I’ve read a few of Santa Montefiore’s novels and have always find them enjoyable. She has a wonderful way of transporting the reader to beautiful locations with a florid and alluring writing style that gets me every time. The stories are lighter reading with just enough drama and romance to keep the reader satisfied without pushing too far over into melodrama. In other words: perfect beach reading. After reading the synopsis of The Beekeeper’s Daughter I was excited to see how she tackled this story with the style I’ve come to enjoy. Did I find it a success? Well, yes and no.
The first two-thirds or so of the story goes back and forth between England in the 1930’s and 40’s and an island off the coast of Massachusetts in 1973. The earlier timeline deals with Grace Hamblin and her unquenchable love for the heir of her village’s local gentry. The later timeline mainly revolves around Grace’s daughter, Trixie, and her own love for a man she can’t have, as well as Grace’s continued strained relationship with her husband, Freddie. My biggest issue with these characters was that I didn’t particularly like them or understand most of the choices they made. I found Trixie to be especially selfish, at least in the beginning, and found her and Grace’s complete obsessions with men they barely knew – obsessions that last for decades! – to be unrealistic. They both make some very poor choices and, while it all seems to wrap up pretty neatly in the end (a little too neatly in my opinion), I was still left shaking my head at their actions. One character that I didn’t initially enjoy, Grace’s husband Freddie, did grow on me quite a lot, which made some of Grace’s more selfish choices that much worse to me. All of this could be exacerbated by the fact that I’m not a huge fan of heavy romance in novels in general. Those who do enjoy romance more might find this book more enjoyable but I need more balance with other elements to make the story really draw me in.
The final third of the story jumps ahead to Trixie in 1990 as she tries to learn the true story behind her parents’ early lives in England – something neither of them talk about – which did much to tie up loose ends and fill in the gaps the other two timelines left hanging, but it felt like a somewhat odd way to advance the story. I think I would have preferred more development of some of the historical aspects the characters went through, such as both Freddie and Grace’s experiences during WWII, and less time on Trixie learning those experiences second hand from others. This would present its own problems of course, especially with how Trixie’s story ends, but being the big history fan I am I was just hoping for more meat to the story and less dramatic romance.
I hope that all this doesn’t imply that I hated the story, because I did enjoy it. Ms. Montefiore does have a beautiful writing style that perfectly whisks the reader to the locations she sets her stories in. I absolutely loved the descriptions of the English gardens and the windswept island the characters inhabited. I also enjoyed many of the secondary characters that weren’t given a lot of backstory but still made me want to read more about them. I think, for me, The Beekeeper’s Daughter just tipped a little too much over to the melodramatic romance side of things, keeping me from liking this one as much as the previous few I’ve read. I’m still a fan and will read more of Ms. Montefiore’s novels, I’ll just try to look more carefully for the ones a little lighter on the romance and a little heavier on the character and plot development.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, and their dogs Oliver and Cleopatra. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship. You can find more of her reviews on her blog.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.