Book review: Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

5 Jul

beneath burningWhen 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 a brilliant debut from Jenny Ashcroft that has all the qualities that I love in an historical fiction read; well developed and interesting characters, an exotic and well detailed setting, a simmering romance thread and plenty of mystery to keep me turning the pages.

Many of my favourite books this year so far have been historical fiction reads and it’s wonderful to see exciting new authors developing this genre. After reading Beneath a Burning Sky, I will certainly be watching out for more from Jenny Ashcroft. Jenny’s love of history shines through in this novel as she vividly evokes the era of colonialism. I love being transported as a reader and learning about new places and Jenny does that so well in this book, showing both the glittering riches and an altogether darker and grittier side of the city.

The story focuses on Olivia who has been brought to Egypt from England as the wife of business man, Alistair Sheldon. It’s soon clear that Alistair is a horrible man and that Olivia is deeply unhappy. Whilst Olivia’s situation immediately made me sympathetic to her, it was her past and her determination not to give in that really endeared her to me and I was gripped by her story for the entire book, especially when she met Edward and was so tantalisingly close to finding love!

After a dramatic opening, the first part of the book is entitled ‘Before’ and charts the time leading up to the disappearance of Olivia’s sister Clara. The novel then breaks into sections covering the days that Clara is missing starting with ‘Day One’. I loved how this gave the book great pace and I felt like I was living the story with Olivia as I read. Like Olivia I had so many questions and I couldn’t guess the answers to them. Jenny Ashcroft weaves a story that had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!

5/5

Beneath a Burning Sky is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

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