Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Also published under the title: Lady of the Butterflies
Published: July 2010
First Line: "They say I'm mad, and perhaps it's true."
Synopsis: Rebel Heiress is the story of Eleanor Glanville, a female entomologist (someone who studies insects) who lived in the late 1600's in England. Eleanor was a petite girl who suddenly loses her mother and sister from the ague. She was raised by her father who was one of Cromwell's Puritan nobleman at their estate Tickenham Court deep in the moors of Somerset. Though she led a sheltered and austere life, her father instilled in her a love of education. Her father, though strict with Eleanor, went against popular beliefs that women were not to be educated. It's from this love of science that Eleanor's fascination with butterflies began. Unfortunately, Eleanor's love of nature, and specifically entomology, causes the townspeople to ridicule Eleanor. Even worse, butterflies were closely linked with witchcraft in those times which made Eleanor's path even more precarious.
When Eleanor's father dies she is left with his estate as well the responsibility to care for the peasants who live on her land. She is also left with the decision of whether or not to drain the wetlands which provide homes and work for those under her care. When dashing Edmund Ashfield enters into the picture he woos Eleanor and they marry forcing Eleanor's property into Edmund's control. Unfortunately their marriage is not very passionate and this lack of passion pushes Eleanor into the arms of Edmund's charasmatic friend, Richard Glanville.
This story follows Eleanor's love life as well as her ground breaking accomplishments in the world of entomology for women.
My Thoughts: When I saw the cover of this book in the library and gave the back cover a quick read I figured this book was right down my historical fiction alley. With a blurb from Alison Weir (author of "The Lady Elizabeth" which I enjoyed) I thought this book would grab me from the get-go but after 200+ pages I finally gave up. I honestly hate giving up on a book. I really feel bad doing it but when it becomes apparent that I'm forcing myself to read or *gasp* not wanting to pick up the book then I know it's time to call it quits.
This book had an interesting premise. I loved that it involved the life of a real historical figure (a female scientist, no less!) but the story was extremely slow taking off. More detail was put towards draining wetlands than pursuing the storyline or characters. I think that this focus really caused me to lose interest in the book altogether.
Eleanor was a likeable enough main character but seemed a little too anachronistic which is probably why she wasn't embraced by the locals. Without a doubt Eleanor is a woman ahead of her time. She is extremely curious and while women of the time were expected to be subservient, uneducated and demure ... Eleanor was none of these. I liked that about Eleanor. A little Girl Power in the 1600's!
Unfortunately, I found Eleanor to be a hard character to figure out. At times she comes off as too naive (appropriate since she was raised in such seclusion) but then she's head strong in other situations. It just didn't jive with me and I never felt like I really knew her. Then there's her 'romance' with Edmund. This girl is so starved for attention and love that she immediately falls in love with literally the first man she spends any time with (not including her father and the creepy man who is entrusted to look after her following her father's death). I think their relationship was supposed to be a whirlwind romance but I just didn't feel it. Perhaps I'm dead inside. It felt silly to me but I have to remind myself that it is the 1600's and this girl didn't have any experience in the romance department. My point? I just didn't get butterflies in m'belly reading about their romance.
I will admit that I'm in the minority with my review. Most of the reviews that I've read were much more positive (I'm talking 4 to5 stars). Should I have given the book another 100 pages? Maybe. But for now, I've set this book aside. Unfortunately, descriptions of wetlands and the decision of whether to drain them or not took over the majority of the 200+ pages that I read. I'm sure that Eleanor Glanville lead an interesting life ... I just wish there was less marshy descriptions involved in telling her story.
My Rating: 0/5 (I didn't finish it)