Olive the Lionheart
Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman's Journey into the Heart of Africa
"Brad Ricca’s Olive MacLeod is my favorite sort of woman from history—bold and unconventional, utterly unsinkable—and her story is so full of adventure and acts of courage, it’s hard to believe she actually lived. And yet she did! Brad Ricca has found a heroine for the ages, and written her tale with a winning combination of accuracy and imagination." — Paula McLain, author of Love and Ruin and The Paris Wife
From the Edgar-nominated author of the bestselling Mrs. Sherlock Holmes comes the true story of a woman's quest to Africa in the 1900s to find her missing fiancé, and the adventure that ensues.
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.
This book is not for sale in the United Kingdom.
Biographer Ricca (Mrs. Sherlock Holmes) delivers an illuminating portrait of Scottish aristocrat Olive MacLeod, who set out in 1910, at age 30, to find her fianc , the naturalist Boyd Alexander, after he went missing in Africa. Drawing extensively from MacLeod's own diaries and letters, Ricca recreates her journey, in the company of a married couple who were more seasoned travelers, across 3,700 miles in nine months, as the trio encountered snakes, crocodiles, magic men, and sand storms, as well as the tensions between German, French, and British colonial forces that contributed to Boyd's killing. Along the way, MacLeod discovered the Mao Kabi Falls (renamed MacLeod Falls), crossed Lake Chad in a canoe, and ascended the Hajer-el-Hamis peaks barefoot, becoming a noted explorer, archaeologist, and photographer in her own right. MacLeod's diary, which notes, among other colorful details, the numerous times villagers who'd never seen a white woman begged her to let down her ankle-length red hair, is a remarkable resource, and Ricca makes the most of it, while also enriching the narrative with helpful insights into the era's political, cultural, and social tensions. Fans of women's history and adventure stories will cheer this engrossing account.