Oh, this book. It makes you sigh. So let me take a moment to do that…
That sigh comes for so many reason, so many times, and in so many ways… much the same as the layers of this book. There are the sighs you take after exchanges of dialogue that are so simple, yet so complex. Then the ones you hum automatically during the descriptions of the beautiful Julian. The ones that get caught in the back of your throat when you feel the depths of their love and sorrow. And the ones that just come, breathy and guttural, through each heartbreaking and agonizing, yet somehow completely lovely, moment of this book.
This story is not light. Nor is it easy to read. It is not going to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. But it is going to whisk you away to another time and place, deep into utter madness and chaos, where you will witness these two characters find deliciously sweet and tender moments amidst brutal and heartbreaking situations.
Some of the passages are almost poetic. Some are beautifully vague and others skillfully pointed. The effect is to leave you knowing exactly how Julian and Emma are feeling and what they are thinking, while still knowing the desperation each must feel in the wake of each other words, or lack of words… frustration and understanding and anger and fear and wonder, all at the same time.
Scenes are not so much described by flowery descriptions of regal furniture and carriages. It’s mostly devoid of the typical opulence found in historical romance novels. Instead, your other senses are awakened through the descriptions of warm, rolling winds, teas, soaps, and oils…the smell of wood, gunpowder, metal, and Earth. The scents and feelings of luxury and decay.
As this story develops you truly feel Emma and Julian fall in love with each other. In the beginning, it is quick and powerful, brought on by the intensity of the situation surrounding them. Later, in the second half, you feel their anger and pain, the way they want to hate each other and yet can’t seem to do anything but love each other, even if it hurts. It is all emotion. So much of it in this book that it can bring you to tears. You can’t help but ache for them.
It is really a beautiful and heart wrenching story. One that I will surely read over and over again. I was even tempted to jump right back into it. But I want to savor this book. Think about it in my mind and miss the places these two went as much as the characters themselves. I want to read it again a year or two from now and fall into in the same way.
My only criticism of this book is that the first half was so out of the ordinary for an historical romance novel that by the time they are thrust back into London society in the second half, I felt bereft of the raw and natural fervor of their time in India. While the author never gets overly fluffy in that regard, it is still closer to your traditional romance novel, and I had really loved how different the first half was. The plot during the second half was also a bit weak by comparison, in my opinion. It was established during the first half, so it made sense, but it was lacking a real punch. However, I do appreciate the authors ability to move a story along and not hang-on to and overdevelop misunderstandings.
If you’re like me, you also want to know about the love scenes. For me, they are an important part of the book. In all honesty, in any other book the amount of sex would have left me disappointed, and in fact, I do wish there was one more love scene and a few more kissing or touching scenes. A little more build up. But it is a small wish. The scenes that were there were important. They fit and made sense. They were brief and passionate. And during the stretches between them, I did not care one bit that other things were happening.
Every element of this story had a purpose and I wanted to devour each word.