by Madeleine Brent
**Kind of spoilery. a few things are revealed, but they won’t come as any surprise to a fan of this author***
What a wild ride this one was! And I believe this was my first reading. I find it hard to believe I could have missed this one, although it follows ”her” usual established plot outline and characters, and so is theoretically easy to conflate with other stories.
I believe structure-wise this is quite possibly her best book. Madeleine starts weaving her spell from the very first page, as usual. Our first person heroine-narrator had been captured and held as a wife, then the slave of an Afghanistani tribal chief, before being sold to a village doctor to whom she becomes his nurse and like a daughter. Of course, she is English and of gentle and wealthy birth, though she is now an orphan. Her “master” learns that she is to be sold to a cruel and mad rival leader and he enlists a mysterious peddler to try to get her to a British Outpost. **Spoiler**
The peddler, who turns out to be a British spy, is set up from this point to become the love interest, and the reader is all for it. He is a great character, and very similar to the many love interests in other Brent novels. A good 50 pages are spent with them on their journey and developing the relationship.**End Spoiler**
They succeed, of course, and the rest of the book is spent on her adventures in England. When she gets to her family estate to claim her inheritance from her massacred parents, she finds she has been replaced by an impostor(!) She is cast out and is taken in by the clownish owner of a traveling Punch and Judy show and his gypsy girlfriend(!!) Before she is restored to her rightful birthright,
**Spoiler**she learns her buddy, the puppeteer, is really a wealthy if eccentric English Lord, is taken in by his mother, is falsely accused of stealing, becomes the companion of a beautiful and benevolent lady, meets up with the peddler/spy again, tangles with a Rebecca de Winter type evil genius, and, of course, again usual in a M. Brent novel, she returns to her old stomping grounds on an exciting and benevolent mission. **End Spoiler**
So many things happen to this girl, it is mind-boggling. What I have listed doesn’t even scratch the surface, but it flows together and makes sense.
I believe somewhere in the middle, the author changed her mind about the final fate of our heroine, Jemimah, and went in a completely different direction than what the reader was prepared for. I won’t say more, but I loved it! If this story had been written by someone else, I think that the shock of Jemimah being done out of her true identity and fortune would have taken up most of the focus of the plot. But Jemimah has so many other adventures and twists and turns in her life, that this actually gets put on the back burner. After all, she reasons, she is just lucky to be alive with shelter and food! I loved how completely justice is served, how Jemima is exonerated, and what a happy and exciting life she is set up for.