Title: Beneath a Burning Sky
Author: Jenny Ashcroft
A beautiful and heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal, set against a backdrop of British-occupied Egypt. Perfect for fans of Victoria Hislop, Dinah Jefferies and Leah Fleming.
When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.
Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her . . .
Beneath a Burning Sky is a novel of secrets, betrayal and, above all else, love. Set against the heat and intrigue of colonial Alexandria, this beautiful and heart-wrenching story will take your breath away.
Beneath a Burning Sky is set in British occupied Egypt towards the end of the 19th century, and this country is a place I’d love to visit. I was excited to read about Alexandria during such an interesting time politically. One thing I discovered as I read on, however, is that the book is definitely more of a love story mixed with a touch of mystery and drama, rather than all about the country at that time. Obviously you get a sense of time and place from Jenny Ashcroft’s lovely writing, but it is far more about the characters’ relationships and feelings, which is to be expected really – it is billed as a “heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal”.
The characters are interesting in their own ways – some are distinctly unlikable, some seem like horrible human beings, and some you actually care about which made me want to read on. I felt that the storyline with Nailah was a little less engaging, and I grew impatient with wanting to get back to Olivia and Clara’s world, though I enjoyed seeing a different perspective to the story and one that didn’t centre around rich, indulgent British people. Some of the people in this world of ‘British rule’ were really annoying, and this effectively painted a picture of how many locals must have seen the British expats.
The descriptions are vivid and interesting with some lovely imagery, though I felt some parts could have been cut down a little, finding my interest starting to wane at some points. I suppose I just hoped for a bit more about the place itself, as well as the character information – sometimes the story didn’t grab me as much as I wanted it to. It’s still worth a read though, especially if you like your historical fiction with plenty of drama and an element of mystery.
Many thanks to Sphere for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.