A Spear of Summer Grass

A Spear of Summer GrassAn utterly stunning stand alone title from one of my favorite authors The worldbuilding was so poetic and beautiful and the characters so deep and raw that I didn t want a plot, but the plot arrived unbidden and jerked my heart around dreadfully If this book were a pair of shoes, I would dance in them until I fell over dead Oh, how I wish it were a series Ana s take A Spear of Summer Grass starts really well and I loved the main character to start with Delilah is a scandalous woman, an unrepentant, egotistical, multiple time divorced in the early 20s After a recent scandal in Paris, she is exiled to Kenya until gossip dies out.Of course, this set up is potentially problematic for two main reasons One is that the story could turn into a redemption story because god forbid a female character be unlikable and not nice Two is that said redemption will happen because of the Exotic Journey to the Savage Yet Beautiful Africa.Unfortunately, it all happened exactly as I feared.My problems with the book started really soon as Delilah set herself up as the voice of modernity opposing her white neighbours in Kenya That s when the book just went all over the place The novel is a messy mixture of anachronism and stereotyping So we have Delilah, a white female character female who is modern and different she is able to see her fellow white expats as privileged idiots, the treatment of local inhabitants as unfair But by doing that she also sets herself up their White Saviour, completely idealizing colonialism she treats the locals with her Expert White Nurse Training she gives them food, she treats them fairly, she learns their language, etc These are not necessarily bad things if it wasn t for the way that the novel portrays all the POC characters as simple people, most of them in Communion With Nature there is a Wise Man who actually communicates with spirits and everybody is loyal and grateful to the Good White People.It is really important when reading historical novels like this to be able to differentiate between what can be construed as accurate portrayals of privilege, colonialism and racism within the novel itself and what is built on stereotypical portrayals that go unchallenged and therefore are perpetuated instead of questioned.It also doesn t help that you have these two characters Delilah and Ryder talking about this ONE location, its peoples and its beauty as Africa as though Africa is not an entire freaking continent.And then we have the romance This is twofold the romance that happens between Delilah and Africa and the one that develops between Delilah and the local hunter stud rich white man called Ryder White no, seriously Both serve to redeem the heroine and her terrible ways She becomes less egotistical when she learns to care for others Which fair enough BUT then it is revealed that she is not in fact the scandalous person she is supposed to be no, everything is just how people have interpreted her actions wrongly This could have served as great social commentary about how people view women socially accept it only reinforces those same traditional views by making Delilah innocent The romance between Delilah and Ryder is also a no go from me it starts with him actually threatening to rape her and ends with her learning everything about him through third parties who help her decide to marry him because He Deserves Her Love Or something equally disingenuous like that.I also felt really, REALLY uncomfortable about the way domestic abuse is portrayed in the novel There is one character that is constantly abused and beaten up by her husband and the characters including Delilah, our heroine, and the wife herself are all into victim blaming I was only a little surprised Jude was still living with her husband after he had beaten her I had known my share of women mistreated by their men But they were all tormented creatures, with eyes like caged animals and a tightly wound intensity that burned them inside Jude was different, cool as a mountain lake, and I suspected she stayed with Wickenden because his beatings couldn t really touch her Perhaps that was WHY he beat her Some men can only stand to be ignored for so long before they have to do something about it The narrative itself does nothing at all do dispel this idea.Despite its promising beginning this turned out to be terrible to be honest, I only kept reading because I couldn t look away from the train wreck.Thea s Take It pains me to say this because I loved Deanna Raybourn s Lady Julia Grey books, but I sadly, wholeheartedly agree with Ana I was intrigued by the premise of this book, although that intrigue was tempered with fear because, as Ana says, this is a book about a rich white woman going to Africa and becoming a Better Person and well, that often spells disaster.First, let me start with the good I loved the flawed prickly character of Delilah I love that she is in control, that she doesn t give a damn about what other people think in fact, she thrives on scandal and loves herself a good time Most of all, I loved how sexually comfortable Delilah is in her own skin she knows her effect on men, and she uses her charms to get in her kicks Similarly strong is Deanna Raybourn s writing, which is as lovely as ever in this book, and she manages to create a group