Thursday, August 18, 2016

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

Let me say at the outset, I loved this book. It kept me reading late, late into the night, so you know it's intriguing. It's also different, an emotionally rich tale of love lost and found, set in India (and London) in 1857 and 1861. But I wasn't far into the first half when I realized I needed the following: (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, more complex than her others.

It 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 and 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.

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 a heroine, who is sensitive and brave, but also to some great 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 the love scenes fit the story. Highly recommended!

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  1. I. Loved. This. Book. I also loved this review. It's a challenging book in some aspects, and sugarcoats nothing, as Emma and Julian's world, and their experiences, are harsh, but the emotional payoff is well worth the rougher aspects. I think it may be time for a reread.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Anna. I'm glad you liked the review. I only wish she had included a map (I kept having to look things up!) and translated some of the phrasing. But it was a stunning story. Her later ones are not as good in my opinion.