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.
It’s funny, I think Susan Gregg Gilmore pointed out this book when she was at my local book store to talk about her novel, The Funeral Dress, which was one I was a little hesitant about, too. Sometimes it’s nice to break out of your mold a little and read things you wouldn’t expect to like.
Apparently this was the first one in a trilogy, so I might give the other two a try. It’s just important to go in with the right frame of mind.
Everyone needs something light and fluffy, or different from their usual fare every once in a while! This one sounds like a good choice. The cover certainly doesn’t give it away as a romance.
I don’t read romances either but Deanna Raybourn is an author I love. Her other series, the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, is great too, although it might not be your thing since you were specifically interested in Africa. I really enjoyed the setting and characters in this book, and glad to hear you did too (since you clearly know more about it than I do!)
I’ve heard quite a bit about the Lady Julia Grey series, but you’re right, I’m going to stick with these ones because of the setting.
I’m glad you ended up enjoying this and that you decided to post a review. Nothing wrong with a good romance if you’re in the right mood 🙂 It’s great this was so well researched. Books that can make you experience a different time and place are some of the best, I think.
Ain’t no shame in digging a Harlequin! It sounds like this was a lovely read, I’m glad you decided to write up the review. I’m a sucker for historical romances, myself.
There is no shame in Harlequin, it just that it never much appealed to me before. I don’t go all swoony that often, but I did enjoy this
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