of interesting characters and we watch their lives unfold in a comfortable, natural way.That said, even these high points could not save A Spear of Summer Grass from its deeply problematic issues.My problems with this book are threefold The Treatment of Women which could have been AWESOME but turned into rape y, wife beating apologist crap The Treatment of Africa exoticism and glorification of colonialism of the White Man The Treatment of the Indigenous Populations of Nairobi and of ANY people of color for that matter the book imposes interesting frightening situations of colonialism and white superiority, does not CHALLENGE these ideas at allSo let s start with women In this book, there is one particular character who is beaten by her husband This character doesn t really CARE that she is beaten because, and I quote The hitting She rolled onto her back and stretched I feel sorry for him sometimes He just doesn t know any way to reach me He hits you and you feel sorry for him He loves methan he s ever loved anything in his entire life, she said, relating the words in her cool passionless voice All he wants is to touch me, to move something inside of me so that I will love him back Haven t you ever seen a small boy trying to get his mother s attention He ll tug at her skirts and call her name, and if she ignores him, he ll just get louder and louder, poking and pinching until she sees him NO At a different part of the book, Delilah is teasing Ryder SERIOUSLY HIS NAME IS RYDER With the y , thinking about getting hot and heavy When she refuses him, he tells her You understand that we re alone out here, don t you, Delilah There s not a soul within screaming distance, nobody to hear you, nobody to help you I could violate you sixty different ways and throw you out for the hyenas to have their way with before anybody ever noticed you were gone This turns Delilah on Then, later in the book, Delilah is getting it on with Ryder and when he refuses to go the distance, this happens That s it That s all I get you ll let me get you good and ready, but then you won t use it to repay the favour Naughty, naughty, Ryder Didn t anyone ever teach you it s not nice to be selfish His hands were clenching and unclenching on his thighs I don t hit women, he said, half to himself But you d like to, I went on, softly You d like to put something into me, and if it isn t going to be what we both want, why not your fist I ground out my cigarette on my boot and stood close to him I picked up his hand, that closed, fisted hand, and I opened it, coaxing the fingers to spread wide His palm was open and flat, vulnerable, and I pressed my mouth into it, nipping lightly with my teeth.AGAIN, NO Rape threatening and woman beating is NOT hot This is NOT an attractive trait in a hero or heroine Just, NO.Next, there s the exoticism of Africa in quotes because COME ON, it s a CONTINENT not a SINGLE TOWN or country A Spear of Summer Grass is the most crude, textbook example of exoticism of a place and its people Africa ALL of Africa is portrayed as a savage but beautiful land, lorded over and being saved by its white aristocratic colonists These colonists must feed, cure, and educate the indigenous people heck, even Delilah is a skilled nurse, in addition to being a party gal with deadeye sharpshooter skills The different tribes are portrayed as ignorant, simple people of the land, ever so grateful for the white man s help because otherwise they d surely perish Even the non African characters of color get this treatment the Indian characters are similarly meek and simple natured The fact that Delilah and Ryder and Jude to some extent are the only characters that see this is BAD and fight for the rights of the poor, hapless people of color only reinforces this awful white savior stereotype.The only difference I have here compared to Ana I could not bring myself to finish this book It s a big fat DNF for me. Paris,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 Best opening lines everI might have been heading to the wilds of Africa, but there was no excuse to look untidy Delilah Drummond has finally dug herself into one scandal too many, and she needs to go someplace in the back o beyond and cool her heels until the publicity dies down and her stepfather s aging estate in Kenya is where she s shipped off to Not one to be down and out ever, Delilah jumps into the local society full throttle and the life of the party with a not so secret lover to boot Ryder White is the local go to guide for those wanting to hunt big game, but Delilah might be the one trophy he cannot catch Or can heSo, you keep your libido in check and stop sniffing around my skirts Because it s not going to happen.Despite her outward behavior, Delilah is carrying a ton of grief over her first husband lost in The Great War , and Ryder s carrying some emotional baggage as well Delilah s story is told in the first person narrative, which I m not usually fond of, but I loved her voice in this one Plenty of sass and smart comments she didn t take crap from anyone Ryder s not too shabby either my kind of man I enjoyed this a lot, a nice blend of historical setting and romance with a bit of a murder mystery tucked in at the end The African setting and depiction of the wildlife was exceptionally well done, I felt like I was right thereThey