Of Moths and Butterflies
Archer Hamilton is a collector of rare and beautiful insects. Gina Shaw is a servant in his uncle’s house. Clearly out of place in the position in which she has been discovered, she becomes a source of fascination . . . and curiosity.
A girl with a blighted past and a fortune she deems a curse, Gina has lowered herself in order to find escape from her family and their scheming designs. But when she is found, the stakes suddenly become dire.
All Gina wants is the freedom to live her life as she would wish. All her aunts want is the money that comes with her. But there is more than one way to trap an insect. An arranged marriage might turn out profitable for more parties than one.
Mr. Hamilton is about to make the acquisition of a lifetime. But will the price be worth it? Can a woman captured and acquired learn to love the man who has bought her?
(185,000 words; ebook $3.99 USD)
Review of Of Moths and Butterflies
A period piece, with a sense of mystery pervading throughout is Of Moths and Butterflies. I started off with the feeling of a classic suspenseful novel along the lines of a Wilkie Collins, but it develops into much more than that. It opens on a mystery, but also runs into a serious analysis of human social behaviour, in the tradition of Gaskell and Eliot, with intelligent, believable characters who communicate effectively.
Prejudice is placed under the magnifying glass, social conventions explored (whatever the period, these two areas are ever present in some form or other, and are always recognisable) while the thread of mystery and secrecy continues – there are the classical elements : run-away heiress, illegitimate sons – but the why and the wherefore is gone into at greater depth; everyone has a secret to keep.
One of my favourite aspects of this novel is the brilliant analogy of moths and butterflies as collectible items, whether insect or human, and how deftly woven in these elements are, in addition to the Cupid and Psyche theme . . .the butterfly collection runs through all the way to the end, a constant reminder of captivity and beauty.
The house has its secrets too; these seep out delightfully as when a hidden mural is discovered, with all its inherent associations and clues to the past. Who are the people in the mural ? Why was it covered up ? Why does it have to be covered up again, literally ‘whitewashed’ ?
Another image conjured up when I think of this book is that of Imogen sitting on the floor in a great empty room, painting watercolours, lost to the outer world. This for me is emblematic of the novel itself: solitary characters, isolated not only by prejudice but by their own refusal to accept the alternative of hypocrisy, of being pinned like a moth or butterfly into a private collection, on public view, in private torture.
Moths and Butterflies genuinely evolves, because the writer has allowed it to do so at a natural pace, instead of racing to the end in fits and starts. Here is a feeling of being taken into another time, without being in a foreign country, rather to a place we feel entirely at home in, recognisable and welcoming in its detail and atmosphere.