I’ve had this novel on my Kindle for ages! I have enjoyed all the Duran romances I’ve read but some of them can get intense, and a romance novel set in India during the mutinies? That topic definitely has the potential to get dark, and the fact that the novel opens on a shipwreck certainly means this is not going to be a light comedic romance.
Emmaline Martin and her parents were on the way to British occupied India for Emma’s wedding. She has been engaged to Marcus Lindley, the neighbor boy, since she was a child, a match made by their parents. While Emma does not always meet society’s conventions, her parents clearly love her, and are happy at the idea of finally seeing her settled down. Unfortunately, Emma is the lone survivor of the shipwreck. When she eventually makes it to her fiance, she faces a British social circle she doesn’t understand in a country she doesn’t know. Starving for gossip, the English women both see her story as the most exciting recent event and a reason to question her virtue – after all,who knows what the men that saved her did to her.
It also turns out that Marcus is not at all the man Emma remembered. She knew it wasn’t a love match, so his infidelity isn’t a surprise but his callousness and unkindness are. He is too worried about what is proper, at least when it comes to her behavior.
Emma finds herself drawn to the Duke of Auburn, her fiance’s cousin. Julian Sinclair is the only one that treats her as an equal and a human, and he himself does not fit into the society. Since his grandmother was a local, the British view his loyalties as suspect, and ignore him, even though he is the only one speaking sense, aware of the local unrest and unhappiness.
When the Indians actual rise up against the British, Julian saves Emma and gets her out of the city, but they are soon separated by unforeseen circumstances.
It is only years later that they reunite in London. They both interpreted their separation in very different ways, so as they see each other again, Julian and Emma must determine if they can forgive and overcome their past wounds.
I actually read Duran’s seventh novel, The Sins of Lord Lockwood, before I read this and Emma and Julian are key supporting characters, so Malin had told me they were in this novel, Duran’s first. I am impressed that she would return to Lord Lockwood and his wife so many novels after introducing them but I liked seeing both perspectives of both couples, as the main couple and the outsider view.
I quite liked this novel, and am surprised that it was her debut because it definitely did not read as a first novel. While Emma is advanced for her time, Duran doesn’t make her perfect and has her make more than her share of ignorant comments, but shows an interest and capacity for learning, being open to Julian’s corrections. I also kept thinking of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily from the Pink Carnation series, because it is one of the few other romance novels I could think of that followed British subject in India, even if there was about half a century between their settings (also, both had a horrible fiance/husband).