chanted of life, which is as short as a spear of summer grass or long as the heart of the Rift itself, and of the silent land that waits beyond They chanted of Africa My copy obtained via library loan. Wow What a great story We start out in Paris in 1923 Delilah Drummond is informed by her family that she has been involved in one too many scandals Her grandfather has threatened to cut her off financially if she doesn t agree to lay low for a while Her step father owns property in Africa and it is decided that would be the perfect place for Delilah to spend on a little vacation.Delilah has been married three times and has had numerous lovers He first marriage though, broke her heart and she has never again let herself be open to that sort of love and pain again.So, when she and her prim and dowdy cousin arrive in Africa, Deliliah s introduction to a man named Ryder, has her putting up all kinds of defenses and she is in deep denial of her feelings for him.As Deliliah begins to meet people in her area, she realizes there is a great deal of political unease The threat of wild animals, the ways of the natives and the separation between white and black , the dirt blowing into her food,and terrible insects at every turn is too harsh of an environement for Deliliah She makes the best of her exile by keeping company with others of her class, and promtly begins a casual affair with Kit, an old friend She also befriends an African boy and his brother However, Deliliah still yearns for her old life and longs to return to Paris.But, tensions reach an all time high when a murder is committed within their little community and an innocent person is about to be held responsible For the the first time in her life Deliliah makes an adult, self sacrificing choice.Will Deliliah finally let go of the monster hurt that keeps her from really falling in love Will she find out who the real murderer is Will Deliliah finally grow up and will she admit that Africa has gotten under skin I have read Deanna Raybourn s historical romances in the past They are great mysteries and the author has a real talent I had no idea what to expect when I started this book This is unlike anything I have read from this author previously.The descriptions of Africa are startling clear and vivid All the beauty and harshness combined gave up a true life vision of the setting The characters were also sharply drawn, the dialogue real and deep This story was so absorbing I couldn t put it down.This is part romance, part drama, part mystery It is the most unique novel I have read in a long time I absolutely loved it I can not recommend highly enough An A all the way.Thanks to edelwiess for the advance copy I had a really difficult time deciding how to grade this book Deanna Raybourn is an amazing writer, and her skills are evident from the opening line to the final one Her vivid descriptions of Kenya frequently made me feel as if I were watching a movie on a theater screen rather than reading a book That was the effect of this description A tiny herd of elephants looked infinitesimal from our lofty height, and when Ryder stilled the engine, I heard nothing but the long rush of wind up from the valley floor It carried with it every promise of Africa, that wind It smelled of green water and red earth and the animals that roamed it And there was something , something old as the rocks It might have been the smell of the Almighty himself, and I knew there were no words for this place It was sacred, as no place I had ever been before.Her prose is always beautifully lucid and often lyrical as well When Delilah arrives at Fairlight expecting to see the place she had imagined when she was a child and finds instead a house falling apart, she expresses her disillusionment Of all emotions, disappointment is the most difficult to hide Rage, hatred, envy those are easy to mask But disappointment strikes to the heart of the child within us, resurrecting every unsatisfactory Christmas, every failed wish made on a shooting star.The poignancy of some passages is powerfully moving, as in this passage when Delilah responds to Dodo s question about whether Delilah ever loved any of the men in her life after her first husband You close your eyes and suddenly he s not there any What you loved, or thought you loved, just isn t there, and there is a man shaped hole in your memory of where he used to be The sad part is when it happens when he s sitting at the same table or lying in the same bed You can turn and look at him and not even remember his name because he was just a visitor He was a man who was only passing through your heart, and you never really made a place for him, so he just keeps passing My husbands since Johnny have been passing men Not a stayer among them.At the other end of the emotional spectrum are tiny details that left me with a delighted smile, details such as Delilah s car, a lipstick red Hispano Suiza with leopard upholstery that seems perfect for her and also evoked images of the Hispano Suiza in P G Wodehouse s Blandings Castle short stories and novels and the book, Fordyce s Sermons, which Delilah had to balance on her head when learning to walk like a lady Fordyce s Sermons is the 1767 guidebook to female conduct from which Mr Collins read to the Bennet sisters in Jane Austen s Pride and Prejudice In the con column