Alyssa reviews Lilies on Sand by Amelia Ellis

This month I’m reviewing Lilies on Sand by Amelia Ellis, the sequel to The Lion’s Circle, which I reviewed last month. If you read my review last month, you might remember that I was a bit underwhelmed by the first book in the series. I am pleased to report that the series does improve with the second book: the pacing is much neater, and I wasn’t left wondering at irrelevant details. I think by now I can safely try to classify this book series as a combination of mystery/private investigator and slice of life. (This isn’t a genre I’m extremely familiar with, so perhaps the slice of life bit is common to P.I. novels.)

On the subject of lesbian content, I was at first somewhat worried. We learn at the start that Nea’s recent lover from book one is no longer with her, with few details, and Nea goes on to date a couple guys in this volume. Nea as the narrator has a tendency to skimp on information about emotional events, and to put off actually acknowledging situations until later, so while information on her ex is vague at first, we do eventually learn what happened. While Nea commits herself to a man in this volume, we also see, from her perspective, a romance developing between her close friend and a new client, both of whom are women. I enjoyed this storyline, and it’s also accompanied by themes of growing friendship and family. Now that I have read two of the books, I feel I am getting to know the cast of characters that surrounds Nea and to empathize with them— their lives are part of the ongoing story being told here.

The plot is interesting, with an ongoing puzzle that stretches around the globe left for Nea’s new client by the girl’s grandmother. I didn’t try myself, but there are a least a couple puzzles in this mystery that the reader can solve on their own, which I believe lend merit to all the bits we can’t participate in solving. (I suspect you could also play along by looking up various coordinates on Google Earth, but I haven’t tried it myself.)

I have one concern which I can’t properly address here. There is a section of the story wherein Nea and her client are helped in a tight spot by a group of Navajo people. With any portrayal of a Native American people in literature, I am going to worry about how the portrayal is being handled; however, I do not have the knowledge base to determine how respectful or accurate this part of the story is.

Overall I enjoyed Lilies on Sand, and am considering reading numbers three and four of the Nea Fox series.

Alyssa reviews The Lion’s Circle by Amelia Ellis

The Lion’s Circle, the first in the Nea Fox series by Amelia Ellis, is a detective novel, set in England, about a private investigator who faces down a dangerous, misogynistic cult with the help of various random players who join her in the action.

As I slogged through the epilogue chapters, I kept thinking about how I would critique this book as an unfinished work, which is not a good sign. On the plus side, I will say I was entertained during the more active scenes, was interested in Nea as a character, and found the plot to be solid enough. However, the pacing leaves something to be desired. I’d say a good third of the book is filled up with details about Nea’s environment, meals, friends, and daily activities, which are irrelevant to the plot and far too numerous to make for concise characterisation. In lieu of strong foreshadowing, I was pushed forward by my interest in the woman-woman relationship, which turned out to be an insignificant element of the plot. The lesbian/bisexual plot occurs in the background: it enters at the beginning, gets us interested in the blossoming relationship between the narrator (who it sounds like has never been with a woman before) and a somewhat mysterious woman. This plot then disappears under the rest of the story, only returning for a hinted continuation in the final chapters, save for a few thoughts by the narrator that remind us she has recently become infatuated. During a lull in the action, the narrator works and works up to telling her best friend about the woman she has met, and then the actual conversation is anticlimactically skipped, cutting us off from possible insight about the conflicted feelings Nea may or may not be having.

As a side note, while the story hints at supernatural elements, mundane explanations are eventually given for these. I’m still not convinced there aren’t any supernatural elements—it is strongly hinted that there is something up with Nea’s love interest and with a piece of her jewelry, although that could just be for the ambience of mystery—and I hope, too, that their relationship is explored in more depth in the sequels.



– Lesbians: a bit. Main character is bi- or pansexual (she hasn’t labeled herself.)

– Racial diversity: pretty white. India is mentioned as the source of the white men’s cult.

– Chekhov’s gun: you won’t see it again.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend The Lion’s Circle unless you have a particular interest in the detective genre. I’m going to read further into the series; perhaps that will change my opinion.