Book Review: Bees in the Butterfly Garden

I recently completed the book Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang. This historical novel is set amid upper-class New York City society in the 1880's. Meg Davenport has been brought up at a boarding school designed to train young ladies to take their place in elite society. Meg knows little about her father and has seen him only rarely over the years. When Meg receives the surprising news that her father has died, she sets off on a journey to learn more about her elusive father.

Meg is shocked to learn that her father, John Davenport, actually has made his money as a thief instead of as a businessman as she always thought. He has a network of associates that he has worked with over the years, including a young man, Ian Maguire, who John has mentored throughout the years. Despite Ian's warnings that John wanted to keep Meg far from his life as a thief, Meg decides she wants to prove to everyone that she is her father's daughter and offers to get insider information from a wealthy New York City family with whom she is acquainted. This information will allow Ian to make a huge theft from the family.

Meg underestimates the toll this duplicitous lifestyle will take on her and is confused when she begins to develop a genuine friendship with Claire, Evie, and Nelson Pemberton. Another complication arises as she and Ian begin to have feelings for each other. Meg is determined to see this task through, to prove her worth as someone who can fit into her father's world.

What I really liked about this book: the setting was amazing. I think historical fiction novels are lovely and this one did a great job of explaining many of the decorum and customs of the time. I also very much appreciated the role that the terms "grace", "mercy", and "justice" played in this book. The way that Jesus' grace and mercy toward the thief on the cross was tied into the storyline was wonderful as well.

What I didn't like about this book: I had trouble relating to Meg's character. Without spoiling too much (I hope), I expected more of a change of heart from her in the book whereas I felt Ian showed more growth. I am curious how Meg's character would have reacted had Ian not made the changes he did toward the end of the novel. I think I had expectations for her character that did not end up happening, so I was a little disappointed with that aspect of the plot development.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book with a solid message.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.