Reviewed by Claudia Robinson

“I had all that I had ever desired, and yet it felt that something vital was still missing from my life. It lacked some purpose. It lacked that sense of adventure and discovery that had always been so necessary to me. Stop being greedy, Eleanor. Do not ask for too much, or you might lose all that you already have. ” – Eleanor, The Lady of the Butterflies, Fiona Mountain.

Eleanor Goodricke is the daughter of a 17th C. Puritan nobleman with a keen desire to fuse science with Christianity, God’s most miraculous moments dissected by and for faith. His unorthodox methods, puritanical ideals, as well as the methods used in raising his daughter, who shares his passion for science, keep him on the outskirts of society, who understand nothing of his ways. When he passes away, a victim of ague, like his wife and first daughter, before him, Eleanor is commanded in to the care of the stern and ever disapproving William Merrick. Left, for the most part, to her own devices, Eleanor pursues her desire to see the metamorphosis of a butterfly, the symbol of rebirth, proof, according to her Father, of life after death, with renewed vigor.

Tickenham Court’s land has been coveted and pursued for the land reclamation proposal, refused, for years, by the Goodricke family. The proposal will bring great wealth to all involved, except for the inhabitants whose very livelihoods depend upon it’s current state and the flora and fauna that abide there, all which will be eradicated with the drainage of it’s moors and marshes. As the heiress of Tickenham Court, Merrick makes a point of finding a Eleanor a suitable match for marriage. She hopes for a Lord to reside once more over its affairs instead of it falling into the hands of a ‘flighty’ young girl, with a whimsical and eccentric perspective of life.

Eleanor’s first love, Edmund, and subsequent marriage and children, seems like the perfect union, until Eleanor meets Richard, the flamboyant, dark and dangerously handsome best friend, igniting a lust within her, that threatens to devour and destroy everything she has, if pursued. When Edmund succumbs to the ague, Eleanor’s life is torn apart, her loyalties tested. Secrets, deception, lies and love weave themselves together to form a cocoon of mystery, fatalistic dreams and skewed perceptions. What happens next can only be described as a maelstrom of missed opportunities, misconceptions and misunderstandings that tumble and turn, one over the other, until the reader is left holding their breath with the turn of each page.

The Lady of the Butterflies is rife with emotion, passion, and one woman’s determination to be her own person, while ensuring that no harm comes to her family because of her actions, a task easier said than done. Detailed, alternately heart breaking and heart pounding, tense, high-strung, intimately portrayed, Eleanor’s tale of a woman seeking to find a place in a man’s world where she is both lusted after and abhorred, combines wanton lust with calculated intellect to deliver a tale that jumps off the pages and demands the reader’s undivided attention.

The Lady of the Butterflies is perfection. Immaculately researched, lush, vivid and alive, it tests the reader’s mind, heart and spirit with every new twist and turn. Characters are strong, real, and invoke visceral, passionate internal responses. Based on true accounts, but pieced together with the writer’s own research and fleshed out with her opinions, this book is, to any historical fiction fan, what the bible is to any Christian, or a microscope to a scholar. Superb and sublime and completely and utterly unforgettable.

Rating: 5/5

Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.

The review copy of this book was provided free of any obligation by Berkley Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.