Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Review: Meredith Duran’s THE DUKE OF SHADOWS - Stunning, Complex Love Story Will Sweep You Away to India!

OK, let me say at the outset, I loved this book. Winner of the Gather First Chapters Romance contest and a Finalist for Romantic Times's Best Historical Debut 2008 award, you know it's a good one. It kept me reading late into the night; it's intriguing. I guarantee it will hold your interest.

This one is also different, an emotionally rich tale of love lost and found, set in India (and London) in 1857 and 1861. (There are four years between the first and second halves of the book.) But I wasn't far into the first half when I realized I needed (1) a glossary (for terms like patois, zenana, sepoy and grisaille), (2) an Urdu-English dictionary (or at least a translation of the phrases and dialog in that language), and (3) a map of India. If she ever does a deluxe edition, I recommend she include those things. But even without them, the story was AMAZING.

The story begins as Emmaline Martin travels to India to join her fiancé (a self-absorbed, cruel colonel in the British East India Company's army and an impoverished man of noble birth who only wants Emma for her money). The marriage was her parents' idea--her parents who are killed on the ship bringing Emma to India. Emma arrives in Delhi emotionally bruised but fascinated with the country. She finds the life of an Englishwoman in Delhi's British society to be boring and, as an artist, she wants to see the colors and people in the bazaar but it's just not safe. She meets Julian Sinclair, cousin to her fiancé and heir to a Dukedom, at one of the parties. She is instantly attracted to the handsome British nobleman who has Indian blood and understands the unhappiness of the Indian people living under the rule of the British. Julian believes there will be an uprising, but he can't get the attention of the British. Of course, he isn't wrong. Much of the first book deals with the uprising and the horrible things Emma witnesses and experiences during that time. Julian and Emma have already realized their love for each other when they are separated in the ensuing battles.

The second half takes place 4 years later when, back in London, Emma and Julian are living as empty shells, he believing she was killed in India and she believing he didn't come for her. You get the picture.

There are many twists and turns in this unique first romance of Duran's as she immerses us in the tumultuous times in India when the Indian soldiers in the British East India Company's army (the sepoys) mutinied in various parts of the country. But in this tale, there is also treachery in the British ranks based on greed.

Duran introduces us not only to a wonderful hero (who loves Emma consistently throughout the book) and heroine (a sensitive, brave young woman who knows her mind and is willing to flaunt convention), but also to some great, multidimensional secondary characters who give you a feeling for the time and the place. It's a story of survival in war, of learning to understand another culture and its effects on the people who are exposed to it, and of true love that marks you for life. The emotion feels real, not contrived. And, one final word about her love scenes: they are truly fitting to the story and what's happening with the hero and heroine at the time. I give her full marks for that as few romance authors do it so well. I highly recommend this one!

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