What does one do when an entire country comes calling? Penny White faces her strangest challenge yet, when representatives of Les Etats Units (Daer’s equivalent of the United States) arrive on her doorstep with a unique request: They need Penny to negotiate with bees from Earth and convince the buzzing insects to return to their native world. The disillusioned vicar steps up to the challenge even when an opportunistic praying mantis with a penchant for Southern sayings becomes part of her entourage. Can Penny successfully solve political issues between nectar-loving species? Will negotiating with distinctly non-human inhabitants of Daer be the last straw?
I found the first half or even three-quarters of The Business of Bees (the eighth novel in the Penny White series from Chrys Cymri) a little painful to read, because my beloved Penny has hit rock bottom. Her companions finally confront her reliance on alcohol to get through each day, and Penny must choose what matters most and find her path again. Her relationship with God also needs work, which goes hand in hand with feeling lost; however, I believe the connecting thread to the entire narrative is “new horizons.” The entire cast explores different experiences, both literally and figuratively, and grows as a result.
Jago also faces challenges with faithfulness and his ideals when he meets a charming hummingbird gryphon from Les Etats Units. She is beautiful, the same species, and helps him regain the ability to fly, but he’s made a serious pledge to Basty, even when there’s an ocean between them. Morey shines in this plot line. It would be easier if Jago chose a gryphon as a life mate, but the elder gryphon strongly believes that promises matter, and his son should not move on to a new partner when he hasn’t broken off with the previous one.
As a Texan, I did not love the portrayal of the US contact Penny dealt with as part of her negotiation with the Earth bees, but European politicians haven’t been written any more sympathetically. Even the non-humanoid politicos in Les Etats Units get skewered to some degree, so it may just be Penny’s desire to contribute to the greater good over evaluating the benefit to a single group coloring her opinions.
I hurt profoundly for the characters during a lot of The Business of Bees, but the moments of sheer joy and beauty kept me reading. During a time when I needed escapism, Penny’s story gave me a place to openly laugh, cry, and love without fear of judgment. The ending won’t surprise long-time readers, but it’s been a long time coming. I look forward to seeing how the new development affects Penny’s future adventures (because the plucky vicar can always find something to get involved with and support).
4.5 Mysterious Hidden, Living Islands out of 5
Creative Team: Chrys Cymri (Author)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, LLC
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