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 back 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.