Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Beneath a Burning Sky

Title: Beneath a Burning Sky
Author: Jenny Ashcroft
Publisher: 29 June 2017 Little Brown Book Group UK Sphere
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

When 22-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon, she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it's in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls - impossibly and illicitly - in love with her husband's boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it's thieves after ransom money, but she's convinced there's more to it. As she sets out to discover what's happened to the sister she's only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she's ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what's become of her....

My Thoughts

"Beneath a Burning Sky" is Jenny Ashcroft's debut novel, and what a debut it was! Initially I was interested in this book because it takes place in Egypt and I love to learn about this ancient place - fact or fiction. This story was set mostly in Alexandria during the end of the 19th century, when Egypt was still under British rule. Not really knowing what to expect from a debut, I was transported to another place and time in this beautifully written tale.

Jenny Ashcroft has written a wonderful story, a fabulous historical romance in colonial Egypt, one that is full of intrigue and mystery, love and hate. There is an interwoven plot that will keep you guessing right to the very end. There are wonderful descriptions of Egypt at the turn of the century, but this book is really all about the characters and their relationships. This is most definitely the driving force - the life of an expat during the 1890s.

There are many characters and each have their contributions to make. From the disappearance of the main character’s sister - who did it? How? Why? Where? - to the brutality of a violent marriage (you will really despise Alistair). But at the heart of this tale is a love story and what a classic it is. Edward is the personification of the dashing hero and his relationship with Olivia will most certainly pull at your heartstrings.

‘I’m trying to keep you safe.’ His soft voice was baffled. ‘You cannot know the dangers of this land, the things people do.’

The flip story of Nailah, whilst a little difficult to follow at times, helps provide the voice of the Egyptians, demonstrating the contrast between the ruling British and the downtrodden Egyptians. However, this is such a well crafted mystery that at the end, when all the puzzle pieces start to come together, you will understand more and more her role and those of her family and friends.

Jenny Ashcroft is to be congratulated on how easily, and seemingly effortlessly, she brings to life the tense atmosphere of colonial rule. She evokes such a range of emotions through her characters  that their stories will stay with you long after the final page is turned. It’s fast paced and addictive with characters that will grow on you - you will want to despise Alistair, slap Jeremy, swoon over Edward and rally behind Olivia - just to name a few.

'Life wasn’t long enough to waste with unhappy decisions.'

Am I gushing? Yes I am - it was absolutely brilliant. Whether or not historical fiction is your thing it doesn’t matter for this is so much more than that. The harsh brutality of life at times, the intriguing mystery and the quest for true love will sweep you away to a time and place long gone.

'For lies were all she had to give. The truth, always terrifying, had never felt more impossible than now.'

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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