|Her Only Desire is standard Gaelen Foley fare. It features a
vivacious if scandal-prone heroine and a noble but emotionally
wounded hero. Both must lay down their lives for national security
and battle inner demons before they earn the right to a happy-ever-
Georgiana Knight is named for her scandalous aunt, the very same
Duchess of Hawkscliffe who is the mother of all of the Knight
children in the other books in this series. Unlike her cousins,
Georgie was born in India and is more familiar with the customs and
habits of the Anglo-Indian elite than with the London one. She
doesn't, however, approve of all of them. In fact, when we first see
her, she is riding to the rescue of a childhood friend, a young widow
who must demonstrate her wifely devotion and virtue by joining her
husband on his funeral pyre. Georgiana will not allow her friend to
commit sati, as this traditional Hindu ritual is called. With the
help of Ian Prescott, the Marquess of Griffith, a British officer and
diplomat who is conveniently at the scene, she removes her friend
from the flames.
Ian is in India to convince King Johar, the Maharajah of Janpur, to
sign a treaty of neutrality. Although he is (obviously) attracted to
the beautiful Georgiana, he refuses her friendly and helpful
overtures. For one, he fears she is too much like her namesake and
balks at any scandal in his life. For another, he has already been
married once and doesn't want to go through that heartbreak again
(the exact nature of the heartbreak and how it explains Ian's
behavior aren't revealed until the end of the story, but neither
comes as a major surprise). Finally, he is convinced the young woman
can't be of much help in his mission. So he puts her under house
arrest and rides off to deal with his mission.
By the time Ian sees Georgie there, he has realized that they are
well-suited (their attempts to act out erotic Hindu carvings helped),
but now the scars of his emotional trauma stand in their way. As
romance conventions would have it, these are a much more serious
threat to their future happiness than all the notorious Indian
bandits, palace intrigues and bloody wars put together.
Despite being fairly predictable, Ian and Georgiana are
likeable characters, and their story is quite engrossing. Until the
final sequences, action, character development and romance are
balanced quite effectively. And yet, Her Only Desire would be quite indistinguishable were it not for the rather unusual setting.
Foley does a good job bringing early nineteenth-century British India
to life. She probes the conflicts and contradictions of her secondary
characters, making them into something more than passive Hindu
brides. She also alludes frequently to aspects of British rule, which
suggests that she has done her research. Finally, her attention to
unique smells, tastes and sights brings the subcontinent to life.
I was less convinced with Foley's efforts in the English
part of the novel. Among the numerous threats Georgiana has to
confront there is the stereotypical thwarted lover and Other Woman.
This only elicited some yawns. Elsewhere, the purple-tinged
descriptions provoked loud outbursts of laughter. Georgiana is
entirely enamored with Ian's collarbones which "spanned outward like
flying buttresses to reinforce the might of his wide, iron shoulder."
There may be some merit to comparing a rock-hard man to a well-
wrought architectural structure, but frankly I don't see it.
That aside, Foley fans in search of more of the same won't be
disappointed with Her Only Desire. Even the rest of us won't regret the time spent on her latest venture.