Regency spy romp with an Indian setting is enjoyable but nothing new

The Secret of the India Orchid (Proper Romance)The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a decent Regency tale spiced up with a bit of a spy mystery and set in the British Empire out in India, which added colour and flavour to the narrative.

Unfortunately, I’d spotted the villain as soon as he first appeared on the page but that didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story and the way the plot followed through was well done and didn’t drag endlessly on.

The romance element of the book was also well crafted, with both Sophia and Anthony appearing as properly fleshed out characters. There has been, I believe, one book before this one with the same setting and characters but concerning Sophia’s brother Jack and his romance, which I hadn’t read but it didn’t interfere with my understanding of the relationships in this book.
There was a little exposition at the start and then the story set off on its own journey without a lot more and was allowed to show itself without needless telling.

I liked Sophia, she’s a slight variant on the usual Regency heroine but her personality was rounded and her actions believable. Anthony was more on the lines of the Napoleonic spy – an earl masquerading as a rake and wastrel – and, again, his actions felt true.

Overall I enjoyed this book but it’s nothing I’ve not read before within this genre so it didn’t stand out as being new or a novel concept.

#ARC received from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Siege of Krishnapur is one of my all time favourite novels

The Siege Of KrishnapurThe Siege Of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had to study this for my A level and it was one of the few fictional books that I’ve had to dissect which still came out as one of my favourite books.

There are so many amazing moments in this book that it’s difficult to know which to pick out but the incident on the stairs will remain with me for my lifetime I know.

The characters are believable, the setting is, obviously, historically realistic and the outcome of the novel is an acceptable conclusion which demonstrates perfectly the flaws of the old British Empire and how the decline began in the Indian Raj.

Events in the book are both brutal and also hilarious, the mix between these two elements makes the horrific incidents even more shocking and, in George Fleury, Farrell has created a character who isn’t so much a hero as a man forced by circumstance to up his game and turn his back on the dandified British officer background he comes from when things come to a head as the Sepoys mutiny, taking the local populace with them.

The other characters are portrayed as superficial, everything exists within the vacuum created by the sieging natives and yet life goes on as normal for this section of the elite and their servants.

Farrell makes no mention of those involved in the uprising, they are kept as a faceless mass of seething anger and hatred and this helps to prolong the feeling that those stuck inside Krishnapur’s British compound were also ignorant of the native population and what effect the Raj was having on their country and their existence.

Having said that, Farrell was a supremely talented author and, in spite of their flaws and their self-absorbing and self-serving nature, you do want to see them survive and get back home to Blighty.

He finishes off the novel with a sucker punch, none of those involved who survive appear to have learnt their lessons at all, they return to other parts of the Empire with the same attitudes of superiority and condescension they brought back from India.

It’s a supremely well written book and a deserved winner of the 1974 Booker Prize. It’s also part of his Empire trilogy of books looking at the breakdown in the British Empire alongside Troubles (set in Ireland and also a winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize of 1970) and The Singapore Grip.

That his talent was lost at such a relatively early age when he drowned while fishing off the coast of Ireland aged only 44, is a real blow.

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