This book starts out as a four star, then slams into a 1 star, so I’ve given it two overall.
I really enjoyed the first half of this novel – it was very girl meets house gothic – but came unstuck when the action moved to India. I enjoyed the set up with the narrator having been kidnapped by the local lordling as a child, and the dynamic they had as a result. Drusilla’s life and family in England were well realised and rounded, and her role as a companion rang true for the era. The maiden aunt with the peacock fan didn’t seem very relevant, but added to the gothic overtures.
I had been looking forward to the India section, but was disappointed almost as soon as the characters got there. I got the impression the narrative was trying to suggest that even Drusilla’s acceptance of Imperialism was not a good thing, let alone those characters actively involved with the East India Company, but the plot did nothing to back this up. By portraying the Indian characters as either good submissive servants (so submissive many didn’t even get names) or arrogant sexual predators, thuggees who wanted to force women into suttee, the Indian Rebellion was reduced to a group of people who wanted back to right to burn widows.
It was deeply uncomfortable reading, and left me with very little sympathy for any of the English characters. By the time the plot returned to England I didn’t really care how to romance ended up. The fan as a motif only turned up sporadically, and it never felt like it had more than a glancing impact on the plot (Drusilla’s life prior to going to India seems more blessed than cursed). Having had this book come so highly recommended, I was more disappointed than I might have been had I come in blind, but a lot of that also came from enjoying the first half so much that the racist elements of the second completely blindsided me.