A Spear of Summer Grass


Delilah Drummond is scandalous, even by 1920s standards. Her latest problem—the suicide of her ex-husband—is too much for her family to handle, so they send her to her stepfather’s estate in colonial Kenya, where her exploits will be a bit more private. She arrives as a minor celebrity, expected to liven up the sleepy expatriate scene with her overt sensuality and taste for scandal, but she soon realizes that her countrymen are far more dissolute than she could ever be. An early encounter with bush guide Ryder White leads to an extended flirtation, but Delilah refuses to give up her heart easily.

Raybourn, best known for her Lady Julia Grey mysteries, explores the fall of the English colony during the post-World War I era. Delilah’s time in exile leads to a good deal of self-reflection, and she becomes dismayed with the frivolity of her fellow expats. Africa brings out unexpected depth in Delilah, and her relationship with Ryder helps her forgive herself for the mistakes she’s made. Her personal growth is at the heart of the story, but Raybourn also does an extraordinary job describing the Kenyan landscape and the booze-soaked life of the expat colony. A Spear of Summer Grass is engaging, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable, and Delilah is a memorable heroine.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award






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