The Fever Tree, Jennifer McVeigh’s riveting debut novel, follows a pampered British woman, Frances Irvine, who leaves her insular life and journeys to the Southern Cape of Africa during the 19th-century diamond rush.

When Frances suddenly loses her father—and subsequently her station in life—she must choose whether to become a maid in her aunt’s home or travel to South Africa to marry a man she does not love, Dr. Edwin Matthews. Reluctantly engaged and en route to Africa, Frances falls for handsome diamond trader William Westbrooke, but soon learns he is a man of weak promises and loose morals.

Disillusioned and heartbroken, Frances is forced to ?nish her journey to meet Dr. Matthews in the Karoo, a distant hinterland outside of Kimberley. Once there, she realizes her husband’s duty as a doctor has set him on a crusade to end the corruption inherent in the European colonial rule. Frances must make a brutal decision: Will she choose passion over morality, material wealth over integrity?

McVeigh’s exhaustive research shines through the vivid recounting of the harsh lives of the settlers of South Africa. Drought, deplorable mistreatment of the native Africans, and abject living conditions are illustriously brought to life and, at times, difficult to digest. The Fever Tree is an engaging read; its capricious heroine grabs you from the start, urging you to ride out her journey before the morning alarm rings.

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