Atmospheric, if uneven, melodramatic obstacle-course to true love set in the glory days of the British Empire, in 1920's Hong Kong--in another historical romance from the New Zealand-born Worboys (Aurora Rose, 1988, etc.). Young, naive Hellen North falls off her horse and into the arms of Oliver Marathon, dashing nephew of the Governor of Hong Kong. She's a farmer's daughter; he's the future Earl of Stradlock: they've met before (in another lifetime), so ""their love, inexplicable, unbidden...and all-consuming"" is predestined--despite Oliver's duties to Empire and family, which call him hack to Hong Kong before the two can marry. Hellen takes the next boat, where slick George Curtain, who is ""that dreadful thing, socially not quite,"" mistakes her for a rung on the social ladder: he abducts, rapes (not once, but twice), and marries her before she gets to Hong Kong. Scared of a scandal, Hellen passively accepts the marriage, reasoning that ""a contract is a contract,"" and the second rape ""an Act of God."" Fortunately, however, the ""all-seeing, all powerful"" fate that brought Oliver and Hellen together, then ""crowned them with thorns, caught them in traps, [and] heaped disasters on their heads"" brings them together again--and gives George his just deserts. This is the Orient, where ""good joss and timing"" account for everything--including, it seems, the fascination that these two milquetoasts have for each other. Readers who can ignore the pidgin English, the stereotypically ""inscrutable"" Chinese, and the karmic silliness will enjoy the local color and history.