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This historical romance doubles asan adventure story about two travelers in China who fall in love, only todiscover that they're on opposite sides in a political chess game.Thomas (The Luckiest Lady inLondon, 2013, etc.) returns with sword-wielding heroine Catherine Blade.After a humdrum start, the novel evolves into an engrossing and unpredictabletale of political intrigue and betrayal. The action alternates between ChineseTurkestan (the current-day Xinjiang region of China) in the 1880s and London inthe 1890s. Catherine is the child of a Chinese courtesan and an Englishman.While gathering intelligence for her Chinese politician stepfather in 1883, shemeets and falls in love with a man she thinks of only as "the Persian." Whentheir paths cross in London 8 years later, Catherine discovers that he's notPersian at all, but a landed British gentleman named Capt. Leighton Atwood.Although he still makes her heart beat faster, he's engaged to anotherwoman. Catherine pretends she's merely a gently bred lady returning to herfather's homeland, but once again, she's on a dangerous mission for herstepfather that she can fulfill only with Leighton's help—in spite of hisallegiances to his fiancee and to the British crown. The book's biggestweakness is the villain, Lin, a cartoonish and unconvincing opponent. Itsstrength is the complexity of its main characters. Catherine is graceful andfeminine but also deadly with a blade or her bare hands. "We would neverquestion your manliness, would we?" Leighton teases her. Leighton is anatural caregiver, equally comfortable cooking for Catherine and saving herfrom bandits. A thought-provoking exploration ofgender roles in the East and West and in the historical romance genre. It'salso a darn good read.