Set against an exotic background complete with a tiger hunt and the opium trade of 19th-century India, a tragedy of surprising scope is played out here. In the center is pseudonymous Ryman's heroine, freethinking American Olivia O'Rourke, who comes to Calcutta's "village of palaces" to visit her relatives Sir Joshua and Lady Bridget Templewood. Her radiant innocence proves out of place in the stiflingly proper atmosphere, and from the moment her path crosses that of the enigmatic Eurasian Jai Raventhorne she is caught up in an obsessive affair, with only her formidable intelligence and courage enabling her to endure Jai's savage betrayal of herself, her aunt and her uncle. Yet her romantic ordeal transforms Olivia into as ruthless an adversary as the man to whom she gave her love and trust, and out of the ill-fated choices she must make a great cynicism is forged. Beneath the propriety of the staid expatriate British community in Calcutta fester secrets of unspeakable defilements, and Ryman, a spellbinding storyteller, captivates the reader from the first page.
Romance, drama, loveable (and love to hate) characters with depth, dark secrets and by far one of the most shocking and unexpected betrayals I ever read.
I love, love, loved it. It's a historical that takes place around 1850 Calcutta, India. It is, in my opinion, quite possibly one of the most perfect romances ever. It's what I call an 'adventure romance', the kind that publishers wont allow anymore because supposedly no one wants to read them. Honestly, the only thing I regret about this book is that it took me so many years to find it.
Here's a great summary of it by an Amazon reviewer:
This story is set in India some 20 or so years before the Sepoy rebellion. Olivia is an American who is in India for an extended visit with her Aunt, who is married to a British tea merchant. One day while trying to escape a boring ball she goes outside for some air and privacy. Ending up down by the river, she crosses paths with Jai Raventhorne, a dark, brooding, and mysterious Eurasian. For reasons unknown to them they are drawn to each other with an intensity that is both exhilarating and frightening. Despite Jai's repeated warnings that he is no good and will ultimately end up hurting Olivia her runaway emotions have a mind of their own. Jai, knowing he will eventually hurt her, is unable to resist his own attraction to Olivia as well.
Eventually Jai's disturbing warning proves true...in the form of an unimaginable betrayal that shatters not only Olivia but her entire family. For some reason Jai is set on destroying Olivia's family. After the betrayal Olivia's love turns to an intense all consuming hatred. Her life spirals downward and she puts all her efforts into destroying Jai...and discovering the reasons and motives behind his intense hatred for her family.
As Olivia and Jai's hatred for each other increases they do all they can to hurt and destroy each other. However, the vigor and passion that they throw into hurting each other matches the one they once loved each other with. And as we all know...the opposite of love is indifference, not hate!
This story started out much like a typical well written Historical Romance, after the first 100 pages though it quickly turned into anything but. This is an emotional rollercoaster ride and I found myself cheering for Olivia and hating Jai with an intensity that I'm sure would make the author proud. It was absolutely impossible for me to tear myself away from this book at times. The plot is complex and the elements of mystery, romance, and revenge are absolutely genius.
Only the deepest desire could bring them together. Only the darkest betrayal could tear them apart.
The elegant American daughter of privilege, she is seduced by the opulence of a strange and beautiful culture. But her seduction isn't complete until she meets the man who becomes her opium...her obsession.
The tormented son of an unknown Englishman and an Indian servant girl, he is an alien in the prejudiced world of the British Raj-a dark, forbidding man Olivia can neither trust...nor resist.
Together they explore the sensuous, exotic tapestry of India in 1848-from its riotous peasant bazaars to tiger hunts in hushed jungles....and, together, they defy every convention of a time and place, swept up in a powerful blend of passion and frustration that transforms them from devoted lovers to fierce enemies.
Only the deepest desire could bring them together. Only the darkest betrayal could tear them apart. Olivia - the elegant American daughter of privilege, she is seduced by the opulence of a strange and beautiful culture. But her seduction isn't complete until she meets the man who becomes her opium...her obsession. Jai - the tormented son of an unknown Englishman and an Indian servant girl, he is an alien in the prejudiced world of the British Raj---a dark, forbidding man Olivia can netierh trust...nor resist. Together they explore the sensuous, exotic tapestry of India in 1848---from its riotous peasant bazaars to tiger hunts in hushed jungles...and together, they efy every convention of a time and place, swept up in a powerful blend of passion and frustration that transorms them from devoted lovers to fierce enemies.