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The Unexpected Wife
Caroline Warfield. Soul Mate, $3.99 e-book (271p) ISBN 978-1-68291-716-9
Warfield’s ambitious but lackluster romance (following The Reluctant Wife) takes place in 1838, in the period leading up to the Opium Wars. Aristocratic English scapegrace Thorn Hayden sails on a trade ship to China to make his fortune, against the wishes of his father, the Duke of Sudbury; Thorn’s sister, Zambak, runs away with him to take care of him. Charles Wheatley, struggling to recover from the death of his young son, is sent by Sudbury to watch out for the errant pair, and also to take notes on the political situation in Macao and Canton for the British government. The sprawling plot involves plenty of actual political maneuvers and real historical personages on both the British and Chinese sides, as well as Thorn’s descent into opium addiction, Zambak sneaking into portions of China where Western women were not permitted, the unexpected reappearance of Charles’s runaway wife, and a look at the emigré society of Macao. However, well-researched as it is, the book never fully engages with the horrors of imperialism and colonialism—Charles and Zambak can, after all, leave China and put it all behind them. Their dawning love, though sincere, does not strike a bright note against the overall tragedy, but instead sinks into sentimentality. (BookLife)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 10/05/2018

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