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ARC Review: A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

Submitted by on April 4, 2013 – 4:18 amOne Comment

Author: Deanna Raybourn
Title: A Spear of Summer Grass
Release: April 30, 2013
Reviewer: Noa
Source: Publisher/Edelweiss

Purchase: | Book Depository

Paris, 1923

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.

I think I’ve been waiting for A Spear of Summer Grass for most of my life – or at least that’s how long the wait felt to me. Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series is not only one of my all time favorites, my sisters and mom all love it as well, which means that our discussions about fictional characters often get rowdy and our fights (read: brawls) over who gets to read the latest books first make the current crisis with North Korea look like a walk in the park.

When Raybourn announced her next book would not be a Julia Grey (or as we call it: Brisbane book) there may have been a few expressions of discontent. Then I heard that the new book would take place in 1920s Africa and I actually squeed in delight. Flappers and Happy Valley? Hello? Perfection!

What lucky readers will get in A Spear of Summer Grass is far from perfection – because perfection is too small a word to describe the harsh, rough, and heartbreakingly beautiful story Raybourn has crafted in this new novel.

The heroine (or anti-heroine) Delilah is not your classic golden beauty who is sweet, lovely and just waiting for Mr. Right to ride in and take her away from it all. In fact, I think she would probably laugh uproariously at the suggestion.

No, this belle of the ball comes from different stock; sassy, smart-mouthed, sexy and smart, this flapper oozes sex appeal – and knows it. With three marriages behind her and scandal always just around the corner, Delilah is definitely ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know.’

When Paris becomes just a little to hot to handle because one scandal seems to be catching up with her, Delilah is sent away to Kenya – or else she must face the rest of her life minus a comfortable allowance from her grandfather.

For those of you familiar with Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, Delilah often reminded me of Phryne – so yes, quite a delight. Of course, those of you who are getting an Out of Africa feel from the synopsis are also not mistaken. A Spear of Summer Grass has a definite Out of Africa vibe – in all the right ways.

Africa may be more than even Delilah can handle especially when one Ryder White enters the picture. Like Africa, Ryder is untamable, mysterious and drop dead gorgeous (ok, maybe that’s just Ryder) and both the man and the continent refuse to fall for her wiles .

A Spear of Summer Grass was a journey that I’ve been hoping to take for a very long time and it was more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. Raybourn’s descriptions bring every page to life in such a way that I felt, tasted and breathed Africa, taking every step in Delilah’s journey with her.

Delilah and Ryder have more in common than they first believe – with many layers to discover beneath the surface, each new revelation presenting a new side to these incredibly multi-faceted characters.

I’ve read reviews where the reviewer felt Delilah wasn’t a likable character – is she cuddly sweet with birds helping her dress every morning? No. She’s a femme fatale who does at first come off as hard and uncaring but very soon it becomes patently obvious that Delilah is wearing some extremely thick armor around her. I loved Delilah, maybe because sometimes I wish I could be a little bit more like her…

A Spear of Summer Grass does have mystery and mayhem but at its core it is a story of Delilah’s self discovery. Her voyage – one which we are invited to take with her.

When I turned the final page of A Spear of Summer Grass all I could do was take a deep breath that I felt I had been holding in for hours. This is not a book you can just set aside after finishing. I felt like I needed time before venturing back into real life.

In A Spear of Summer Grass Raybourn exceeded every expectation I had; and while I simply cannot wait for the next Julia Grey mystery, I am very happy to see such a talented author create new characters for readers to fall in love with.

This one is obviously a keeper.

Noa first fell in love with books when she discovered 100 acre wood and its inhabitants. To this day, the last pages of “The House at Pooh Corner” make her cry. In a good way. From“Calvin and Hobbes” to “The Iliad and the Odyssey” and lets not forget “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes”. Biographies, mysteries, history books and romances all have a place on her bookshelves. Who needs furniture? This 29 year old singleton’s dream is to invent the zero-calorie chocolate. But until that day arrives, she tries to create sweet confections with whatever chocolate she can find. An MA in conflict studies (need a mediator?) means Noa loves a good debate, especially when she wins. If she were in charge, books would be free for everyone.
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One Comment »

  • Big sis says:

    Noa, I agree with every word. I loved this book!
    So when is the next Ryder book coming out?

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