is a heroine I could not like Delilah is at times entertaining, she israrely sympathetic, and she is always interesting, but she is also, for much of the book, selfish, shallow, and amoral She treats her cousin with condescension some times and with careless cruelty at other times When she spends her last night in Paris with former husband 2, a married man with two young children, she thinks she may even be rendering a service to his wife since he s jollier after sex with Delilah and the guilt over his infidelity leads him to purchase an expensive present for his wife The list of her offenses that the lieutenant governor in Nairobi names include stealing a car outside a Harlem nightclub and driving it into the Hudson and being caught in flagrante with a judge s eighteen year old son in Dallas Granted Delilah changes, but by that time, I disliked so many things about her that I could not feel any real connection with her I m not a reader who needs to identify with the heroine, but I do, especially with the intimacy between character and reader that comes with a first person point of view, need to like her.If the vivid evocation of time and place, an atypical heroine and hero, and wonderful prose are sufficient to make you love a book, you may be one of the readers giving A Spear of Summer Grass high marks If likeable characters are a prime criterion for you, you may, as I did, have mixed reactions to this novel.See full review at The Romance Dish 4.5 starsI ve read and enjoyed Ms Raybourn s Lady Julia Grey books, so when I saw she d written a story set in the 1920s, I was intrigued and at the same time a little apprehensive Not only was the author treading new ground, but so was I my taste in historicals tends to run to the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries Maybe because I was born and grew up in the second half of the 20th Century, it s still a little too close for me to really regard it as historical Fortunately, however, my apprehension was quickly proved groundless, because A Spear of Summer Grass grabbed me from the start.Delilah Drummond is presented as the epitome of the 20s good time girl She s rich, spoiled, does exactly as she likes and doesn t care who she shocks or upsets along the way She s been married three times widowed twice, divorced once regularly takes lovers including her ex husband on occasion without a second thought and has a taste for all the good things in life.At the beginning of the book however, she has caused one scandal too many for the liking of her family, and she is sent to rusticate in Africa until such time as the gossip has died down and she can return to Europe.Even in Africa though, she continues to ruffle feathers, mostly because of the fact that she treats the natives as people and takes upon herself the traditional duties of the lady of the manor in treating their illnesses and making sure her workers are adequately fed and well treated She is immediately adopted by the local ex patriots, who are real bunch of misfits, having nothing in common other than their presence in Africa and a thinly veiled dislike of each other One of the first of these ex pats encountered by Delilah is Ryder White, who makes his living principally from safari guiding He s sort of a cross between Indiana Jones and Allan Quartermain I can t help wondering if J Ryder White is an hommage to H Rider Haggard although ratherpromiscuous than either of them But he s a compelling character ruggedly masculine, with a good sense of humour and an air of vulnerability and fatalism about him that sometimes belies the steely exterior Ryder escorts Delilah to Fairlight, the estate owned by her stepfather To her dismay, it s a mess but being Delilah she doesn t let it deter her and with the help of her cousin and companion Dora, and local workmen, she sets about putting things to rights.I ve seen a number of comments from other readers pointing out the similarities between this story and Karen Blixen s Out of Africa I confess I ve not read her book, and it s been quite a long time since I ve seen the film, so I don t want to comment on that All I ll say is that if that is the case, it didn t stop me enjoying Delilah s story.In Delilah Drummond, Ms Raybourn has created a character that, to quote Jane Austen on Emma no one but myself will much like Perhaps we re not supposed to like her all that much in the beginning, but like her or not, she s ballsy, courageous and outspoken, and isn t afraid to admit to her own shortcomings well, some of them Of course, behind the highly polished exterior lies a wealth of pain and doubt, a woman who has experiencedthan her fair share of loss and heartbreak As she says to her lover, Kit Like every bad thing that s ever happened to me, I lock it up and don t think about it In terms of the love story in the novel, I think there are actually two The relationship between Delilah and Ryder develops slowly to start with There s a strong current of mutual attraction and antagonism between them, and the sexual tension fairly crackles as they play a game of one upmanship as to who will seduce whom But alongside the human romance is the story of how Delilah is seduced by Africa the sights, the sounds, the smells, the customs and kindness of the people, and how she is changed by it.My one complaint is that the romance