It is – or it certainly appears to be! It was the exotic setting which appealed to me, as well as the historical aspect – it’s always good to gain a little education while you read! Plus I do like to change genres once in a while, just for a change.
So it’s about Emma Brand, a young woman who’s left her Australian home?
Yes, and relatively quickly she finds herself married to Captain Alec Brand, who captains a boat which travels up and down the Yangtze. Emma joins him on the first journey after their marriage, but news of political unrest further up the river persuades Alec that it would be safer to send Emma back to the International Settlement in Shanghai – a decision she’s not entirely happy with, as she had hoped to see “the real China.”
So she decides to do this back in Shanghai, doesn’t she?
Yes – to the disapproval of the other, somewhat stuffy, European ladies, who are more concerned with the next ball, or bridge game, and have social strictures they all adhere to. Emma definitely stands out, with her attitude of wanting to find out more about the real China.
How does she achieve it?
Partly with the help of the maître d’ of the Club, Chow, who despite the sniffiness and disapproval of the other Club ladies, takes Emma out to discover the real Shanghai. However, at that time there is a great deal of political unrest as the Communists are rising up and making political demands – and white faces on the streets can be putting themselves in danger, as they’re seen as being in control. Emma’s idea of being able to safely see the real China is perhaps somewhat naive…
So things get a bit more dramatic?
They certainly do…and so this book becomes something of a mixture of genres – there’s romance, history and a bit of thriller too! It’s an accomplished debut, and Emma Fancourt looks like being a name to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone!
With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and HQ Fiction for my copy of the book. This review is completely unbiased.
BLURB: Forbidden friendship, political conspiracy and incendiary passion draw Australian woman Annie Brand deep into the glamour and turmoil of 1920s Shanghai.
Leaving behind the loneliness and trauma of her past in country Australia, Annie Brand arrives to the political upheaval and glittering international society of Shanghai in the 1920s. Journeying up the Yangtze with her new husband, the ship’s captain, Annie revels in the sense of adventure but when her husband sends her back to Shanghai, her freedom is quickly curtailed.
Against her will, Annie finds herself living alone in the International Settlement, increasingly suffocated by the judgemental Club ladies and their exclusive social scene: one even more restrictive than that she came from. Sick of salacious gossip and foreign condescension, and desperate to shake off the restrictions of her position in the world, Annie is slowly drawn into the bustling life and otherness of the real Shanghai, and begins to see the world from the perspective of the local people, including the servants who work at her husband’s Club.
But this world is far more complex and dangerous than the curious Annie understands and, unknowingly, she becomes caught in a web of intrigue and conspiracy as well as a passionate forbidden love affair she could not have predicted: one with far–reaching consequences...