Deanna Raybourn’s latest tale is a bit different from her previous books. A Spear of Summer Grass is not set in Victorian England like her Lady Julia Grey stories. Instead, we are shown the beauty and wildness of Kenya in the 1920s through the eyes of Delilah Drummond.
In order to wait out certain family scandal, Delilah’s family forces her to abscond from London. She chooses to go to Africa, a place that her step-father has romanticized. While beautiful and exotic, Africa presents many challenges to Delilah, all of which she handles masterfully, albeit a bit hot-headedly at times. She has no fear of guns nor of speaking her mind. At first, Delilah reminded me of a character from an Edith Wharton or Theodore Dreiser novel, but she grows and the story becomes one of redemption, forgiveness, and the letting go of past demons. She is such a diverse and profound character. At times, I wanted to hate her, especially the cavalier way she seemingly treats love and marriage. But then, she does something that instantly redeems her, and I love her again. I was enthralled, wanting to know what made her tick.
During her stay, she meets Ryder White, the quintessential ruggedly handsome man. Canadian by birth, he claims that Africa is his real home. He too carries emotional scars (and physical ones as well). Both Ryder and Delilah have past baggage that they must each face, and both have their difficulties that they have to contend with.
The story contains both heart and adventure that will keep the reader engaged and entertained. The descriptions of Africa’s scenery and wild life are amazing, and the tales of lion hunting are fascinating. It is a story of adventure, murder, and of course, love. A Spear of Summer Grass is easily one of the best and most beautifully written books I’ve read this year.