Advanced Review Copy (ARC), Book review, Received for Review

The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch


Format: Paperback

Length: 245 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Date of Publication: 11th October, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review

I have been following Kate Murdoch’s career ever since Stone Circle was published. I was in a review group where Kate’s book was much talked about so when she offered me the chance to read and review her second book- The Orange Grove, I jumped at the chance.

The Blurb

Blois, 1705. The château 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 love and domestic politics 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 Book

The book is set in early 18th century France and follows the life of the people in d’Amboise household. The Duc and Duchesse and a retinue of Mistresses, their children and the servants are embroiled in power games and domestic politics. The everyday lives of the women of the house looks peaceful to an outsider but is filled with secrets, hidden loyalties, and deceit. As the characters say, the most important thing for a woman is her position and when that is threatened, they stoop to any level to hurt the ones who put them down.

I loved the descriptions of the Court, the French delicacies and the grandeur of the places that they live in. The characters were beautifully written. They are introduced at leisure and the reader is allowed to get themselves familiar with each of them. You cannot help but fall in love with Solange and Thomas, you cannot help but feel sorry for Isabelle, Amelia and Letitia, you cannot help but detest Charlotte. I was perplexed by some of the decisions of Henriette but she never deviated from her moral values.

I quite enjoyed the Tarot readings and the duels and wished for more of them. Although the book is peppered with sentences in French that I had to let Google translate for me, it did not make the reading experience any worse for wear. The story is fast-paced and the second half of the book is filled with dark mystery that made it perfect for October for a Halloween themed read.

The Author

Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone Circle. She exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.

Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.

Kate has been awarded a KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel, The Glasshouse.

Her work include:

  1. The Stone Circle (2017)
  2. The Orange Grove (2019)
  3. The Glasshouse

TL;DR: A fast paced story with beautiful descriptions of the French way of life in early 18th Century and a bit of dark mystery

Do you like reading about the old bygone eras?

What book would you recommend that has such a story?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Guest Post, Promotion

Themes Beneath A Story- Guest Post by Kate Murdoch

As you are aware, I am a part of the Kate Tilton Book Bloggers where authors can request reviewers to take a look at their book. As a part of the book blogger team, I have received a couple of books to review and Kate Murdoch’s Stone Circle was one of them.

Kate Murdoch is an artist turned writer who lives in Australia. Below is a guest post by Kate herself about the themes for her new book- Stone Circle.

The Author  km-final-large-1-min.jpg

Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone Circle. She exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing. In between writing historical fiction, she enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction.

She is an active blogger and also posts on Instagram, Twitter, Pintrest and Facebook.

Her short-form fiction is regularly published in Australia, UK, US and Canada.

Stone Circle is a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy. It was released by Fireship Press December 1st 2017. Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019. 

Written by Kate Murdoch

The themes beneath the story

Alongside writing novels I write short fiction. I like this form as it’s pared back to one theme, one idea. It’s refreshing to write because you can find a more direct solution – the sentiment you are trying to express can be teased out with a few plot points. In any case, it’s healthy as a writer to switch between writing novels and short stories, because the marathon of long form can take its toll. A short piece can give a sense of accomplishment in a few days, rather than a few years.

In writing a novel, I’m attempting to convey several layered themes at once. I don’t need all of them to be transparent to the reader, but they help enrich the story and my characters. In Stone Circle, issues of identity along with class, rivalry and love are explored. One character, Nichola, is not entirely good or bad. The shades of grey in his personality led to my focus in my forthcoming novel, The Orange Grove.

In this story, my themes were more opaque, even to me. I was interested in the ambiguity of morality, but the challenge of revealing this through plot and character was a hurdle. I was wary of being misinterpreted, that readers might think I was endorsing bad behaviour. Rather, I wanted to paint my less wholesome characters with empathy, in terms of the causes and conditions behind their actions. The message being: ‘If we had that upbringing, or those circumstances, what might we do? Would we be pushed to go against our morals or beliefs?’ It’s something I think about when I see people who have committed crimes in the media. What was the tipping point taking them to a place of no return? This is often touched on as the ‘ordinariness’ of evil. The fact that a number of those who commit crimes are living seemingly perfect lives and present as ‘normal’ until it all unravels. Perhaps, there are many who come to that edge, but quietly step back.

Stone Circle was more straightforward in its themes. How talent can break through even the most rigid social barriers. How love and tenderness is a universal need, and how self-knowledge, through spirituality or other means, can lead to transformation.

Whether these types of issues are examined in short or long form, if the result is a reader asking themselves questions, or just thinking about human complexity, then three days or three years are more than worthwhile.

Excerpt of Stone Circle

Is the ability to read minds a blessing or a curse?  

When Antonius’s father dies, he must work to support his family. He finds employment as a servant in the Palazzo Ducal, home of Conte Valperga. Sixteenth-century Pesaro is a society governed by status, and Antonius has limited opportunities. When a competition is announced, Antonius seizes his chance. The winner will be apprenticed to the town seer. Antonius shares first place with his employer’s son. The two men compete for their mentor’s approval. As their knowledge of magic and alchemy grows, so does the rivalry and animosity between them. When the love of a beautiful woman is at stake, Antonius must find a way to follow his heart and navigate his future.

Did you like what you read?

The book is available on Amazon, Amazon Australia, Amazon UK, Book Depository, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and ibooks.