In the early 1800s, Edmund Sherbourne grows up with wealth and privilege. A spiritual encounter with the living Jesus Christ transforms him into a dedicated missionary. But after five years in India, a country of great beauty and terrible squalor, he has yet to gain a convert.
Then wealthy merchant Malcolm Rosse makes him an offer he can't refuse. If Edmund will journey into the interior of India and bring back his runaway daughter, Malcolm will give him a license to preach publicly and a building for a church.
Swallowing his qualms that Mr. Rosse's purposes for his daughter may not be in her best interests, Edmund accepts the proposal. Born and raised in India, Violet Rosse is determined not to travel to cold, staid England for an arranged marriage. She intends to carry on her botanical studies free of interference.
The often humorous clash between the hero and heroine lends sparkle to a book filled with colorful historical detail. But frustration with the hero's exaggerated blind spots dulls the luster. (Apr., 350 pp., $10.99)