Perhaps I was just in the mood to be wowed or maybe it was the subtle influence of all the brilliant historicals coming out of late from this era in both film and book form, but I was truly bowled over by this book. Now, I’m going to say up front that this will not have universal appeal. The heroine is not the easiest of people to like or with whom one can sympathize, but personally I thought she was fantastic. Delilah Drummond was hard, charismatic, sexual, giving, vulnerable, selfish, caring, shallow and deep in turn. It’s been some time since I’ve read such a well-written character. And if the main character wasn’t enough, there were the other equally fabulous secondary characters, riveting plot and then the magnificent 1920s’ Kenyan backdrop that grabbed me by all my senses when reading. Yeah, this will very likely be one of the best things I read all summer if not The Best.
The story opens when Delilah Drummond is summoned before a motley assortment of family and friends that include her original of a mother whom she calls Mossy, Mossy’s ex Nigel, Delilah’s ex who is now her lawyer, and more of Mossy’s friends to be called across the carpet for her latest scandal. She agrees to be sent out of sight and ride out the scandal on her ex-stepdad’s farm in Kenya. Delilah along with her trusty poor relation cousin, Dora, head out and arrive in Nairobi to find that her reputation precedes her. She is hustled by the Lt. Governor out of town to Nigel’s farm. The farm has been let go by an indifferent manager. Delilah is appalled by the situation and quickly gets busy managing her cousin and the African workers to rectify it all. Delilah meets all her neighbors and starts to learn the ways of living in the wild. It is a dangerous place, but she soon learns that the dangers Africa can throw at her are nothing compared to the people around her. There is the bitter farm manager who threatens revenge, jealous and dissatisfied women who consider the profligate resident artist theirs, and then the biggest danger of all is Ryder White who pushes through the walls she has erected around herself and forces her to really feel. He proves to himself and her that he is strong enough to take her on. Is she strong enough not to run?
This story offers everything you could want and then some in an African adventure that dips into intrigue and romance, but mainly focuses on the character development/growth of Delilah. The story is told all from Delilah’s perspective. She is a good narrator because she can see the truth about herself and she’s very observant although she does have one huge blind spot that I, as the reader, understood long before she did. The clues were there, but she was oblivious. I enjoyed reading and wondering when she would finally see the truth. I suspect that if other readers don’t see through her blind spot then they will have a different impression of the story particularly in the end and it may disappoint them. (Yes, I know I’m being vague, but it’s deliberate so I don’t spoil things.)
I do want to point out that this is no gentle piece. It is raw and gritty. These people all have tough pasts or deep gouging flaws in their characters and darkness lives in them and they react to it in different ways- Delilah included. Many aren’t good and they aren’t strong. Delilah is a rather tarnished heroine. But as her backstory unfolds, it is obvious why she is the way she is. It was wonderful to be along with her as Africa worked its magic on her and changed her. It ends on a high note for Delilah, but open too. I would love to have had an epilogue to tidy things up or maybe there is to be more to the story even if the main focus moves to Jude? Pretty please!
Now, who to recommend this to- Those who enjoy a multi-faceted flawed heroine in a darker, grittier historical set in Africa for sure, but other curious souls might want to give it a try too.
My thanks to Net Galley for providing my copy for review purposes.
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