Review: Before the Rains by Dinah Jeffries

Before the RainsThis was my first Dinah Jeffries book – and if I’m honest, it was the beautiful cover which first sparked my interest. The setting of 1930s India also intrigued me, as I’d never read a novel set during the time of the British Empire in India.

The protagonist is Eliza Fraser, a widowed photographer who has travelled to India to photograph the family of a state prince in Rajputana. At twenty eight years old, Eliza is widowed and doesn’t conform to the expected norms of a woman in the 1930s, choosing to further her career rather than seeking out another husband as her mother desires. Finding herself in an environment full of powerful men, where women have very few rights, Eliza’s firm beliefs and strong personality make her instantly likeable.

I loved the descriptions in this story – Dinah Jeffries captures the vibrancy and colour of India perfectly, so that you find yourself completely transported there as you read. Because of the heavy focus on describing Eliza’s surroundings, however, I found the first 100 pages or so very slow going, with little in terms of plot progression.

When the plot eventually got going, I enjoyed the development between Eliza and Jay, the state prince’s younger brother. Meanwhile Eliza began with her photography work, which offered a very interesting look into how photography worked in the 1930s, and the relative newness of photography as an art form.

The sections about Eliza’s photography were probably my favourite, but unfortunately as Eliza and Jay grew closer, their storyline began to take over the entire plot. In fairness, this novel was advertised as “romantic” – but I didn’t expect it to become so heavily focused on the romance. It also got pretty steamy at times, so if you don’t like reading steamy, passionate books then that’s something to note.

Another issue I had with the novel was the language used in the dialogue. Considering it was set in the 1930s, I felt some of the language used was far too modern, and some of the topics Eliza discussed with Jay and her friend Dottie would have been strictly taboo during this time. I’m all for stepping outside the boundaries from time to time, but I didn’t think it was particularly well done in this novel, making it read more like a contemporary romance at times.

The story was enjoyable enough, with a few “twists” at the end which to me felt a little clichéd. Nevertheless, it was a light and fluffy read with plenty of nice descriptions. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

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