Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Stuart Sutherland-Bruce is an English diplomat who comes back to his home country after a spell in China. Bian is the one he meets who has all the exotic beauty China has bewitched him with before. He wants her, needs her in fact, and could be the woman who will ultimately destroy him.
Contrary to what he thinks, though, it was no accident that he met Bian, she has got her way into his bed by her womanly wiles alone to find out if he is capable of betraying his country, and sending information about the English to the Chinese. Even though she had her doubts about him, she finds he is not that kind of man – he is different in every way possible.
Soon enough Bian knows she has a problem to deal with – she cannot tell him who she is, and risk her mission, yet she can’t stand by and let him be thought of as a traitor to his country. This is where the fun begins though, and also where the excellent characterisation gets interesting.
Tracy’s story starts out with mention of the Opium wars in China, and other happenings of the day, and with that she brings into the scene, the lovely Bian into Stuarts life – she drifts in and enchants him like smoke from a pipe, and has him hooked just as quickly. Bian is everything he has ever wanted in a woman; she is desirable, lustful and knows what she wants in life. She enchants him in ways he can only imagine, yet she is also dangerous in other, more devious ways he can only discover later.
I thought Tracy’s introduction of Throwing Down the Gauntlet was a fascinating insight into what kind of period she likes to write in, and some of the history behind it, but also it tells the reader of her writing history, and credentials. It was interesting to read about her collaborations with Julia Templeton, and the results of them.
And as I think cover artists don’t get enough mentions, this cover art is by Dar Albert who has done a bang up job of creating the art that is supposed to reflect the work of the writer. She certainly does that, showing the handsome Stuart Sutherland-Bruce with the woman of his dreams, Bian behind him looking as alluring as she is described in the novel. And what Tracy says about the tiger in the foreground is astonishing.
It is a story of mystery and intrigue set in a Victorian backdrop that makes it all too desirable for the reader to get into. This is Tracy Cooper-Posey’s jewel of a novel that enchants as well as intrigues.