by Deanna Raybourn
Publication Date: May 1, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Historical
The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.
Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.
Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming—yet fleeting and often cheap.
Amidst the wonders—and dangers—of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for—and what she can no longer live without.
Don’t believe the stories you have heard about me.
I have never killed anyone, and I have never stolen another woman’s husband. Oh, if I find one lying around unattended, I might climb on, but I never took one that didn’t want taking.
And I never meant to go to Africa.
So many random thoughts; I picked this up at the library purely on the strength of Deanna Raybourn and my enjoyment of her other novels. I knew it wasn’t a mystery, but I grabbed it anyway because it was set in Africa, and I really enjoy Raybourn’s writing; the dry wit, the sass.
The only thing this novel had in common with her Julia Grey / Veronica Speedwell novels is the male love interest; it’s safe to say Raybourn has a type, and she sticks with it. Brisbane, Stoker and Ryder could all be the same character with different hair styles. As for the rest of the story, it’s utterly different from anything else of hers I’ve read.
A Spear Of Summer Grass starts off slowly – so very slowly – and its plot is tenuous, at best, for the first … 70% of the book? For that first 2/3, it was a 3 star read and that was because Raybourn captured the romance of interwar Africa (Kenya, specifically) perfectly for a reader whose chance at experiencing it herself has been postponed. The main character, Delilah, is not a typical Raybourn heroine. She looks like it on the outside, as she does what she pleases and apologises to no one, but it’s not coming from a core of strength; Delilah’s core is pretty amoral when it comes to sex. She’s Phryne Fisher without a purpose. Eventually, the reader learns where this comes from, but Raybourn makes the reader work for it.
Round about that 70% mark it’s clear that this story comes closest to a coming of age story mixed with a romance, whose chemistry is also every bit like the chemistry between the characters in her other books. There are also some developments that really work towards ratcheting up the pace – and the reader’s interest. Some of the secondary bits and characters were clunky, but for that last third of the book, I was hooked; I was invested, and I was sorry to see it come to an end.
Would I recommend it? I don’t know. I’m glad I read it – it was beautifully written, well researched (even if some of her research came from funny sources), and ultimately it was a good story – but I think it’s one the reader has to be in the mood for more so than for most books.
I did NOT read this for Halloween Bingo, and it doesn’t fit any of the squares.