1013-9780778315476-bigwReviewed by Cal Cleary

“I thought of Manik Deb. How well did I really know the man I was about to marry? He had held out his hand, and I was ready to forsake the familiar and follow him into the unknown. But had he not done the same? Walked blindly into the unknown world of British tea plantations? There was something heady about taking chances, and I had signed up for the ride.” – from Teatime for the Firefly

While Layla was born under an unlucky star her grandfather raised her to be educated and progressive, determined to try and give her the freedom to make her own destiny in a traditional Indian world that saw her as having very few choices. And with her independent and intelligent spirit, Layla does just that. Marrying a man previously betrothed to another and leaving behind everything she has ever known to follow her new husband to his job as an assistant manager of a British tea plantation in Assam, Layla and Manik set off on the adventure of a lifetime to chart their own course in a world previously clearly mapped out. But with the freedom of choice comes consequences neither envisioned.

Almost completely isolated in a strictly regimented colonial world, Layla must learn how to interact with the English men and women who have their own preconceived notions of her, the Indian servants she is now in charge of as well as the wild and often dangerous animals in her very own backyard. Even when Layla and Manik find deep love and contentment in the world they have chosen the ground shifts again as India in the late 1940s begins to fight for its own independence against British rule. In an insecure world that places the Debs on the knifes edge of an ever changing social, political and cultural divide, Layla will have to use every bit of ingenuity and bravery her grandfather instilled in her to survive the world crumbling around her and keep this life she has worked so hard for intact.

Teatime for the Firefly is absolutely mesmerizing. The writing provokes such vivid and beautiful imagery that it is easy to get lost in the language and lose track of time. From the brightness of the fireflies and the colorful saris to the stark savagery of the vicious environment that surrounds the tea planters I couldn’t tear myself away.

Knowing very little about India during this time, I also loved getting a peek into traditional Indian culture, the English influences on that culture and the various shifts and changes that occurred as the country was driven into the modern world. Both Layla and Manik refused to let tradition determine their futures and it was such a treat getting to see the good and the bad that resulted from going against tradition. Top all of this with unexpected humor and a tender yet powerful love story and Teatime for the Firefly is the full package.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. 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.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harlequin MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.