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I was extremely moved by this story because unlike many other romances, it eloquently portrays the true difficulties of finding love for people who have been deeply wounded by painful experiences. Putney is known for not shying away from difficult topics, and female slavery-both in the East Indies, and the U.S. is a significant issue in this story. which is quite unique in that it begins at the end. As one of the main characters Alexandra says to Gavin , "We did things backwards, starting with disaster, marriage and then love." How they work their way back from events they could not control makes their story less a fairy tale and more a story of real human love with all its difficulties.
Sea Captain and international merchant Gavin Elliot has made his fortune in America and Asia, and he is heading back to London to set up a new office as well as to face his difficult family history. When he discovers British citizen Jeannette Warren in a slave market on his visit to a tropical Island, he tries to buy her, but the ruler decrees he must win her through a series of difficult physical challenges. Gavin frees Jeannette and marries her shortly after in an effort to preserve her reputation in London society.
Meeting Alexandra's relatives brings Gavin into contact with Dukes and Duchesses, members of the landed gentry, an institution he has learned to despise in America. Gavin suffers to find his place among them but is even more baffled when his own history brings him into society in surprising ways. However, the overriding issue for the love between Gavin and Alexandra is her fragility due to the way she was treated as a slave. And just when the two are finding their way to towards love and romance, catastrophe enters their lives again with potentially disastrous results. Through it all Alexandra demonstrates courage and determination to fight for herself and for their happiness. While some readers have labelled the story "predictable," it doesn't seem possible to use that adjective in a tale about human bondage that works backwards through pain and brokenness to create love. Even though the author uses every plot device available to create what seems like melodrama, the story itself is compelling and lovely in the way it shows real human striving, using their compassion found through pain to create a life full of love and dedication to the betterment of society.
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