What a fantastic idea for a book! The story of Ruth and Boaz has to be one of the most beautiful and well-loved stories in the Bible, and I love the idea of retelling that story in a different time and place. This particular time and setting worked really well because Rena’s situation brought out similar racial, cultural, and religious issues to those Ruth would have struggled with as a Moabitess trying to assimilate into Jewish culture. It was interesting, too, to learn a little bit about Indian culture, particularly the stigma surrounding widows.
That said, there was one scene that I felt didn’t translate well from Ruth and Boaz’s story. Whereas this scene had cultural significance in the original story, it didn’t do credit to either character in this setting, and I think the story would have been better served by retaining the spirit rather than the specifics of the original.
I also found myself getting a little angry with the hero at times. To put it bluntly, he could be a jerk. He was something of a Darcy figure in that his attraction butted against his better judgment, though Barric was even less the gentleman than Darcy on occasion. Yet there were enough glimpses of the decent, steadfast soul behind that exterior that I couldn’t totally dislike him. On the whole, I would have to say I was intrigued by the contradictions in Barric’s character more than I was irritated by them, but if you’re expecting Lord Barric’s character to be modelled after Boaz, you may be disappointed.
Despite these observations, I thought this story was well written, and I found myself thoroughly invested, reluctant to put it down once I’d been drawn in. There is a lovely cadence to Naomi Stephens’ writing, and I hope I’ll be able to read more from her in the future.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
In India, Rena was a Brahmin - then she married an English soldier around the time of the Great Rebellion, when tensions between the British and the Indians were high. Following the deaths of both her father-in-law and her husband, she decides to accompany her bereaved mother-in-law back to England to look after her. On their arrival, though, she is treated as an outcast or worse, and the pair are all but starving when Lord Barric takes pity on Rena after finding her taking a small amount of grain from his fields to keep them from starvation. But his protection comes with consequences to the reputations of both, and the growing attraction between them doesn't make matters any easier. Which will win out for Lord Barric - his (and his family's) reputation and position in society, or his unacknowledged love for Rena?
I found this book a little hard to rate. I enjoyed the story overall, and the writing was good, but I found the position to which Rena and her mother-in-law were relegated (scum) a bit hard to take. It may be realistic for the time - but if so, that is a shameful thing. Also, Lord Barric's constant blowing-hot-and-cold attitude towards Rena, when he effectively held her life in his hand, bothered me quite a bit. Again, perhaps understandable at times - but it seemed to be constantly putting Rena down and treating her as worthless. From the point of view of a comparison to the story of Ruth and Boaz, it was interesting and thought-provoking, but I get the feeling that (a) Ruth was greeted reasonably kindly due to her attitude towards Naomi, and (b) Boaz was more consistently kind to her, even if from a distance (not that we know much).
Overall, a good story, but not a five-star book because I spent too much time wishing Rena could just tell Lord Barric to go jump and then being frustrated by her absolute helplessness. However, I have to admit that the ending was reasonably satisfying. I may or may not read this again, but would be happy to try another by the author. 3.5 stars.
Note that I received a complimentary copy of the book from NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and this is my considered opinion of the book.