Review: Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

by Fiona Mountain

Paperback Release Date:  July 5, 2011
Berkley Trade


They say I'm mad and perhaps it's true. 

It is well known that lust brings madness and desperation and ruin. But upon my oath, I never meant any harm. All I wanted was to be happy, to love and to be loved in return, and for my life to count for something. 

That is not madness, is it?

So begins the story of Eleanor Glanville, the beautiful daughter of a seventeenth-century Puritan nobleman whose unconventional passions scandalized society. Still known as one of the great natural scientists of her age, Eleanor was a woman ahead of her time.  But her life was marked by two reckless preoccupations: a fascination with science - especially the study of butterflies - and a tempestuous love affair with the dashing soldier Richard Glanville that nearly cost her everything she held dear.


In Lady of the Butterflies, author Fiona Mountain tackles the life of the spirited and tenacious Eleanor Glanville. Known today as one of the pioneer entomologists of the 17th century, Eleanor was an anomaly among the women of her day and her personal life was no less captivating.

Raised by her staunch Puritan father after the death of her mother and sister, Eleanor’s childhood was sheltered and lonely. For a child whose very soul craved fresh air, freedom and nature, she found it difficult to adhere to the restrictions of her father’s religion. Though education was for boys, Eleanor’s father encouraged her studies in nature, especially her love of butterflies, as to him they were a sign from God of hope and eternal life. Not everyone appreciated Eleanor’s inquisitive nature, though and townspeople were sure she was a little touched in the head. After all, this was the 17th century and superstition rampant in small towns, with many still believing that butterflies are souls of the undead and to study them is akin to witchcraft.

Through love, passion, heartache and diversity, readers follow Eleanor through her life as a mother, wife, lover and scientist. At the soul of the novel, is Eleanor’s passionate love affair with the devastatingly charming Richard Glanville. With all its beautiful complexities and layers, I was entranced by the intensity of their relationship.

A mix of historical fact and the author’s imagination, Lady of the Butterflies is an elegantly written novel that kept me up til all hours of the night and had me utterly gripped from page one. I have since added her other books to my wishlist and will be recommending this novel to everyone I know! Never again will I look at butterflies without thinking of the extraordinary Eleanor Glanville.



  1. Sounds like a great read...but the cover sure does not match the story...I never would have gotten 17th Century Puritain out of that

  2. Wow -- what a unique setting and story! Totally new to me author/title -- I am absolutely going to look for this one!

  3. I'm so eager to read this! Lovely and enticing review (as always).

  4. This book is on my wishlist now. Elegant writing -- I'm all over that!

  5. That is what I love about historical novels; learning about people from the past that I had never heard of and reading their tales. Imagined and real all woven together.

  6. I am very curious about this one :D it sounds very good

  7. Fab review my dear. The cover is gorgeous and the story sounds like quite an interesting read. I love women who are ahead of their time.

  8. So glad this turned out to be a good one. I think I'm #1 on the WL for it at PBS :)

  9. This is definetly one to add to my TBR pile. I love books were the author finds an historical character who is largely unheard of and weaves an interesting tale around their lives.

  10. Yay! I just love when I have a book sitting on the shelf that I learn is so stellar I need to move it up the TBR list! I have a copy of the hardback version and the river is simply gorgeous! Thanks for the review Amy!

  11. This sounds like a lovely story, and a book that keeps one up nights reading is one worth checking out :)

  12. I am glad you liked this. I was a bit curious about it, so now I know I want to give it a try myself!

  13. Wow!! This sounds really cool!! Thank you for sharing, I hadn't heard of it before!

  14. I read this last year and absolutely LOVED it! :)

  15. You make this one sound fantastic! One more book to add to the wish list. :)

  16. This sounds like just the type of books I can relate to and enjoy. Even when I was in college in the mid 1960's I was often the only female involved in activities and programs. Even at an environmental field day involving the college, cooperative Extension, Fish and Game, Forestry, etc. that involved over 50 people, I was the only female to work on its presentation. I am glad to see things are so much different today.

  17. Wow, the cover sure is eye catching isn't it! Beautiful!


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