The Sun Sister – by Lucinda Riley – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Kenya, World War II)

I thank Atria Books for granting me early access to this book in exchange for an honest review. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

This is the sixth book in the wildly-successful, seven-novel series (The Seven Sisters) the late Lucinda Riley (1965-2021) wrote about seven, multi-ethnic girls from all around the world, adopted by the same wealthy, white man. Each book follows one daughter’s journey to discover her birth origin. This one is another fast and easy read with a compelling story line that covers multiple generations, from wealthy families in late 1930s New York, to World War II Kenya, and back to New York in 2008.

Electra D’Aplièse is the 2008 protagonist- one of the world’s top models — beautiful, rich, and in-demand –seemingly living a privileged life anyone would envy. But beneath the glamour, Electra feels adrift. Distant from her sisters, numbing her feelings with drugs and alcohol, and recently dumped by her rock star boyfriend. Then, she receives a message from a woman claiming to be her grandmother.

From her grandmother, Electra slowly discovers her birth story, beginning in 1939 with Cecily Huntley-Morgan, a wealthy New Yorker whose family sends her to England and Kenya to nurse a broken heart. There’s true-life figure Kiki Preston, Cecily’s godmother, another wealthy woman who has built an independent life on the shores of Kenya’s picturesque Lake Naivasha. (She supposedly gave birth out-of-wedlock to the child of Prince George, Duck of Kent, Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle.) And Bill Forsythe, a cattle farmer with strong connections to the Maasai tribe, who seems happiest out in the wilderness.

Lake Naivasha
Image courtesy

Readers get to observe a lot of hypocrisy among the upper classes, around race relations and sexual double standards. We get immersed in the famous, decadent Happy Valley set of ex-pats living in and exploiting Kenya during the British Colonial Era (1920-1963) and a bit about the widespread-but-never-realized optimism that surrounded Kenya achieving independence. And we even learn a bit about the proud Maasai tribe, with some cultural expectations surprisingly similar to those of the white, Western world.

Discovering her past helps spur a transformation for Electra, allowing her to let go of some self-destructive behaviors and open herself up to new people and opportunities. Along the way, we witness some of the most emotionally powerful subject matter in the novel –around characters who suffer from addiction and the destructive impact it has on their lives, relationships, and loved ones. AND, how vastly different the resources and treatment options are, depending on whether an addict is rich or poor.

Lucinda Riley

I completely enjoyed reading Electra’s story, as I’ve enjoyed this entire series. I’m a huge fan of Lucinda Riley and think of her as someone who understands how to craft a good story. I will note, however, that this is the first book in the series that seemed to wander at times and felt long in places. Just not quite as tight as the others. Though that criticism is certainly NOT going to stop me from reading the next (and final?) novel, whenever it comes out.

More about the author.

You may be interested in my reviews of other novels by Lucinda Riley:

The Seven Sisters Series:

The Seven Sisters

The Storm Sister

The Shadow Sister

The Pearl Sister

The Moon Sister

The Missing Sister

Or other books by Lucinda Riley:

The Butterfly Room

The Royal Secret

The Italian Girl

The Lavender Garden

The Midnight Rose

The Murders at Fleat House