Austin, 1904 – Newly orphaned and impoverished Lily Donaldson arrives at the famed Butterfly Mansion in search of a position. As soon as she arrives, she’s tested out by serving at the Marshall’s dinner party, where she recognizes one distinguished guest as her former fiancee Andrew, now hiding under a new identity and wooing Lily’s new mistress Belle. As Lily frets over his reappearance in her life after all these years, she also fears becoming the target of the Servant Girl Killer, who is leaving young women’s bodies all over Austin. After saving one of the killer’s victims, she becomes embroiled in the investigation and its potential connections to an assassination attempt, a counterfeiting ring, and the mysterious incident of arson that killed her father.
I didn’t realize Colleen Coble’s Butterfly Palace was in the romantic Christian lit genre until I popped by Goodreads to add this review. For those of you, who like me, aren’t fans, I would still give this a shot because it’s not overly proselytizing or swoonworthy outside of a few instances where the main characters, Lily and Drew, scold themselves for almost giving in to carnal temptation or become jealous of the other’s flirtations. The book does, however, provide a unique setting for a historical mystery that touches on the social issues of its time.
However, for a book that highlights class differences in the early 2oth-century, Lily’s character unbelievably straddles the barrier between the help and friend of the household. As a modern woman, I enjoyed her, but she behaves unrealistically for a woman in her position, especially in relation to her employer Belle whom she openly defies. Belle, who at first is selfish and vain, has a fabulously feminist growth arc that makes her the heroine of the tale in my eyes.
While the plot showed promise at the beginning, it dragged on for far too long with the addition of superfluous characters and ridiculous red herrings. The mystery’s unraveling was especially poorly executed, rushed and illogical, though I suppose the plot threads were mostly wrapped up. Overall, it was a light read that was mildly enjoyable, but not very thrilling in either the romantical or criminal sense.