The Beekeeper’s Daughter, by Santa Montefiore is, strictly speaking, only partially historical fiction, depending on your definition. It is set over three different eras – the 1930s (which is the historical bit), the 1970s (arguably historical for some) and the 1990s (hopefully, we’re not considering this historical yet!).
Grace is the warm and unaffected daughter of a beekeeper, who lives in a little village in Dorset. Her mother has died before the story begins, so Grace’s relationship with her father, Arthur is close and mutually dependent. I felt that the character of Arthur and the bond that he has with his daughter is one of the sweetest and most heart-warming aspects of this novel. However, when he dies suddenly, our heroine is left feeling bereft and cannot bear the idea of being on her own. Very soon after his death, Grace finds herself torn between two men who also hold very special places in her heart: the handsome aristocrat with whom she has been in love since she was a teenager, or Freddie, the faithful friend she has known all her life. Whatever decisions Grace makes, it is easy to support her. Montefiore has created a very likable and honest heroine for her novel, to whom it is easy to relate.
These decisions go on the affect the rest of Grace’s life, and that of her daughter, Trixie, whose own love story Montefiore leads us through sensitively and sensuously. The secrets that weigh heavily on the shoulders of several of the characters in this novel are intriguing and keep you guessing, so that The Beekeeper’s Daughter does not feel simply like a romance, but also like a story of mystery and suspense.
There is a spiritual side to this story that I found surprising, but moving too. The deceased continue to haunt the living throughout their lives, sometimes as images, sometimes ideas, sometimes as a tangible presence and sometimes simply as memories. Through this unusual plot device, and through the feelings and actions of her characters, Montefiore gives a clear message in this novel for the soul; love and every person’s basic need for it is unapologetically and unconstrainedly at the heart of this immersive and emotional story.