British India, 1774. Lady Emily Augusta Fitzroy is a beautiful but melancholy young noblewoman, packed off to India by her father in order to marry Warren Hastings, the tyrannical Governor of Bengal. Kidnapped by pirates, her fate suddenly rests in the hands of two men: Colonel Charles Edward Fuller, an ambitious, ruthless covert agent sent to rescue her, and the Colonel’s handsome native lieutenant, Mr. Neelan, whose loyalty to Fuller is wearing thin. Neelan and Lady Emily will, against the odds, become lovers, who must struggle to free themselves from Colonel Fuller, and from the imperialist system that he represents, if their budding romance is to succeed…
Publisher and Release Date: Bookbaby, May 2013
Time and Setting: India, 1774
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Heat Rating: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Francine Howarth
A literary masterpiece in itself, Jewel of the East is set in India (1774), at a time when the British East India Company is reaching its peak in terms of power and trade. Thus an Englishmen who is next to nobody back home in England has attained prominence within the Company. And another Englishman has reached the heady heights of Governor to Bengal. Times are harsh and brutal, both at sea and on land, and although men are sometimes heroic, honour and moral standpoint are apt to clash in times of dire battle stress and enraged envy.
Anyone who has read the Sharpe novels of Bernard Cornwell will recognise and appreciate the quality of N. L. Waddy’s beautiful prose and the descriptive elements, which indeed bring the sounds, sights and smells of India to life. However, Jewel of the East is not a dreamy romance in which a boy-meets-girl, they fall in love, thus leading to a happy ever after. Jewel of the East is a tragic story of love found along life’s path, and if I had to compare it to a classic tragedy, then I would relate it to Romeo & Juliet.
En route from England to India, Lady Emily Augusta Fitzroy is nonplussed about an arranged marriage to Warren Hastings (Governor of Bengal), and in her heart she would resort to almost anything to evade marriage to a man she neither knows nor cares for. But heartfelt wishes can sometimes turn into nightmares, and when she’s kidnapped by Tamil pirates, her previous fate seems quite minor in comparison to her present plight. However, her betrothed is not a man to sit and merely await a ransom missive. Oh no, he seeks the advice of a man who was previously held captive by Tamil pirates. Subsequently, Colonel Charles Edward Fuller is a man akin to Sharpe, and he’s a man who reluctantly devises a plausible rescue mission, assisted by Indian mercenaries. Hence Lady Emily Fitzroy’s rescue is fraught with danger to her and to the rescue force.
As happens in close knit groups of British soldiers they stick together man to man, while their Indian counterparts are looked upon as secondary beings: albeit some are regarded more highly than others so long as they abide to rules of engagement. No matter a man’s loyalty and former bravery, if he deems to refuse an officer’s direct order, all hell is let loose when that officer takes the initiative, whether right or wrong in the eyes looking on. Thus one single act of brutality crushes any sense that Colonel Fuller is a man of honour in Lady Emily’s eyes, and thence onward she is by far more trusting of the man assigned to guard her, an Indian mercenary called Neelan.
Lady Emily is not only a beauty and aware of her attractiveness to the opposite sex, she leads Neelan into her dream of escaping enforced wedlock to the Governor. And Neelan, albeit a man of good sense and conscience, sees honour in assisting Lady Emily in her ambitions to escape the Governor and to see her safely returned to England. He knows the risk in betraying Colonel Fuller’s trust in him – Lady Emily doesn’t – but Lady Emily soon learns what is to befall an Indian man who is seen as having sullied an Englishwoman. The end of this novel is classic tragedy, and yet it reveals much about Colonel Charles Edward Fuller in the closing pages. He was a man of his time, a man one could like and hate in one breath, a man as recognisable as any soldier of fortune who has helped – rightly or wrongly – in building empires across the ages.
The author has indeed set forth a complex story of cultural differences, in highlighting the hierarchy in the English class and Indian caste systems, and the consequences of crossing social divides: both English and Indian. Jewel of the East is a thoroughly enjoyable mainstream historical read. There is so much in this novel, that the brief outline above captures a mere fraction of its glorious content.