BOOK CLUB: The Orange Grove

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By Kate Murdoch
ISBN 978-1-947548-22-0
Review copies courtesy of the author

I found the setting of “The Orange Grove” refreshingly different to many of the novels I’ve read recently. Combined with an interesting background and meticulous historical detail, this is an absorbing novel.

In 18th century France it was normal for a nobleman to have a wife, and one or more mistresses, often resident in the same home. Duc Hugo d’Amboise has a wife and five mistresses, all living together with a degree of amiability. But then the Duc introduces a new mistress, particularly young and beautiful. His wife seethes with jealousy, and tensions too long bottled up begin to erupt.

I found this a slightly slow start, possibly because in those first few pages Murdoch must introduce not only her characters and plot, but also orientate readers to the time and place. This isn’t a big problem; within a couple of dozen pages I was absorbed.

The situation allows Murdoch to examine relationships a little differently to the way she might in a modern setting, but it’s all still recognisable: sexual jealousy, male insensitivity and patriarchal behaviour, older women feeling cast aside for a younger, “mean girl” politics taken to a truly extraordinary extreme…

Henriette is one of the senior mistresses, and she’s not overly bothered by the Duc’s waning interest in her. She’s still comfortably housed, clothed and fed, and so is her daughter by the Duc. She has friends, of a kind, in the other mistresses; and enough freedom and spending money to keep her secrets. Sadly, Henriette was probably the character I felt we knew least, although she was the most intriguing. Murdoch has not drawn her as strongly as the other characters, although her determination to do the right thing, and what it costs her, is in many ways the lynchpin of this novel.

Readers will empathise with many of the characters (although not necessarily with all of their actions). Murdoch has written a novel that examines universal emotions through a historical lens which adds extra interest because of the unfamiliar social and living arrangements. Her characters are strong and the plot believable. It’s a rather classic structure: you won’t be surprised by the outcome, but you likely won’t anticipate the specifics.

This is a relatively short novel, not one of the whacking great doorstops you sometimes find in historical fiction, overloaded with every fact the author came across in their research. Despite the length, Murdoch weaves in quite a lot of historical detail. She clearly knows her background and integrates it into the novel in a subtle and readable fashion.

In fact, “The Orange Grove” is highly readable in all aspects: the writing style, the background, the subject matter, and the characters. I really enjoyed it, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in characters or looking for a novel with a setting not commonly used in fiction – a refreshing difference.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch. You can read their thoughts in the comments section below, or add your own review.

8 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Orange Grove

  1. The Orange Grove takes the reader to the chateau of the duc and duchess of Amboise during the end of the 1600s and early 1700. The chateau is also home to several of the ducs ex mistresses ,his two daughters and also a tarot reader Romain de Villiers and his son Tomas.
    The ducs daughter by the charming ex mistress Henrietta is quite the tomboy and much to her mothers worry Tomas and Solange,while playing, manage to do a lot of spying and eavesdropping on the members of the household.
    The duchess is having trouble getting pregnant and is very anxious to give the duc a son and although she is married to the duc this pregnancy would cement her place as head of the household.
    The duc then seems fit to introduce a new mistress into the chateau, the very young and very beautiful Letitia,whom the duchess fears the duc is falling in love with.
    Letitia s only friend and allay is Henrietta as the duchess has turned all the ex mistresses against her. This jealous obsession of the duchess against Letitia turns deadly and the new mistress and anyone who helps or befriends her is in danger.
    I have never read any books of Kate Murdoch before and wasn’t sure I would enjoy thiis genre, but I was badly mistaken as The Orange Grove had me madly turning pages into the wee hours. The characters were colourful the descriptions of the costumes and hairdressings so very different.
    Thankyou Beautyandlace and Kate Murdoch for taking me on a journey out of my comfort zone.

  2. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this book from Kate Murdoch and Beauty and Lace.
    Upon arrival I thought the cover beautful and classic and the storyline had me intrigued. I was not dissappointed.
    This book is well written and takes you to another era that you cannot even imagine. Set in 1705 at the chateau of the Duc and Duchesse D’Amboise, they live with his 5 mistresses and children whom all have a story and secrets.
    I love the beauty depicted in the settings and dress of this era.
    Jeolousy and malice prevail and it is amazing what people will do in these times. Duels until first blood, self harm and poisoning are all present.
    Although a short read it is interesting and keeps you page turning until the end, which ties it up nicely.
    Thank you Kate Murdoch for an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be transported to another time and place.

