There is so much to say about this book that grabbed my heart and did not let go until the end. All of the reasons I love historical romance were found in this story that was rich in history and took me to a place not often visited, China in 1838.
Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane was summoned by the Queen to go on a fact finding mission to China, but unfortunately if was right in the middle of the opium wars that were devastating to so many. I was so happy to see Charles get his own story and so hoped that he could find happiness. Almost broken from the death of his young son he had not been able to contain his grief. So this gives him a purpose, not only his missive from the Queen but he is also going to help find Zambak Hayden and her brother, the children of his mentor, the Duke of Sudbury. But what he finds more so much more.
I loved both Charles and Zambak with each of them having their own troubles. Zambak is such a determined, strong soul that does everything she can to help her brother and others as the challenge of being in country she is not welcome. Charles is desperate to get out of China and bring her and her brother home safely. He has such a strong sense of honor and goodness that just melted my heart.
Caroline Warfield has such a gift for historical descriptions and strong dimensional characters, that I could picture the surroundings and see history in the making. With several twist and turns and many surprises, the journey to the end will keep you entertained and only wanting more from this author. Well done Caroline!!!
Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane, accepts an unofficial fact-finding mission to the East India Company’s enclave in Canton, China, on behalf of the queen. He anticipates intrigue, international tensions, and an outlet for his grief over the death of his young son. He isn’t entirely surprised when he also encounters the troublesome offspring of his mentor, the Duke of Sudbury, but the profound love he discovers for the determined young woman is unforeseen and untimely. Charles certainly doesn’t expect to also face his troubled marriage in such an exotic locale. The appearance of his estranged wife in the company of their enemy throws the entire enterprise into conflict, and tensions boil over when the woman he loves is put at risk by his wife’s scheming—and the beginnings of the First Opium War.
Zambak Hayden seethes with frustration. A woman her age has occupied the throne for over a year, yet the Duke of Sudbury’s line of succession still passes over her—his eldest—to land on a son with neither spine nor character. She follows her brother, the East India Company’s newest and least competent clerk, to Macau to protect him and to safeguard the family honor—if she also escapes the gossip and intrigues of London and the marriage mart, so much the better. She has no intention of being forced into some sort of dynastic marriage, and she may just refuse to marry at all. The greed and corruption she finds horrifies her, especially when her brother succumbs to the lure of opium. She determines to document the truth. When an old family friend arrives, she assumes her father sent him. She isn’t about to bend to his dictates nor give up her quest. Her traitorous heart, however, can’t stop yearning for a man she can’t have.
As an epic historical drama unfolds around them, both Charles and Zambak must come to terms with a love that neither expected.