Mairead H, Reviewer
The Emerald Affair is the first book of The Raj Hotel, a new series from writer Janet MacLeod Trotter. Due for release with Lake Union Publishing on Jan 1st 2020, it is described as ‘an evocative tale of life in India between the wars’ The Emerald Affair is a sweeping tale, taking the reader on a journey from Scotland to India. It very much centres on the lives and friendship of four characters, Esmie, Lydia, Tom and Harold. Esmie and Lydia’s friendship goes back many years. After Esmie was left to fend for herself, following the death of both parents, Lydia’s family were very good to her, making their home open to Esmie at all times, with a welcome awaiting her all through the years. Now returning from her stint overseas as a nurse at The Front during the war Esmie sees life differently. The opulence that now surrounds Lydia is in stark contrast to the devastation and death that Esmie had witnessed during her time in the camps overseas. Esmie has very strong memories of the horror and the smells of the war torn make-shift hospitals, those places where she watched young men die in severe pain and without family to comfort them. Esmie, en route to Scotland, thinks about her own life and the direction it could once have taken, but now everything has changed. Can Esmie adjust to life away from the battle-fields? Lydia is thrilled to see her old friend, excited to introduce her to eligible men but also excited with the prospect of the fun they are about to have. Harold, an old friend, arrives to Lydia’s home one day with Tom Lomax, the handsome yet mysterious Captain, who immediately charms the girls and all who meet him. Tom Lomax has his own crosses to bear, secrets he keeps very close to his chest. Esmie sees something, feels something yet the two never quite get it together and it is Lydia who finally claims him as her own. Captain Tom Lomax has plans for his future but, alas, his father is very unsupportive of his dreams and threatens to cut him out of his inheritance. But Tom Lomax cannot be thwarted. He plans to leave the army, up sticks and move to India. He has ambitions to run a hotel and when an offer becomes available he grabs it with both hands. Lydia has expectations of a very glamorous colonial lifestyle in very lush surroundings and after their marriage has taken place, Lydia is bursting with the possibilities for this new life in India. But sometimes dreams don’t work out exactly as planned! Esmie looks on, envious of this exciting adventure that Tom and Lydia are about to embark on and when an opportunity lends itself, Esmie jumps at the chance. She marries Harold, both knowing that this is a relationship between two friends, a convenience but neither are prepared for the what lies ahead. The experiences that Lydia and Esmie have on arrival to India could not be more different. Their expectations, their ambitions are poles apart. As friends they have drastically differing personalities, yet, to this point it never really impacted their relationship. But now, in the heat and the challenges faced on the other side of the world, their friendship is tested to the max. Can it survive? Can they survive? The Emerald Affair is an incredibly descriptive and atmospheric tale. The experiences faced by these four friends, although so very different, weave together into an extremely colourful and compelling read. Esmie’s story is central to the tale and her courageous personality and streak of adventure lend a very exciting element to the story. The burgeoning relationship between Harold and Esmie is very sensitively handled with some very emotional scenes that are beautifully depicted by the author. Tom and Lydia’s marriage was a complex one from the getgo and on arrival to India, Lydia’s reaction was painted perfectly. Lydia is a marvellous character to watch develop across the chapters. I had so many conflicting feelings towards her behaviour and, yet,I could not help but feel a little sorry for her at times. Janet MacLeod Trotter has wonderfully captured the personalities of these four main characters and created the perfect dramatic and spectacular scenery to set them in. The amount of research is evident throughout, with incredible detail given to India and it’s people. The portrayal of the native Indians gives the reader a good insight into the lifestyle and beliefs of many who saw their land being taken from them. The Emerald Affair is a gorgeous book for all historical fiction fans. The Colonial lifestyle of the 20s and 30s always fascinates and this book brings a new dimension to that era, away from the glamour, the decadence and the gin cocktails of other tales. A compelling read set against a most atmospheric backdrop, The Emerald Affair is another splendid read from Janet MacLeod Trotter.