Title: The Orange Grove
Author: Kate Murdoch
Published: October 11th 2019
Publisher: Regal House Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
When status is survival, every choice has its consequence.
Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue.
Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.
The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.
In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.
‘The moist soil surrounding the orange trees was criss-crossed with blue shadows and smelled of citrus and sunshine. The sun warmed Letitia’s head as she stood, arms folded across her chest, the trees in endless rows around her.’
The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch, is a 2019 Regal House Publishing historical fiction title, and it is the author’s second novel, but it is the first piece of writing I have read by this talented storyteller. The Orange Grove is a story that entails power, status, rivalries, secrets, plot and much more. This sumptuous tale by Kate Murdoch is deliciously indulgent and thoroughly entertaining.
The Orange Grove begins at the turn of the eighteenth century and it is situated in Blois, France. The action largely unfolds in the chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise. This rich abode is inhabited by the Duc and his five mistresses – and there are plots aplenty in this residence. With the Duc’s long suffering wife scheming to overthrow the latest mistress who is winning the Duc’s favour, there isn’t a quiet moment in the chateau. When a tarot card reader arrives at the chateau, it is plunged into further disarray. The chateau becomes a pressure cooker, filled to the brim with secrets, plots, underhand tactics, rivalries and jostles in the love stakes. Everyone wants to reign supreme. For the heroine of the tale, Henriette, she soon learns about the art of self-preservation, protection and withholding secrets for the greater good. Henriette must guard her own interests, as well as those of her daughter. The Orange Grove is a story of passion, heart, secrets, power and lies.
The reign of Louis XIV is an era that has fascinated me since I was able to visit the Palace of Versailles back in 2008. Since then, I have gravitated towards any form literature around this time period, location and monarch. I appreciated that Kate Murdoch devoted a significant amount of early page time to developing the setting, time period, plot and characterisation of her novel. It really helped me to completely surrender myself to this engrossing historical novel.
Firstly, I need to applaud Kate Murdoch for the level of research she has conducted to produce this well presented novel. Eighteenth century France leaps off the pages of this novel, thanks to the workmanship of Kate Murdoch. I know that the research Murdoch conducted was expansive. The research ranged from learning the art of tarot card reading to accurately inform one of characters, through to diaries from the time. I found the tarot card reading sequences utterly enthralling. Murdoch provides the reader with a full, accurate and credible picture of life at this incredible moment in time. The social practices, cultural trends, politics, religion, sexuality and class distinctions are carefully illuminated. For me, it was the simple everyday moments that Murdoch seemed to capture so well, from the fashions, typical culinary delights and entertainment practices. Thanks to these descriptive features of the time period and setting, I didn’t want to leave the pages of The Orange Grove, I was happy to remain in eighteenth century France!
Murdoch devotes a great deal of her novel to establishing a strong field of characters. From Henriette and her daughter Solange, through to the Duc, his wife Charlotte and the other mistresses, Murdoch has a solid grip on her cast. I really enjoyed following along each individual character’s journey, it was full, interesting and often defined by unexpected moments. The cast are all well rendered and contribute to the unfolding story. What I appreciated most about The Orange Grove were the lessons these character’s gleaned from their experiences. Through her characters, Murdoch rips apart notions of friendship, loyalty, status, power, trickery, trust and above all morality. What a consuming narrative!
Behind the veil of this opulent and privileged life, lies something much more sinister. There is danger plaguing the characters at all moments of this novel. It really was a ‘watch your back’ scenario for many of the key players of this novel! This was clearly a very perilous time for a woman. The Orange Grove is a story that allows us to see that no matter your class or position, you are not immune from danger or death, at the hands of those who desire your place in life! This really was a ruthless and competitive environment, full of those with great ambition and malice!
The Orange Grove offers so much to the accepting reader. It features a glorious setting, a narrative filled with overwhelming tension, fascinating characters and plenty of thought provoking themes that revolve around the central question of morality. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise, I am just glad I am not one of his mistresses!
The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch was published on 11th October 2019 by Regal House Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Orange Grove, Kate Murdoch, visit here.
*I wish to thank the author, Kate Murdoch, for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Orange Grove is book #137 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge