A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn


From Amazon:

Paris, 1923

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even among 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 savanna 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’ve been a long time fan of Raybourn, since her first book, Silent in the Grave, the first in the Lady Julia Grey mysteries  (whereupon I read it and was devastated to find it was a new series and I was going to have to wait forever for the next book).  I actually won A Spear of Summer Grass from a blog I follow: The Reading Date, but even if I hadn’t won it I would have gotten it on my own eventually. At first I put Spear of Summer Grass aside for a while ( I lent to it a friend). I have the worst habit of never reading the books that I actually own; there’s no pressure to read them while there’s all this urgency to finish reading my library books because they have expiration dates.

But then I happened upon Far in the Wilds (a novella about Spear of Summer Grass‘s male lead, Ryder White), in my library’s digital collection and downloaded it. It’s also free for Kindle at Amazon: Far in the Wilds
Since it was a quick read, I zoomed through it while waiting for my son to finish guitar lessons, or on a lunch hour, or a combination of those things. I was hooked on Ryder and his aunt Tusker and his cousin Jude right away. I went back to my friend, demanded the return of A Spear of Summer Grass, and read it almost straight through in one sitting.
Another reason I had put off reading it was because I was convinced it would be no Lady Julia book. It wasn’t. It was entirely different and wonderful on its own merits. Delilah was an unexpectedly complex character. And the book was more sophisticated than I expected. I don’t mean it as a back-handed compliment. I just thought I was going to have to work to get into it and like it. I, however, had none of those problems.
I appreciate that while Delilah has some of Lady Julia’s steel and strong back bone, they were different characters. I like that Delilah had dark character flaws but was still sympathetic with a terrifically big heart.  And Ryder wasn’t Brisbane. Sure he was strong and brave and a protector, but he had a little more humility, and by that I mean he was more apt to wear his heart on his sleeve. He also seemed more open about including Delilah in his business, letting her come on lion hunts and such. Brisbane and Julia were so often at odds about her being involved in his private inquiries.
I finished reading the last few pages after work, sitting in my car in the parking lot of my office. I drove all the way home with the radio off so I could think about it in silence. Let it soak in and settle in my bones.
Yeah, it was that good.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. MistressCinder
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 22:44:40

    Okay you got me. I downloaded the Prequel from Amazon & I will give it a go.


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