Kidnapped and enslaved by Malay pirates, English gentlewoman Alexandra is rescued by a dashing captain who falls in love with her.
But first, captain Gavin Elliot negotiates for her release from the wicked Sultan of the imaginary island of Muradi. As Asian despots go, the Sultan is relatively easygoing, and so he proposes a game of chance: Gavin can win the fair Alexandra only by means of several arduous challenges. He scales a crumbling cliff and plants a silk scarf atop it, fights a Komodo dragon and cuts off the priceless pearl the lethal creature wears on its collar, and drinks the Sultan under the table. Clad in shimmering silks and golden manacles, Alexandra is his at last—and Gavin must bed her in public. Alex complies: there’s no other way she can safely gain her freedom and find her young daughter Kate. Afterward, Gavin and Alex sail away into the Pacific and find Kate, then marry and return to London. Alex’s highborn relatives by marriage are delighted beyond measure to see her again, and Gavin is nonplussed to discover that he’s now an earl, according to various quirks of primogeniture, even though he considers himself an American. Alas, there’s envy of the new lord and lady, and it’s not long before Alex has been kidnapped again—this time by a vicious little beauty married to a merchant mariner who’s convinced that Gavin cheated him out of a lucrative South Seas trade route. Meanwhile, accused of her supposed murder, Gavin awaits trial in the Tower of London. Will Alexandra be able to break out of her dungeon using only a soupspoon? Will Gavin be rescued from the hangman’s noose? Will the cellar cat ever stop bringing the forlorn captive rats for snacks?
An improbable historical romance that doesn’t know when to quit: another in the long line of wonderfully entertaining tales from Putney (China Bride, 2001, etc.).