I haven't had the pleasure of reading Deanna Raybourn before, so I am glad I waited until A Spear of Summer Grass to introduce myself to her writing. What a fantastic way to spend a few hours away from the humdrum of Iowa and into the thrills, beauty, savagery, and mystery of Africa in the 1920's.
Delilah Drummond is a young socialite who has already been married three times (widowed twice, divorced once), lives the high life in Paris and London, and looks like a typical "fun" gal--lots of gin and tonics, beautiful dresses, and dancing. But Delilah holds much more than you would expect--and that's just what thoroughly captured my attention reading this novel.
Delilah has gotten herself into a bit of a scandal, and her mother (even more of a social butterfly than Delilah) has demanded she leave the social scene and let things quiet down. Delilah is sent to Africa, where her step-father has a bit of land and a lovely home named Fairlight overlooking Lake Wanyama. Delilah soon travels to Fairlight with her cousin Dora to stay and let the scandal blow over.
Enter Ryder White. He's one macho man, and a stark contrast to the other white men who Delilah meets in Africa. He's scarred, tanned, tough, and part of Africa. He doesn't take crap from anyone. Instant attraction. But both Delilah and Ryder hide a lot behind their facades, and this relationship is going to take some work.
Meanwhile, you get to know Delilah. From the first few pages, you get the impression she's a real spoiled brat with not a care for anyone or anything. But you quickly learn there are depths to Delilah that endear her to you. She's a society woman--that's for sure. But she also isn't afraid of getting dirty, using a gun, or eating whatever is put in front of her. She's stunned by the beauty of the land around her, and quickly realizes the tribes that visit her at Fairlight for medical attention are kind and loving people who are in danger of losing their identity the more white men encroach on their land. She's a tough cookie who isn't afraid to say what she thinks, sleep with men whenever she wants, and drink lots of gin. I grew to really admire her guts and ability to handle whatever came her way. She's hiding a lot of grief behind that frivolity and Africa (and Ryder) have a way of drawing it out, exposing it to the blistering sun, and healing her sorrow.
I so enjoyed this book! Africa in the 1920's? Not something I've ever read before in either fiction or non-fiction. Delilah is just the kind of character I like to read about--tough, capable, and yet very vulnerable underneath that armor. She knows how to read people and work her way around any situation.
I have purchased another Deanna Raybourn novel:
This is the first in her Lady Julia Grey series--part mystery, historical novel, and romance. I am anticipating that I will enjoy Silent in the Grave as much as A Spear of Summer Grass even though they are such very different story lines.
Rating: 8/10 for setting, descriptions of Africa that make you want to pack your bags, and an irresistible heroine.
Available in paperback or as an e-book.