The Butterfly Room – by Lucinda Riley – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England)

The late author, Lucinda Riley (1965-2021) is one I have come to love and respect. And I always looked forward to each new book she published. But this one falls way short of what I’ve come to expect from her novels. Sure, it held my attention. And I kept turning each page. But this book lacks subtlety and polish, the plot is overly melodramatic, and even some of the dialog is heavy handed and clumsy. (It even occurred to me that maybe this was an early work, just re-published. But, NO, it’s a 2019 publication.) To me, it feels like this one was written in a hurry, throwing together a bunch of dramatic themes and elements  — all to capitalize on the popularity of Riley’s SEVEN SISTERS series. I gave it three stars on Goodreads.

THE BUTTERFLY ROOM is another one of those non-linear novels that are so popular these days, where the book moves back and forth in time, slowly building a full picture of someone’s life. This novel’s central character is Posy, a 70-year old British widow living alone in her family’s very large ancestral home, Admiral House. Part of the story tells about her childhood during World War II at Admiral House, her adolescence in Cornwall living with her Grandmother, and her pioneering studies as one of the first women admitted to study at Cambridge University. And she has a couple of romances while pursuing a short lived career as a botanist at Kew Gardens.

The second part of the novel is Posy’s “current” life — dealing with the problems of her two grown sons, trying to figure out what to do with the rapidly deteriorating Admiral House that has become too expensive to maintain, and the sudden reappearance of a long-lost love. (Does it get more trite than that?)

And oh, the trials and tribulations! Which is where more sappy melodrama gets layered on.

• There are, of course, long-buried family secrets that, when revealed, challenge decades of beliefs.

• A young single mother dying of leukemia.

• Relationships that end suddenly, accompanied by moves halfway around the world.

• Entrepreneurs who start– then either fail OR succeed — in multiple businesses ventures.

• Alcoholism, bullying and domestic abuse.

And all the while, all the women are smart, kind, and beautiful and all but one of the men handsome, loving, and successful.

Then, of course, at the end, every single storyline is tied up perfectly so that there is a happy ending for all. I think going forward I will try to be more discerning about reading ALL the works of a favorite author. Because it appears that anyone is capable of writing a clunker.

Lucinda Riley

More about the author.

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

The Seven Sisters Series:

The Seven Sisters (#1)

The Storm Sister (#2)

The Shadow Sister (#3)

The Pearl Sister (#4)

The Moon Sister (#5)

The Sun Sister (#6)

The Missing Sister (#7)

Other Novels:

The Royal Secret

The Italian Girl

The Lavender Garden

The Midnight Rose