In this historical romance set against the 1898 construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway, a budding relationship is complicated by meddling family members, jealous suitors, and man-eating lions.
When Catherine Rose and her mother, Ethel, arrive at the unfamiliar train station in Lahore, India, Catherine’s father, Gilbert, fails to meet them as planned. Luckily, the panicky young woman stumbles into a young Sikh man named Kharak for a meet-cute, and she’s relieved to find that he speaks English and seems trustworthy. An immediate friendship and attraction blossoms as Kharak helps the two women to their destination. At the Shalimar Gardens and other trips around Lahore, Catherine and Kharak fall in love, much to the chagrin of her prejudiced and pompous father and Ivan Freeman, the arrogant suitor who’s staying with the Roses. Ivan immediately concocts a plan to keep the lovers apart, arranging for Kharak to be sent to work in another British colony, effectively cutting off the budding relationship. Catherine then secretly embarks on the greatest adventure of her life, following Kharak all the way to Mombasa, Kenya, in pursuit of love. But Ivan still means to keep the two apart by any means necessary, and the Tsavo region, where Kharak is stationed, has terrors of its own. The book’s cross-cultural relationship is refreshing, and its peek into sites around Lahore is delightful. A wedding celebration that the two main characters attend one evening is particularly lively. The characters are a bit underdeveloped, and the author’s style of revealing characters’ thoughts often feels like caricature, particularly in the case of Ivan: “Not only do I love pretty things, but I must have them at all costs!” Catherine and Kharak, however, are undeniably good-hearted. Although much about the story is predictable, the dangers encountered by the love-struck couple become steadily more engrossing as it unfolds.
A sometimes-corny love story, but its historical details keep it from being run-of-the-mill.