between Delilah and Ryder could have been better developed It was clear that they wanted each other physically and that they bonded through an understanding of the life and customs of the country But these were two emotionally prickly people, and I felt there needed to besaid between them I m not really a fan of the plotline in which one of the protagonists has to be alerted as to how the other feels about them by a third party and Ryder s actions at the end of the book when he ploughs everything he owns into Fairlight for Delilah s sake but without any certainty of her reciprocation seemed rather out of character for the man we ve encountered throughout the rest of the novel.Those reservations aside however, A Spear of Summer Grass has much to recommend it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it It s superbly written and well paced, the characterisation is excellent throughout and Ms Raybourn s descriptions of the scenery and landscape are simply ravishing With thanks to Harlequin MIRA and NetGalley for the review copy. Incidentally,of Ryder s backstory is revealed in the prequel novella Far in the Wilds, and I don t think it has to be read before Spear I read it afterwards and enjoyed getting the full story of some of the events alluded to in the novel in retrospect. Scandalous Delilah Drummond is being exiled by her family from Paris to her step father s estate near Nairobi, Kenya, until the the press frenzy over her latest soiree has subsided Delilah has embarrassed her wealthy family and this is a final warning The time is sometime shortly after WWI When arriving in Nairobi, she is a duck out of water, a very beautiful duck, arriving in expensive silk frocks and high heel shoes On her way to the estate, her driver, guide and neighbor, Ryder White, stopped by a water hole to cool off the vehicle s motor and add water to the radiator The second rule in Africa is to make sure your vehicle has water You do not want to get stranded in the bush You may not be found for weeks What is the first rule Never wander alone anywhere in Africa without a weapon You WILL become the next meal of some beast At that same instance a 4000 lb cape buffalo emerges from the tall grass a few yards away looking very surly There are some places I would love to visit, so I travel to them in books One is Africa I read all I can about it, both fiction and nonfiction I stumbled across this gem of a novel and have enjoyed every minute Deanna Raybourn has written many novels, but this is her first with an African backdrop She did her homework well, and delivered a highly entertaining work, combining superbly crafted characters, in a beautiful but dangerous place with all the nuances of the British and native cultures Oh There is also some romance to tickle your and even my fancies If you enjoy adventure to exotic places, loaded with life s challenges you can only find there, this is one for you. The men stood back, chanting a song of one who would not be forgotten, of loved ones lost and returned to the earth, and of the land itself which does not die but is always born anew with each fall of the long rains They chanted of life, which is short as a spear of summer grass or long as the heart of the Rift itself, and of the silent land that waits beyond They chanted of AfricaMy apologies in advance for the liberal use of quotations within this review The writing is beautiful, exemplary, and I couldn t help myself.Deanna Raybourn has a skill for writing spectacular settings and believably flawed characters I have always enjoyed the beautifully vibrant atmosphere she creates, along with the rich and varied characters within her novels, be it her Lady Julia Gray series, or one of her standalones Her typical repertoire usually takes place in 19th century Europe, and we do have a change of pace here Nevertheless, the quality of writing still remains, and despite the slow pace of the novel, Deanna Raybourn has once again established her talents as a writer.I have always loved her heroines they are independent, strong, and not surprisingly in historical novels, ahead of their times I had mixed reactions to Delilah at first she is initially not a likeable character The story is narrated from her first person point of view, and what we know of Delilah in the first hundred or so pages did not endear me to her in the least Compared to the other heroines in Deanna Raybourn s books, Delilah initially comes off as a typical free spirited woman of the 20s, spoiled from her wealthy upbringing, loose of morals, with a string of discarded husbands and broken hearts in her wake.We do get initial flashes of vulnerability, but it isor less upstaged by her antics and her larger than life and not in a good way presence She eats men for breakfast, lunch, and dinnermaybe even brunches and elevensies, too It would take an entire day s worth of Hobbit meals to fit in all the men she has devoured, left behind, battered and their spirit broken, in her wake. Delilah spends money like it s water, and is seeminglyinterested in clothes, fashion, and being the penultimate trendsetter among her clique of social elites than about the consequences of her actions.Her scandal and it s not a huge one is nevertheless enough for her socialite mother, her fair weather friends, and still besotted former husbands to want to