I debated about even writing a review of A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn. That was the literary snob in me talking. Then I reconsidered; book blogs are a place to celebrating books and writing of all sorts, not just the lofty, and I really enjoyed A Spear of Summer Grass in spite of myself.
As you know, I don’t normally read what would be classified as Romance and I’ve never read anything published by Harlequin before, but I have a new respect for the genre because of this book. The reason I was attracted to the book was because of the setting: Happy Valley Kenya in the early 1920’s. If you know anything about this period then you’ll know it was filled with real life scandal, and that is true of this novel as well.
For me, the real strength of A Spear of Summer Grass is the research and attention to detail that Raybourn put into it. I loved reading about the clothes, the politics of impending Independence, and the racial and tribal tensions that existed in Kenya at that time.
Not surprisingly, I found the “romance” sections a little heavy handed, but that may reveal more about me than anything else. The male hero reminded me of Indiana Jones a little bit and I found some of the characterizations laugh out loud funny. But in the end I really enjoyed reading A Spear of Summer Grass. I was looking for something a little lighter and this scratched that itch.
Who would like this book? If you like sweeping landscapes, sexual tension and a little romance then this is the book for you. The setting was divine. If you step a little closer with a more critical eye, you will find some Orientalist assumptions that make your skin crawl, but that is in keeping with the period in which the novel is set. Turn a blind eye to such things and dive in. A Spear of Summer Grass is a romance set in an exotic locale and that is exactly what you get from it.