Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Children of Empire Book #3
Publication Date: 7/25/18
Oh! This book reached out, grabbed me by both ears and pulled me into this wonderful story that takes place just at the beginning of the first Opium War in the Pearl Delta area of China. I rarely read anything that doesn’t mostly take place in England, Scotland or Ireland, so I was a little hesitant about reading this. Well, I certainly shouldn’t have been – the author’s descriptions of the place, the tensions, and the people made me feel as if I were right there surrounded by those Chinese junks waiting to see what would happen next. One of the things that I thought was wonderful is that the author didn’t try to whitewash the English and their participation in the opium trade into China. She showed the terrible effects of opium on people and it’s near impossibility to get away from – and she did all of that without writing a dark story.
I absolutely adored both the hero and the heroine. One of the things I liked about the hero was that he wasn’t the tallest male in any room nor were his shoulders so wide that he filled a door as he walked through. He was a normal, everyday kind of person. Wow – imagine that! I also liked that he loved unashamedly – no denials, no angst, and no terrible dark secrets. How absolutely refreshing. Now, for the heroine – I loved her strength and determination. However – there is a very fine line between being strong and determined and being TSTL and this heroine was teetering right on the knife edge of that line. She was thoughtless on occasion – not considering how her actions could adversely affect someone else. She is presented as much smarter than that.
Zambak Hayden is the oldest child of the Duke of Sudbury. She chafes at the restraints placed on her by society just because she is a female. Why can’t she be the heir since she is the oldest child – instead it goes to her younger brother? Why can’t she be included in the discussions on politics and strategy, etc. – after all it fascinates her and she is better at it than anybody else. There is a woman on the throne, so why can’t women have more prominent roles in society? Why is her only option to marry and become an irrelevant broodmare?
Charles Wheatly, the Duke of Murnane, has spent the last year in deep mourning for his son. He’s still mourning and he needs something to do to pull him out of his fugue. When his uncle, the Earl of Chadburn and his mentor, the Duke of Sudbury deliver a missive to him – from Queen Victoria – he cannot refuse the mission that it contains. He must go to Macao, China and gather information on the rising tensions between the Chinese and the English over the opium trade. Opium is totally illegal in China, yet the English keep filling the Chinese ports with opium and addicting the Chinese population. The Chinese pay for the opium with silver – and then the English use that silver to pay for Chinese tea. For the English, it is all about the tea and the Chinese be-damned. The Chinese government is starting to make noises about taking firm action to cut out the opium trade and Charles must investigate for the Queen to see where things really stand.
It really turns out that his mission is threefold.
• First, of course, is the Queen’s mission.
• Second is to find and keep safe the Duke of Sudbury’s two children. Sudbury’s son and heir, Thorn, became addicted to laudanum when it was given to him as a painkiller after a very serious accident. He can’t shake it and has taken a ship to Macao, China – supposedly to work for the East India Company, but it is really for the access to opium. Zambak knew what Thorn was doing and dressed as a male and snuck aboard the same ship.
• The third is added after Charles is underway to China. He discovers that his wayward wife, Julia, is in the area. It is his intention to find her and drag her back to England and divorce her. She left him after a few months and has whored herself out all over the continent for the last twelve years. He hasn’t dealt with her before now, because he didn’t want his son Jonny to go through the scandal of a divorce because Jonny had a congenital heart condition. However, Jonny died a year ago and his mother didn’t even come to see him or to attend his funeral. “The woman who deserted her son for a lover, who found Jonny’s illness disgusting.”
At first Charles and Zambak are at odds with each other because she believes that Charles is there because her father sent him to spy on her and to take her back to England. As they come into contact more and more, they become attracted to each other. It was nice to see that they fell in love slowly and each knew that they couldn’t do anything about it because of Charles’ marriage. No, there is no adultery (other than Julia’s) – so if adultery is one of your trigger points, know that you are safe with this one. They do get their HEA, but it isn’t in the way you think it might be.
The tensions are palpable, the danger will make your heart beat faster and the love that grows between Zambak and Charles is lovely. I highly recommend this wonderful book!
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“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”