banish her in order to avoid further disgrace Delilah is notorious among her set, and that comes with a price of its ownNotoriety was indeed contagious If you were a carrier, decent people didn t care to spend time with you lest they come down with it Infamy was an infection most folks could do without, even if the price for it was living a very small and colourless lifeFaced between exile and being financially cut off by her wealthy, controlling grandfather, Delilah chooses the former.Africa is her sequestered destination At this time, British colonization is still firmly in place, and there are quite a few British expatriates living abroad Africa is a wild place, full of promise and danger, beauty and brutality The setting is the star here, and in none of her books not even the one set in Transsylvania has Deanna Raybourn built up the atmosphere and the feeling of the place as vividly and distinctly as she has here I heard nothing but the long rush of wind up from the valley floor It carried with it every promise of Africa, that wind It smelled of green water and red earth and the animals that roamed it And there was something , something old as the rocks It might have been the smell of the Almighty himself, and I knew there were no words for this place It was sacred, as no place I had ever been before. Africa may be beautiful, but her new home, Fairlight, is a wreck It was like being shown a photograph of a winsome orphan one meant to adopt, only to arrive and find the child had rickets and a snotty nose and was dressed in rags I felt my shoulders sag as I stood, rooted to the spot. Once faced with the harsh truth of living on a crumbling estate, surrounded by nature and all the danger it entails, Delilah asserts herself, and we see what kind of a woman she is underneath her glamorous and carefree fa ade once it starts to crumble You have always been dazzling the life of every party, the glamour girl who dances until dawn Well, I am But I m dancing on broken glass I m Miss Havisham s wedding cake, Kit A frothy, expensive, mice eaten confection I m the Sphinx s nose, the fallen Colossus I m a beautiful ruin, and it s time that has done the deed Delilah proves to be no shrinking violet, she plays hands on nurse relying on her experience during World War I, caring for the sick and injured villagers she weathers the harsh new lifestyle better than I expected, with unexpected fortitude and her usual carefree attitude Eventually the story of her past unfolds, and we learn why she hides herself the way she has, why she breezes through life so carelessly so she doesn t have to think about the past The land and the new situation helps to heals her, but some things can never be entirely fixedDo you know what a cicatrix is, Ryder It s a scar, a place where you have been cut so deeply that what s left behind is something quite different It doesn t heal, not really, because it isn t the same ever again It s impenetrable and it s there forever, to protect you from hurting the same place againThe attitudes of the white colonists range from downright disdain to a paternalistic one The overwhelming attitude among the white expatriates is one of condescension They view the natives as one would a child they do not think the natives capable of taking adequate care of themselves and their land, and this results in rampant poverty, disease, illiteracy, and a decay of morals The white men are less men than gods, saviors, as they view themselves.Imperial attitudes prevail, and there is an underlying tension between the natives and the white expatriates Evenevident are the lurking strain between the expatriates themselves they are small group of people who have been reluctantly thrown together due to their proximitythan their similarity of mindsSomething seemed slightly off with the company There were undercurrents of tension I didn t quite understand In any close group of people there are bound to be secret resentments, and this group was closer than mostBut little things could fester in the African heat, and I wondered if any small thorn prick had been left to turn septicThe romance develops slowly, and is believable and painstakingly, subtly portrayed Both Ryder and Delilah have scarred past, both are scared to become involved The gradual progress in their relationship is not the backbone of the story, but a result of it Like Delilah, Ryder is not the most likeable character when we first meet him as he is thrashing the bloody life out of a man That man turned out to be a wife beater Ryder turns out to be the perfect foil for Delilah, he is rough, bluff, and nothing like the sycophantic suitors that she is used to There is no blind worship in their relationship they are on equal footing, and he proves to be a match for our heroine.I loved this book, it is like a lullaby The subplot seems almost forgettable and slow in its pacing but it is the characters, their growth, and ultimately the landscape itself that makes this book as beautiful as it was Highly recommended for a lovely, lyrical read. Originally reviewed here AngievilleHave you ever seen Out of Africa It s this old Sydney Pollack film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, and it is sort of loosely based on Isak Dinesen s pseudonym of Danish author Karen Blixen autobiographical book of the same name I ask because