Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

Pages: 408
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 21, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "London 1957. In a bid to erase her past and build the family she yearns for, Sophie Schofield accepts a wedding proposal from ambitious British diplomat, Lucien Grainger. When he is posted to New Delhi, into the glittering circle of ex-pat high society, old wounds begin to break open as she is confronted with the memory of her first, forbidden love and its devastating consequences.  The suffocating conformity of diplomatic life soon closes in on her. This is not the India she fell in love with ten years before when her father was a maharaja’s physician, the India of tigers and scorpions and palaces afloat on shimmering lakes; the India that ripped out her heart as Partition tore the country in two, separating her from her one true love. The past haunts her still, the guilt of her actions, the destruction it wreaked upon her fragile parents, and the boy with the tourmaline eyes.  Sophie had never meant to come back, yet the moment she stepped onto India’s burning soil as a newlywed wife, she realised her return was inevitable. And so begins the unravelling of an ill-fated marriage, setting in motion a devastating chain of events that will bring her face to face with a past she tried so desperately to forget, and a future she must fight for.  A story of love, loss of innocence, and the aftermath of a terrible decision no one knew how to avoid." 
18 year old Sophie moves to India in 1947 along with her physician father and her perpetually angry mother, Veronica.  Sophie's father has accepted a position as personal doctor to the Maharaja, so Sophie is thrusted into the unknown world of India and the Maharaja’s opulent palace.  The problem is there isn't much for her to do there. There are no other girls her age, so she finds herself wandering about the palace.  While wandering, she meets Jag, who is her age, and the son of a palace servant. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but because it is the 40s in India, their friendship is one that wouldn't be encouraged from both sides. They shouldn't even talk to each other, let alone become friends.  Nonetheless, Jag shows her the many hidden passageways in the palace and the beautiful gardens. As they spend more time together in secret, feelings blossom on both sides and a romance ensues.  Of course, their parents find out and are horrified. Jag is sent away and Sophie fears she will never see him again.  Fast forward many years later and Sophie is returning to India once again, but this time as a wife to a British diplomat.  She wonders if she can ever truly forget her first love and being back in India makes it all that much harder.  Alison McQueen's tender tale of first love, forbidden love and secrets is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Fans of historical fiction and romance will love to be swept away by Under the Jeweled Sky; it's an extremely romantic, yet heartbreaking tale.

Readers get to know Sophie through a series of present day narratives as well as flashbacks to India in the 1940s.  As more of Sophie's background unfolded, I enjoyed her character more and more. She's complex, been through a lot, and holds a very important secret.  One would think that Sophie has had an easy life since she is the daughter of a physician and now going to live in India with servants and in a beautiful home, but that isn't the case. Simply put, her mother is vile. Seriously. I loathed her and although I recognized she had her own demons she was dealing with, she made Sophie's life horrible.  I really felt for Sophie and what she had to go through as a teenager. Then to make matter worse, her married life wasn't that much better in Under the Jeweled Sky.

I also liked learning more about Jag and his backstory in Under the Jeweled Sky.  Before reading this novel, I don't know much about India's past and learning more about it through Jag and his journey was very interesting.  The palace, the Maharaja, the way they lived and the politics made for a very fascinating setting. I think McQueen did a great job of capturing both sides of Sophie and Jag's story as well as the innocence that surrounds first love and how politics and families can easily destroy it.

McQueen surprises readers with little tidbits of information that we can slowly piece together. I know many readers may have a hard time with the narrative jumping from various points in the past to the present as well as different point of views, but I actually preferred that technique for Under the Jeweled Sky.  When readers finally get to the climax, it's heartbreaking; however, you get to see the full picture of this tragic story.

If you are looking for a beautiful read that will tug on your heartstrings, is historical and is set in a fascinating time and place, then I recommend Under the Jeweled Sky.  But be forewarned, make sure you have a box of tissues handy!

8 comments:

  1. You know me and my penchant for emotional reads, Christina! This sounds exactly like my cup of tea! The setting and characters sound just entirely gripping. Lovely review :)

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    1. I think you would really like it. It's definitely emotional and yes, the setting is fantastic. Thanks for visiting, Melissa!

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  2. Ooh, I love the sound of this book. The characters sound great, and I'm a huge sucker for romantic & heartbreaking stories. *adds to TBR list*

    Fabulous review!

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    1. Yes, it's heartbreaking, but definitely a romance. I hope you get to read it soon! Thanks for visiting, Lea!

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  3. Thank you Christina for your kind review. I am delighted that you enjoyed the book!

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    1. Thank you so much for visiting, Alison. It's an honor. I can't wait to read more of your books in the future. Thanks again for checking out my review.

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  4. This sounds really good, but I have to admit that I try to stay away from as many "tragic" books as possible. I'm too fragile for heartbreaking. Just joking...kind of. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Great review!

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    1. I know! I had no idea it was going to be as heartbreaking as it was…so I was pretty emotional reading this story. Thanks for dropping by, Natalie!

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