Anahita has lived a long and storied life. In her childhood in early 20th century India, she is the well-loved daughter of a radical, educated father and a spiritual, healer mother. Though the family is of a high-caste, they are not wealthy. When Anahita’s father dies, she becomes a companion to the maharani’s spoiled daughter, Jameera. Such is the epic tale of The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley.
Anahita’s life is a series of events that take her from British controlled India to England and beyond. Her friendship with the maharani has its advantages and Anahita is brought to England to continue her education. It is here she meets the love of her life and encounters the difficulties of maintaining a relationship with someone whose family is opposed to the match. Through a series of events, Anahita loses that which is most important to her—her child.
When The Midnight Rose begins, Anahita is in her 90s and she is gathering her family around her to make her final farewells. Of special interest to her is her great-grandson, Ari, who she tasks with finding out what happened to her child. Anahita is convinced that he is alive, despite his certificate of death.
This quest takes Ari to some of the places that Anahita spent her early adulthood. He makes his way to Astbury Estate—a sprawling, magnificent English country house run by a rather odd lord. While at the estate, Ari meets Rebecca Bradley, an actress who is shooting a film on location at the estate.
Rebecca has problems of her own. Her movie star boyfriend has proposed, but she is not sure if he is husband material. And for some reason, she seems to be getting sick quite often. Add to that strange noises in her room, and you have the makings of a mystery.
The Midnight Rose is hard to categorize. In some ways, it is a tale of colonial India and the influence of caste, education, and British rule. It is also a family saga spanning nearly a hundred years. Finally, it is a mystery—with strange events, odd characters, and suspicious motives. What is indisputable is that the novel is a lot of fun.
Historical sagas such as this one can either be tedious or engrossing, and I found The Midnight Rose to be the latter. Despite there being a large cast of characters, Riley does a good job giving each a personality and back-story. While not all of the characters are likeable, they are all fun to read about. In one notable case, I felt as though a villainous character was a bit too one-dimensional.
In some cases, I felt as though the plot was a bit plodding and the pacing could have been tightened a bit. The end of the novel was contrived and predictable, and it did not contain the wonder and excitement of the first third of the novel.
The Midnight Rose works as historical fiction and is an enjoyable saga. While very well researched, it is not a deep, philosophical story. Think of it as British-India mind candy. And sometimes, that is just what a reader needs.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina