Broader in scope, more tightly controlled in the plotting than Brown's earlier novels (The Hand of a Woman, 1984; The Sandlewood Fan, 1983; et al.), this takes the romantic-epic reader from sleepy Barleigh, England, to turbulent Korea at the end of the last century. At the death of her vicar-father--and after her unsuccessful attempts to save her younger sister first from the clutches of American adventurer Mark Banning and then from a loveless marriage to Banning's English cousin--raven-haired, green-eyed Marigold Wilder decides to take up missionary work in the Hermit Kingdom. Once there, Maggie realizes she has severe doubts about her faith and her ability to convert others. Although she seeks the company of her fellow Englishmen and even becomes engaged to the lackluster Dr. Sullivan, she befriends Chu-sun, a lady-in-waiting to the diabolical Queen Min, and becomes known at the Court. Chu-sun has a few secrets of her own: an already-blossoming interest in Christianity, and a forbidden love for courtier Kim Tuk-so. After photographing the King to his obvious delight, Maggie is invited, along with fellow missionaries, to travel north across the Diamond Mountains to save a few souls in Wonsan, a major port recently opened to foreign trade. The group is led by none other than that rogue, Mark Banning. By skillfully keeping the sparks flying between Maggie and Mark, Price gives us a rather detailed look at the turbulence of this time in Korea's history: the depravity of the monarchy; the political unrest and poverty affecting the country outside of the Palace; the surrounding countries, namely Japan and China, waiting for their chance to step in and take over. Though the historical research occasionally shows through and though there are a few anachronisms that pop out of the characters' mouths, the author nonetheless creates not one but two romantic entanglements--one ending happily, the other not--that are a convincing, integral part of a setting that she knows well (Price lived in Korea for two years) and conveys in a most palatable form.