it and its soundtrack was a staple in my house growing up, and when I first read the brief synopsis for Deanna Raybourn s latest standalone novel, A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, it was literally the first thing that popped into my mind They just sounded fairly similar what with the same setting, though the time period is a good decade later in Raybourn s novel than in Pollack s film Since I have fond memories of the movie as a girl, this only upped my eagerness to read the book I get all excited when an author I love changes things up on her readers I am a devoted fan of Raybourn s Lady Julia Grey Victorian mystery series and I thoroughly enjoyed her standalone Gothic novel, The Dead Travel Fast As far as I was concerned 1920s Africa complete with a British American flapper fish out of water could only spell bliss.Delilah Drummond is a household name among the London and Paris socialite sets Daughter of an infamous society wife in her own right, Delilah has worked her way through a few marriages of her own Unfortunately, the latest crashed and burned so luridly that her mother and current stepfather have called Delilah home for a little Come to Jesus In fact, they re packing her off to Kenya so she can cool her heels a bit while the scandal back home runs its course It so happens her stepfather the best in a long line of her mother s spurious husbands has an estate called Fairlight on the Kenyan savanna Accompanied only by her cousin and sometime maid Dodo, Delilah arrives at Fairlight to find the place crumbling around her feet Determined not to let the man or men in her life get her down, she immediately starts issuing orders, procuring help from the local Africans in setting the manor to rights It doesn t take long for the European expat social life to find Delilah and she isthan happy to dive into the swirling politics and pandering that involves She even runs across a few old friends in the process, as well as encountering some new ones Most notably a Canadian transplant by the name of Ryder White a man as wild as the African wilderness he inhabits and one who just might be larger than life enough to measure up to Delilah herself.I do love this setting and time period And what a master Deanna Raybourn is at capturing the sights, tastes, and sounds of the worlds her characters inhabit The descriptions of everything from the scrumptious clothes to the sweeping landscape positively drip with vibrancy And the writing, as always, is exquisite Where I ran into trouble was, oddly, with the characters Delilah is hard as nails She s as bright and devil may care as they come, and she has zero interest in anything that does not involve pleasure Interestingly, that was not always the case We are given a few meager hints that indicate asedate and driven past, one in which she married for love for once and worked as a nurse during the war All that was smashed to smithereens, of course, and she is who she has become a woman who barely resembles the girl she once was Now doesn t that back story sound intriguing Add to that the truly crushing details of her last marriage and the fallout it must have left somewhere inside her, and we have got ourselves a recipe for some serious character depth and development The thing isit never happens I mean it rather dismayingly never happens The bits of depth we get are distributed seemingly at random, in too small quantities, and in entirely the wrong places to maintain the thread and drive of Delilah s story The result being that she is by and large wholly unsympathetic Sort of monumentally callous and insipid, as a matter of fact She dashes about her story taking pleasure where she will, heedless of the consequences, lifting her hand for a dubious good deed here or there, butoften intentionally risking her neck and courting destruction by toying with the caged lion that is Ryder Who, by the way, I found little better than Delilah as far as his ability to secure any scrap of my affection goes The potential was there on the grand scale But somehow the decadence of Delilah s life and that of almost every other person around her completely overwhelmed thesubtle possibilities of her story Her relationship with Dodo remained distressingly unexplored The unfolding of the plot continued flat and unsurprising And the crisis, when it came, failed to incite my sympathy given how little I cared for anyone affected by it I finished it feeling tired out and sad It could have easily gone so very differently It s worth pointing out that while I can t recommend this one, it is the only misstep I ve had from Raybourn, and I wholeheartedly recommend her other books, all of which are on my Beloved Bookshelf.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Deanna Raybourn is a 6th generation native Texan She graduated with a double major in English and history from the University of Texas at San Antonio Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of one, Raybourn makes her home in Virginia Her novels have been nominated for numerous awards including five RITAs, two RT Reviewers Choice awards

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  • Paperback
  • 370 pages
  • A Spear of Summer Grass
  • Deanna Raybourn
  • English
  • 14 April 2019
  • 9780778314394

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