When Sophie is suddenly orphaned at the age of six, she is taken from her parents’ tea plantation, the only home she has ever known, to be raised halfway across the world in Scotland.
As the years pass and her exotic childhood becomes a distant memory, adventurous Sophie finds refuge in her friendship with her kind, shy cousin, Tilly. It is no surprise when the girls follow each other to India to embark on new adventures, new lives and new loves.
But the reality of 1920s India is far removed from their dream: the jungles are too humid and the breathtaking tea gardens too remote. And amongst the stifling beauty, intrigue abounds; while Sophie struggles with affairs of the heart, Tilly, alone in a difficult world, delves into the mystery of Sophie’s parents’ deaths. As the past begins to darken their friendship, will long-held secrets shatter everything they’ve ever striven for?
While Sophie was born in India, from the age of 6 she was brought up in Edinburgh by her Aunt after the death of her parents. Tilly as well as being her cousin, is also her closest friend and ally. When we catch up with them in this book it is 1922 and both are young, free and single, though hoping that will soon change. When it does it sees them both heading off to India, Tilly as a young pregnant wife, and Sophie as a soon to be bride.
While I enjoyed the scene setting in England, I will admit that the story really livened up for me once the girls left for India. I have a fascination with books that have a colonial setting, and this did not disappoint. From the minute Tilly and Sophie set sail, their behaviour and regimes began to adapt to those they would be expected to assume once they arrived, and that did not necessarily bode well. For Sophie and Tilly, having left behind a life of relative freedom, India would bring about changes and revelations that neither could have anticipated.
I loved the characterisation throughout the book, especially Sophie, who was feisty, loyal and determined to do the right thing, even if that meant being wrong in the eyes of others. I also loved that the female characters for the most part were strong and capable, not perfect, but not the shrinking violets that it would have been easy to make them given the male dominated society they found themselves inhabiting.
It is a story that certainly keeps you engaged dealing as it does, with relationships, love and duty against a backdrop of rising tensions and political unrest in India. Of course it also has a romantic theme that plays out with dramatic consequences, but how and for whom, you’ll need to read the story to find out.
I look forward to reading the next instalment in the series to see how things progress for Tilly and Sophie, but in the meantime it’s back to book one for the prequel.