English novelist Anand's ironically titled fifth entry (after The Faithful Lovers) in her Bridges Over Time series features sensitive, free-spirited women who rebel, outwardly or inwardly, against selfish, chauvinistic husbands, lovers and fathers. The action is set in England and India between 1740 and 1801. In 1742, Lucy-Anne Browne marries her self-important, dictatorial second cousin, George Whitmead, who is absent for years at a stretch as a merchant of the British East India Company. After becoming pregnant during her secret affair with down-to-earth bailiff Stephen Clarke, Lucy-Anne clandestinely gives birth to a baby, Hugo, who is adopted by a clergyman and his wife on the condition that she promptly end the liaison. Two decades later, her legitimate son, Henry, a wealthy, exploitative landlord and coach-builder, weds Emma Kendall, who seethes at being "to Henry, little more than a human pisspot." Meanwhile, George, returning from India for keeps, suffers fits of insanity during which he mistakes Emma for his secret Indian mistress. To cap the melodrama, Emma dies giving birth to her third child, Sophia, who will rebel against her father by eloping with one of his tenants. Keenly observant of her characters' foibles and strengths, Anand combines authentic period detail with deft plotting, blending in historical figures such as astronomer William Herschel and Robert Clive, ambitious colonizer of India. Her turbulent, ongoing saga remains a delight.
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