I’d read a steampunk by Nancy Campbell Allen and really enjoyed it, so now it’s time to try her latest: a true historical romance that takes us to the British Colonization of India. Please read on for my review of
The Secret of the India Orchid
Mix in two characters that are paragons of virtue, add in a forbidden love element and some secrets, a dash of spying and a journey of many miles to a climate and setting so different from England, and you get this story. Of course, nothing is ever quite so simple or straightforward, and I have to say that many of these elements play a large, if not always logical part. Sophia Elliott has been enamored of her brother’s best friend Anthony Blake for years, and she thought those feelings were returned. But when he seems to act a playboy, and then leaves her with a letter that cuts all ties. Two years pass, and Sophia is bereft (still) and decides to set out to India where she runs into Anthony again: she still has the same feelings, but now her life is in danger, and perhaps he is the only man to save the day.
Anthony had every intention of approaching his best friend for permission to formally court Sophia. He is convinced she is the one, but when his career comes calling, and the Crown requests he resumes spying by finding a letter. The thing is: Anthony knows that his work is dangerous, and he can’t share it with Sophia: and he also doesn’t feel right about having such a large secret from her while courting. So, he cuts all ties believing that she will be better off without him.
So, as a beginning, after some awkward phrasing, the main characters are introduced, and we are told (not shown) that both are intrinsically paragons of virtue for their time: kind, honorable, gentle, and honest. And when Sophia boards the ship for India, an unmarried woman without what feels like a solid plan or purpose, there is nothing to connect to that allowed me to find empathy or even an emotional reaction for her. By the time we have tossed in the mystery, added the first encounter between Sophia and Anthony in the sub-continent, and worked through the very stereotypical descriptions of the Brits in India, the glossing over of the strangeness of the place that MUST have effected Sophia, and then a threat to her life I was just reading. To be honest, it’s an easy read after the initial phrasing shocks, yet the story is full of disjointed moments all seeming to serve the mysteries of Anthony’s assignments and the threats to Sophia. Emotionally the story fell flat, and there were so many moments that were not taken that could have allowed growth of the characters and their relationship to be shown, the strange (and completely contravening historic social norms) choices for Sophia in making decisions ostensibly on her own (not something that would be allowed) and the ever-longing and faithful to his first love Anthony, even after al the time and no connection, as a couple I missed them there too. Others may love the book – I was left thinking it was a story that was laden with disjointed moments, missed opportunities and the potential for truly making the story breathe and live in India was missed in favor of a magazine-cover glossiness, noticing but quickly forgetting the rich life outside the door.
Title: The Secret of the India Orchid
Author: Nancy Campbell Allen
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery Elements, Setting: India
Published by: Stone Mountain
Published on: 1 August, 2017
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 18 minutes
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Anthony Blake is in love with his best friend's sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honorable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.
Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn't as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.
She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won't confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.