I'm one of the publishers of All About Romance. I love reading romance, as well as mysteries, fantasy, history and historical fiction, and all kinds of other things. Staying on Goodreads for now but trying this out in case I decide to switch.
This book hit me on something of a deeper level than the average read, and so it's hard to come up with a really great review of it because this book just leaves so many feelings swirling around inside one. While there is definitely some romance here, it's really more a story of an unconventional woman coming into her own. Even though the 1920s were a wild time, Delilah Drummond is perhaps a bit too free-spirited for her surroundings in a place like Paris or London, so being packed off to Kenya to hide from scandal is probably the best thing that ever happened to her.
Personally, as I read this story, I didn't see Delilah transformed into a better person by Africa. Instead I saw her growing less brittle somehow and perhaps more open as a person as she became more comfortable in her own skin. She is more experienced with and more comfortable with sex than the average romance heroine, and she has a certain self-centeredness that puts her in contrast with some of the more cloying leading ladies of Romlandia. While she has her strong points, Delilah has character flaws as well, and her time in Africa thankfully doesn't wash all of those away. It seemed to me that the better qualities that rise to the surface while she is in Africa are things that were there in her all along. Delilah's journey as a character seems more to be one where she finds a place to belong.
Narrated in the first person through Delilah's eyes, the story has a certain quality to it that brings forth strong emotions. Even though I wasn't sure I would entirely like Delilah, I definitely found myself interested in her story even though at times some of the racial elements of the story got under my skin. For example, the beliefs and lifestyle of the African characters sometimes seem oversimplified or dismissed as quaint superstition. Then again, given that the story is narrated by a woman of the early 1920s, I could definitely see a European or American person in that time period viewing people from another culture in this way. It happens again and again (and often in more offensive terms) in narratives that were actually written during that time period.
A Spear of Summer Grass swept me away to a time period I don't often get to visit in fiction, and I loved the trip. I wish more had been done with Delilah's relationship with her chaperone/maid/poor relation Dodo, but otherwise, I vastly enjoyed myself reading this book. Now I just long for more writers to follow Raybourn's example and not only discover life outside the Regency, but also to dig into something meatier than wallpaper for a setting.