The Scent of Jasmine
Melody Craven is a poor relation, orphaned by a cholera epidemic in India and given refuge by her Uncle Frederick and Aunt Laura, who bring her up alongside her cousin Mary. Dashing Captain Roger Hallet comes on the scene, on leave from India, first making a play for Melody, then becoming engaged to Mary.
But they must wait three years before Mary is of sufficient age to travel to India, and in that time she realises that her heart belongs to another. Melody, believing that Hallet loves her after all, takes her place, and arrives in Bengal en route for a garrison town in the vicinity of Cawnpore in the spring of 1857. Tension is apparent on the journey; there are reports of bandits operating in the area, and Melody is relieved to have the support of mission school-educated Indian Ram Singh and enigmatic army officer Captain Adam Channing as she travels to Parakesh by palanquin. As mutiny erupts and the British population of Parakesh faces deadly danger, Hallet displays feet of clay and Melody discovers her growing love for Channing.
To use the Indian Mutiny as the setting for a romance is scarcely new—M. M. Kaye did it with Shadow of the Moon as long ago as 1957—but for readers whose interest in historical novels is primarily in the history there is too great an emphasis in this book on what is formulaic romance. Indeed, Maureen Peters appears to forget that the Indian Mutiny took place at the hottest time of the year, as Melody several times gathers warm clothes against the night-time chill, and the hardships her heroine undergoes are almost insignificant compared with the realities recorded in such magisterial works as William Dalrymple’s recent The Last Mughal. Still, in the best romantic tradition, all ends happily.