Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman’s Journey into the Heart of Africa by Brad Ricca

Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman's Journey into the Heart of Africa Book Cover Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman's Journey into the Heart of Africa
Brad Ricca
Teen, YA, Adult, Adventure/Explorer, Biographies
St. Martin's Press
August 11, 2020
Kindle, Audiobook, Hardcover, Audio CD
400

In 1910, Olive MacLeod, a thirty-year-old, redheaded Scottish aristocrat, received word that her fiancé, the famous naturalist Boyd Alexander, was missing in Africa.

So she went to find him.

Olive the Lionheart is the thrilling true story of her astonishing journey. In jungles, swamps, cities, and deserts, Olive and her two companions, the Talbots, come face-to-face with cobras and crocodiles, wise native chiefs, a murderous leopard cult, a haunted forest, and even two adorable lion cubs that she adopts as her own. Making her way in a pair of ill-fitting boots, Olive awakens to the many forces around her, from shadowy colonial powers to an invisible Islamic warlord who may hold the key to Boyd’s disappearance. As these secrets begin to unravel, all of Olive’s assumptions prove wrong and she is forced to confront the darkest, most shocking secret of all: why she really came to Africa in the first place.

Drawing on Olive’s own letters and secret diaries, Olive the Lionheart is a love story that defies all boundaries, set against the backdrop of a beautiful, unconquerable Africa.

It’s amazing where one’s heart may lead…

Olive the Lionheart by Brad Ricca is a brilliant retelling of the forgotten story of Olive MacLeod, an amazing Scottish woman who undertook her own remarkable journey into the heart of Africa in the early 1900s in search of answers about the death of her fiance, renowned naturalist Boyd Alexander.  From Olive’s diaries, that had been collecting dust on a shelf in the family’s ancestral home, Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, 

as well as from other factual sources: the personal diaries of Boyd and others, journals, a book of letters, photos and drawings, and other first-person accounts, Ricca has created a captivating and wonderfully revealing story.

Olive MacLeod’s expedition into the heart of Africa, during the tumultuous and dangerous beginning of the twentieth century, is groundbreaking and fascinating if only for the fact that women explorers during this time were extraordinarily rare.  Knowing that Olive undertook such a difficult and arduous journey out of love is even more compelling.  I love the fact that Olive the Lionheart is able to convey both the factual details and significance of this accomplishment with the emotional motivation that drove Olive to follow after Boyd, in a story that is interesting to read.  So many details about life in Africa: the customs and beliefs of the native people, the attitudes of the Colonial governments, and Olive’s personality are peppered throughout the retelling of the her journey.

Ricca has produced a fabulous historical biography that is not only informative but a fascinating window into a truly remarkable and intriguing woman.  Ricca’s use of  Olive’s actually diary entries, the letters shared between her and Boyd, and the style of writing of that time to construct a narrative style biography, that unveils information through flashbacks and memories, is a wonderful way delve into the life of a person and the time in which they lived.  Olive the Lionheart will not only capture your imagination and introduce you to an exceedingly remarkable woman, but will inspire you to be motivated by love in accomplishing great things.

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