to give a party where she’s playing matchmaker among all of her lonely friends. Much to her chagrin though, none of the couples she has in mind wind up leaving the party together. Evangeline Merriweather is hungry for excitement. She meets Gabriel Wilberforce Stark, a charming, adventurous, and mysterious adventurer. Before they even know each other’s names, they are talking of love and elopement.
The story of Peter Pan comes up multiple times in this short narrative, each time supporting the idea of not growing up. Both Evie and Gabriel are childish and impulsive in their love. It’s New Year’s Eve, 1914. War is tugging at the hearts of everyone. Romance in all forms is an escape, the more adventurous the better–the hurried rush is part of the thrill! At one point during their whirlwind night of infatuation, Gabriel tells Evie “Perhaps you aren’t Wendy after all. Perhaps I’m marrying Captain Hook.” To which she replies, “I can think of worse professions than piracy. I might make a rather good pirate. I’d like to see the world, sail the seven seas. I’ve always thought it the most romantic phrase in the world, haven’t you? The seven seas…” They are both clearly deluded and overly indulging in the idea of romance, to the point that piracy–which really involves lots of raiding, thieving, killing, and raping–is contorted and glamorized.
I have so many highlights and notes in this novella, I could write a thesis. The words exchanged between the characters are beautiful, though they leave the reader wondering at their depth. But you still have hope that maybe these two star-crossed lovers have actually fallen in love, that they will have their fairytale life and live happily ever after. And then you read the last page, which ends on an intriguing and clandestine note. Something is about to happen…
…And you have to buy the follow-up novel to find out what!