Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang

Bees in the Butterfly Garden has two BIG things going for it a. ) it’s a Christian Historical about THIEVES ( and no, not the lame Gown of Spanish Lace type) b.) Maureen Lang is a beautiful, beautiful writer.

Meg Davenport is your run-of-the-mill prep school sweetheart. She’s learned the ways of etiquette and propriety, she is bred to be a proper wife for a society man. But, when her father, who has long supported her tenure at boarding school and is proud of all she is learning from Mme. Marisse’s Handbook for Young Ladies, passes away and Meg learns his true identity and the true nature of her past, Meg’s world is turned upside down.

Meg’s father John Davenport was one of New York’s finest criminals. Wanting to spare Meg his life and ensure she was well set up among the echelon of the Fifth Avenue families he robs, he kept his true nature a secret from her in hopes that should he pass, Meg would be supported by a husband and a rich lifestyle. But, Meg’s too canny and too spirited to settle for her late father’s wishes. In fact, she’d much rather learn more about his past and try her hand at the family business among such hardened ne’er-do-wells as Pubjug and Brewster and others of her father’s crew. Her father’s protégé, however, the irrepressible Ian Maguire wants to honour John’s wishes and keep Meg from the underhanded business she is suddenly so curious about. All of Ian’s life he has heard Meg’s name praised to the skies by her father and now, with Meg in his path, a beautiful and refined young woman, he cannot imagine entrenching her in the shady lifestyle of her heritage.

When an inadvertent opportunity pairs Ian and Meg together to steal from one of the wealthiest families in New York, their paths cross as adversaries and suddenly as prospective courters. Meg discovers whether or not she has the heart for burglary and Ian begins to wonder if the slight tugging at his conscience comes from a higher place.

Though constant quotations ( seriously, beginning every chapter), took away from the flow of the story and loose ends wrapped up really well (as in as pertly and properly and easily as an episode of White Collar ), this was a fun, fast, energized and extremely well-written novel. Indeed, my first from Maureen Lang whose previous books I now want to seek out.

We all saw the cover and went “ooooo pretty!” when it was first released and the inside is pretty, too! I really enjoyed Lang’s attention to slight detail: the offerings of refreshment at an outdoor concert, the place settings and courses at an upper-crust dinner party, the marks and mars of Ian’s trade. It is obvious that Lang was suffused with a passion for the time period and its intricate complexities as she wound her way through the writing process. Meg’s penchant for flowers was also welcome. While faith of any sort seems rather light in the first half, the second half doles out plenty by way of redemption, mercy and grace, especially as emblemized through a painting of Christ and the two thieves at Golgotha. While this might seem a little too obvious a metaphor, Lang’s gentle evocation of the wistful and rueful effect it has on its viewers made it, in short, work as a tie to the Christian message.

I immediately sensed Ian’s fascination with Meg and, at first, am certain that it was borne of the duty he felt towards her father. It would have been easy, thus, to assume that the love of he felt for her was one more of idolization. However, the more circumstance threw the two of them together, Lang deftly interwove moments where their chemistry deepened---where Meg saw beyond Ian’s exterior as a talented crook and focused on the man he was (confused and hurt from his past ).

As mentioned, the plot threads tied up a little too nicely and the denouement occurred rather quickly. Ian’s planted “ excuse” to secure Meg’s protection in a scene and his explanation for a missing item didn’t quite seem credible to me, but, as I mentioned earlier---- this is kinda like White Collar and Ian kinda like Neal Caffrey ( is Caffrey now an archetype for dashing gold-hearted criminal who you can’t seem to stay mad at despite his erring of the law?--- and I kinda like White Collar.

Unique, smartly written and featuring characters who drink wine! Imagine! Also, featuring characters not quite black or white: who trust and serve God while performing tasks that maybe don’t QUITE inch up to the Ten Commandments.

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