Wednesday 12 February 2020

Unkept Promises by Jude Knight Reviewed by: Anna Belfrage

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"Ms Knight’s books tend to start with a bang and Unkept Promises is no exception."

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Fictional Saga / Romance
Cape Town / Various

I have previously enjoyed some of Ms Knight’s books about the Redepenning family and was therefore positively predisposed towards the male protagonist of Unkept Promises, a feeling that survived throughout the first chapter. Then… Ah, well: I need to clarify, I think. Ms Knight’s books tend to start with a a bang and Unkept Promises is no exception. It is 1805 and we meet Navy Lieutenant Jules Redepenning when our hero awakens after having been taken prisoner by some nasty smugglers. He quickly realises that he is not alone in his predicament: in the cell next door is a young girl and her dying father. Jules saves the day, but young Euronyme (Mia for short) Stirling is compromised by the fact that they have spent the night together in a cell with only her dead father as a chaperone – I'll say no more. Spoilers.

It would not be much of a romance if the book began with the Happily Ever After, which is why Ms Knight has constructed a complicated life for Jules. His mistress Kirana, back in Madras, is expecting their first child. Jules tells Mia about Kirana, about his need to keep his native mistress—and their children—safe. He makes promises and then leaves for distant Madras and his duties there.

Eight years later, Mia has struck up a correspondence with Kirana and upon hearing that she is fatally sick, decides she must go to Cape Town and help her. Yes, Mia is one of those genuinely good people the world has too few of, but she is no milksop, and she manages to conceal her insecurities behind the fa├žade of a rich lady of the upper classes. So she braves Jules' household—he is away at sea—brings order into chaos, saves Kirana from a dismal hole in which Jules has thrown her, and… well, I'llleave you to find out.

I enjoyed how Ms Knight developed this side of the story, elegantly emphasising just how difficult it was to be a woman—even a wealthy, woman—in a time where an adulterous husband was par for the course. And as to Kirana, she is utterly dependent on Jules’ goodwill, which is why she hasn’t protested overmuch at his various affairs, making excuses for him along the lines that a vigorous man needs his bedsport and when she was struck down with consumption, what else could she expect?

Ha! At this point, Jules comes across as a major, major cad but it is testament to Ms Knight’s skills as a writer that Jules is utterly believable in his hero-cad-hero journey (because yes, dear reader: this is a romance and Jules is the hero. Phew!) Along the way, she skilfully presents us with a historical background, complete with furnishings and clothes, foods and customs. Ms Knight generously imparts her information—and love of—the period without it ever intruding into the story as such. She paints colonial Cape Town and nineteenth century England into vivid life, all the while giving the readers a twisting well-plotted tale that at times is quite impossible to put down.

I shall not reveal more than this of an excellently executed plot. I will only say that Ms Knight has delivered yet another great read which I warmly recommend you to read!

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Anna Belfrage
 e-version reviewed

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