Disclosure: I was sent this book in September before it was due for publication. My apologies to Kate for not getting this review done sooner!
I could have read The Orange Grove in two sittings. In fact I did, except the sittings were a few months apart due to life getting in the way. As a Francophile, I was absolutely thrilled that Orange Grove was set in 18th century France. My favourite genre is historical fiction, and I’ve always had a soft spot for France, having studied French at school, visiting France in 2002 (including Versailles and Orléans which feature in the book) and then again in 2014 for a hand surgery conference in Paris.
The setting is exquisitely described by Kate, who has clearly done an extensive amount of research to create a book that is authentic. Her descriptions of the fashions, interiors, and the grounds of the chateau are sumptuous. Moreover, one of the strengths of the book is the characterisation. Each person is believable that even the ‘villains’ are likeable.
‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ comes to mind when I think about the plot lines of The Orange Grove. Human nature never changes, which is what makes the story incredibly relatable. The book is packed with gripping, scandalous plot lines, which were complex and masterfully interwoven. Perhaps the parts of the book that were hard to read were the more sordid scenes. Some readers may be triggered by some of the content of this book – including infidelity, rape, child molestation, and violence.
Despite the tragedies, morality and the friendship between women prevail in what was ultimately a very satisfying and romantic ending to the book. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, which Kate Murdoch has already been receiving accolades for, including short-list for the 2019 Chaucer Book Awards for pre-1750s Historical Fiction. Congratulations Kate! I look forward to Kate’s third book, The Glasshouse.