Synopsis of A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons (from the publisher)
Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever. Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber, Kate Khavari’s debut historical mystery is a fast-paced, fearless adventure.
London, 1923. Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin.
Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself.
Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been reading a number of books that have gorgeous covers, A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons included.
I love how the design team created this beautiful image around something that is lethal.
Khavari’s historical fiction is a promising one. It has layers of possibilities that I hope she will flush out and dive deeper as she builds on Saffron Everleigh’s story. Give me a historical fiction book with a cast of feminist characters who fight against the male dominated agenda on practically everything.
Hopefully Khavari will bolster Everleigh’s character with more feminist values to have her stand out even more in the predominantly white male crowd of University.
Now, as for Everleigh’s love interest, Alexander Ashton, think actor Ben Barnes, he is definitely made from a different cloth when compared to his fellow researchers and collogues. I think we’re at the surface with his character in this book. That over the series (fingers crossed) we’ll see him shape into one of the rare male characters who continue to seek out, want, and value the opinion of Everleigh because of her knowledge and background.
One aspect of the novel to note is sexual harassment in academia. Kate Khavari touches on this in her novel and I have mixed feelings. Granted, there were no laws at this time to protect women in academia against male predators. However, I do feel that when writing about this topic, regardless of time period, it does need to be made clear that any type of sexual harassment is wrong. And I don’t think Khavari conveyed that message completely. From either point of view be it Everleigh or Ashton.
The message should clear. And my concern here is the lack of options for Everleigh. I understand the time period, though this is a work of fiction so I felt the author could have pushed back on societies view on women who are sexually assaulted: that no one (including law enforcement) will help you.
And as authors, writing a historical fiction gives you an opportunity. An opportunity to reshape these views to encompass a space for discussion on societal changes towards women. Even if it’s between the two main characters, it can start somewhere.
A Few Last Thoughts
Not only does Khavari focus on women making their way into academia, but she also touches on PTSD. Where Ashton after serving in the military during WWI has found ways to cope with the trauma he experienced.
By including this layer into her novel, Khavari gave a new shape and complexity to Alexander’s character. It shows what war does to people psychologically and ways to manage and cope with what was seen and experienced. Fingers crossed we see more development and how Everleigh can be part of that healing process for Ashton.
As the series progresses I hope Khavari includes more women at the University that Everleigh can mentor and find kinship as well as a more diverse cast of characters.
If you love a good mystery, where the main character takes on the role of playing detective, and a slow burn romance, then A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons is one to consider.
Happy Reading ~ Cece
RATING: – Satisfyingly Inked
There is mention of sexual assault and insinuation of rape. Also, mention of the death of a loved one as well as PTSD caused by World War I. Towards the end, there is a scene of violence towards the main characters and potential murder by poison.
Please use caution while reading.
Photo Collage by Sheaf & Ink of A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons
|Pub Date||ISBN||Page Count||Publisher||Age Group||Source & Format||Review Posted Online|
|7-Jun-22||978-1639100071||304||Crooked Lane Books||Adult||NetGalley, Digital ARC||February 6, 2022|
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I’m Cecelia and I’m so glad you’re here! You’ll find honest reviews, book recommendations, along with other bookish essentials. So happy you stopped by!