  3. This novel surprised me in how much I enjoyed it. After a slightly shakey start where I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this novel after all, I suddenly found myself drawn into the intrigue going on in the château. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be part of the Duc’s House of mistresses, the rivalry and underhanded nastiness that went on would of had me running for the hills. I disliked Charlotte immensely, though part of me sympathised with her, because who would want to share their husband with numerous mistresses who lived with you and were given everything you had just about. But her behaviour and later her actions, wiped any sympathy I had. I disliked Celine also, her behaviour and her willingness to do wrong in order to Parry favour with Charlotte was upsetting. I enjoyed Henrietta’s character and unwillingness to be someone she wasn’t despite it putting her out of favour. I loved her daughter Solange, she was such fun and had a lovely soul. Romain was an absolute rogue, but he had many redeeming characteristics that showed themselves as the story went on. All in all this was an enjoyable read which had me turning pages past my bedtime to see what was going to happen in this nest of intrigue.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Kate Murdoch for providing me with a copy of this book.

  4. I appreciate receiving my copy of The Orange Grove directly from Kate Murdoch following a call out on the Beauty and Lace Book Club.

    It took a short while to hook me but I did have to know the outcomes of the ladies in the life of Duc Hugo d’Amboise. From our perspective in 2019, the proposition of a man enjoying life with a harem is ludicrous. Women enjoyed no rights. Ownership of them resembled ownership of animals. Good and evil is examined throughout the text. Morality and immorality battle. The cruel outcomes did not provide satisfaction to this reader. I probably wanted Duchesse Charlotte and her plotters to receive just punishment for her actions. I do feel that Letitia and Henriette were eventually rewarded after the terrors visited upon them. The era is one that fascinates me. The descriptions of court life fire my imagination, We talk today of disparity between rich and poor. It was so apparent in the 1700s. I recall the 2008 movie, The Duchess that portrayed the life of the Duchess of Devonshire from the 18th Century. After this film, my friend berated a hapless male cinema goer for being a male. Such sentiment was mine following my read of Kate’s sometime horrific tale.
    I award 4 stars to this gripping read.

  5. I really enjoyed reading The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch.
    It was lovely to receive my copy directly from the author, such a lovely touch.
    I actually didnt expect to like this novel as much as I really did.
    I literally consumed the whole novel in one evening sitting.
    Dont let the description put you off opening that first page and getting stuck in as I can assure you that you wont be sorry you did.
    Set in the very early 1700’s we find ourselves at the French chateau of the Duc and Duchesse d’Ambiose and the Duc’s 5 mistresses and their children.
    A novel filled with drama, jealousy obsession and so so much more .
    I thoroughly recommend The Orange Grove and wish to thank Beauty and Lace and Kate Murdoch for this amazing novel.
    I will certainly be looking out for more novels to come.

  6. I love reading a book with no preconceived ideas on whether I would like it or not, particularly in a genre I wouldnt normally read.

    Whilst it did take a little bit to get into this book and the story, once in, I couldnt let it go. The weave of stories, unfolding drama and character development ensures that as a reader, you are happily trapped reading until the very end.

    The balance of the rich and entitled verses the poor and forgotten is highlighted in this story through the desperate climbing of social status among the ‘mistresses’.

    A thoroughly enjoyable book which sees me keeping an eye out for more from this author!

  7. I have to be honest and say I have never read a book form this genre, It was hard foe me to start with but eventually I became engrossed and love the book. I initially struggled with the names and their positions within the story but once I got that it all fell into place.
    A story of love, lust, jealously and heartache. Not an easy read for me but still an enjoyable read.

  8. Firstly thank you to Beauty and Lace and the author Kate Murdoch for giving me the opportunity to read this novel. Unfortunately although Kate mailed it to me in October Australia Post didn’t deliver it until March!
    I do enjoy historical novels so I was looking forward to reading The Orange Grove which is set in France during the time of Versailles and Louis XIV. The setting is the chateau where the Duc Hugo d’Amboise lives with his wife and five mistresses. I did find it quite hard to get into this novel, I got confused with the many different mistresses at first but once I did get into it I enjoyed it. (Although still struggled with liking many of the characters).
    The household is unsurprisingly full of intrigue and politics, the mistresses terrified they’ll be cast aside, the wife jealous of the mistresses and of course this leads to some terrible incidents.
    I enjoyed the descriptions of the chateau, and having been fortunate enough to visit Versailles, could imagine the chateau and its grounds quite clearly.
    This novel reminded me that although as women we don’t yet have equality we have come a long way.
    Thank you again to Kate Murdoch and Beauty and Lace Bookclub for the opportunity to read this novel.

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