The Sapphire Widow

Written by Dinah Jefferies
Review by Elisabeth Lenckos

The breathtaking scenery of Ceylon is the true hero of this novel, as the descriptions of its verdant hills, turquoise seas, ancient estates, and vibrant markets enchant the reader with their lushness. Against this sensuous backdrop, men and women fall in love passionately and fatally—as Louisa Reeve, heroine of The Sapphire Widow, discovers on the anniversary of her wedding, when she is told that her husband Elliot has perished in a car accident. As she investigates the circumstances of his death, she finds out that he has led a double life, gambling away her money, and cheating on her with another woman—discoveries that hurt Louisa more, because she has barely survived several miscarriages and the death of an infant daughter. Will she learn to trust again? Her savior could turn out be the cousin of her husband’s lover and the owner of the Cinnamon Hills plantation, Leo McKern, who seems attracted to Louisa from the beginning. But while Leo pays her court, gently persuading her to care for her dead husband’s bastard son, Elliot’s old sins threaten to catch up with his widow, threatening her with the loss of everything she has come to hold dear since venturing a new start.

Jefferies’ love for the southeast Asian landscape shines through her every word, and she draws a vibrant portrait of colonial-era Ceylon in the 1930s: its planters, businessmen, and pioneering women, as well as the international criminals who prey on them. Although the reader might wish for greater complexity in the depictions of racial relations, The Sapphire Widow is a thoroughly enjoyable read and comes highly recommended.