Take a trip with me to nostalgia town. Really, I first read Madeleine Brent the summer before I turned 13 and I thought they were the BEST books ever. Back in that time my idea of romance came from Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. Then I discovered Madeleine Brent, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Georgette Heyer. They were my Jr. High staples, and for a LONG while (longer than I’d like to admit) I would re-read my favorites each year.
Every now and again I will pull some of the oldies but goodies off the shelf for a refresher and well, here we are. Technically this is a re-read since it was a favorite back in the day, but I never owned it and only managed to read it once. I saw it on Amazon.com and it had to be mine.
If you have never read a Madeleine Brent book, you should know that they are cheesy, unrealistic, and saccharinely romantic. Now, as a grown woman, I know that I shouldn’t like these books… and yet, there are still one or two that I love, and this is one of them! The story starts improbably in the Himalayas (of course) where Jani and her (maybe) father, Sembur, live a hand to mouth existence. Sembur is British and doesn’t speak the language but is handy with a firearm and has been employed to protect caravans. Young Jani speaks the language, respects the traditions, and acts as Sembur’s translator and sometime caretaker. Every now and again Sembur will duck out and manage to come back again with enough supplies and money to help. He also insists that Jani learn English. Unfortunately, word comes that the British military is after Sembur because he apparently killed a man. Jani and Sembur attempt to escape, but that doesn’t go as planned (understatement) and Jani ends up getting sent to an orphanage in England, but not before an ominous prediction by the High Lama. Life in an English orphanage is predictably, predictable, but Jani eventually fulfills part of the High Lama’s prophesy when she becomes part of the Woman in Red’s household. I wish I could tell you all of the juicy craziness that THEN happens, suffice it to say, there is occult, murder, miraculous healings, more murder, a trip back to Tibet, and startling (I found them obvious, you will too, but they are SUPPOSED to be startling) revelations about Jani’s mysterious past. We have all the hallmarks of a Brent book.
I wish I didn’t like it, but I did. I could see where it was going from the first chapter. Sure, I’d read it before about twenty-three years ago, but I imagine I had a good idea where it was going even then. The characters are likable, the book is an easy beach type read perfect for summer. It hearkens back to when romance novels weren’t exactly full of sex and multiple partners but about love and longing and overcoming impossible odds. I enjoyed it, but concede it isn’t for everyone.