‘In the dying days of the Raj,
can paths divided by time and circumstance ever find each other again?‘
– The Sapphire Child
[ About the Book ]
In 1930s Northern India, childhood friends Stella and Andrew have grown up together in the orbit of the majestic Raj Hotel. Spirited Stella has always had a soft spot for boisterous Andrew, though she dreams of meeting a soulmate from outside the close-knit community. But life is turned on its head when one scandal shatters their friendship and another sees her abandoned by the man she thought she loved.
As the Second World War looms, Andrew joins the army to fight for freedom. Meanwhile in India, Stella, reeling from her terrible betrayal, also throws herself into the war effort, volunteering for the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, resigned to living a lonelier life than the one she dreamed of as a child.
When Andrew returns to the East on the eve of battle with Japan, the two former friends are reunited, though bitter experience has changed them. Can they rekindle what they once had or will war demand of their friendship the ultimate sacrifice?
[ My Review ]
The Sapphire Child by Janet MacLeod Trotter is Book 2 in the Raj Hotel Series and will be published with Lake Union Publishing on December 8th 2020. Having read, and thoroughly enjoyed, The Emerald Affair, Book 1 in this series, I was delighted to be returning to India and to the gorgeous and atmospheric imagery that Janet MacLeod Trotter writes about so well. I wrote in December 2019 that The Emerald Affair was ‘a sweeping tale, taking the reader on a journey from Scotland to India’ and The Sapphire Child continues in the same fashion as the reader is taken on a wonderful voyage across oceans as the world faces the horror and turmoil of the Second World War.
Tom and Esmie now run two hotels in Northern India, The Raj-in-the-Hills Hotel, Gulmarg and The Raj Hotel, Rawalpindi. Their relationship has been put through the mill but they have come out stronger together than ever. Tom’s estranged wife, Lydia is now back living in Scotland following on from her very troublesome and damaging behaviour of the past. Their son Andrew remained with his father and boards at a very reputable school. Although Tom and Esmie have their secrets, life is content. Tom has chosen to keep his past from Andrew, lightly skipping over questions when raised. But Andrew is now getting older and at thirteen he is starting to question. Stella is an Anglo-Indian with a passion for India. At twenty years of age she sees the world in a very positive light and, although her family are employed by Tom and Esmie, she has never felt in any way inferior , accepted completely as a very important part of the greater Raj Hotel family.
Stella has a very close friendship with Andrew. They have always been able to talk to each other, to playfully joke and have fun. Stella treats Andrew as an equal, something he very much appreciates as he embarks on his teenage years. Following a shocking incident at school, Andrew returns to Scotland with Stella as his chaperone. His mother, Lydia, treats Stella with total disrespect and, with a few poisonous words about his past, she encourages Andrew to remain with her. Stella returns to India, heartbroken that she has had to leave Andrew behind but also excited at the prospect of possible love on the horizon.
As war breaks out, the lives of all change dramatically and the peace at The Raj becomes a thing of the past. Tom and Esmie are distraught without Andrew by their sides and when they hear he joins up, they fear for his safety.
With all the finer details depicted with great clarity, Janet MacLeod Trotter brings the reader into the trenches of warfare as the world is upturned and people’s lives are changed forever. Andrew and Stella embark on very different paths yet there is always a very tentative connection between them as the years of war roll on. Reading this series , and any of Janet MacLeod Trotter’s books, is a very immersive affair where all the senses are tantalised. The smells, the tastes, the colour of the Indian landscape come alive on the pages as love, grief, anger and fear play out before the reader. Every single character in this book is depicted beautifully giving the reader a real sense of their personalities. I would genuinely love to see this series come truly alive on screen as it really would be a treat and a joy to watch (she hopes!)
The Sapphire Child is a captivating and sumptuous novel, remarkably researched with wonderful and vivid descriptions of an India of yesteryear. It’s a chunky read at over 500 pages so be prepared to lose yourself in the nostalgia of times gone by. Historical fiction that will sweep you away, this is a perfect read to escape the winter blues.
[ Bio ]
Janet MacLeod Trotter is the author of numerous bestselling and acclaimed novels, including The Hungry Hills, which was nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, The Tea Planter’s Daughter, which was nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year Award, and In the Far Pashmina Mountains, which was shortlisted for the RNA Historical Romance of the Year Award.
Much informed by her own experiences, MacLeod Trotter was raised in the north-east of England by Scottish parents and travelled in India as a young woman. She now divides her time between Northumberland and the Isle of Skye.
Website ~ www.janetmacleodtrotter.com
Twitter ~ @MacLeodTrotter