In Search of Scandal (London Explorers, Book #1) By Susanne Lord
A DARING EXPLORER
All of London is abuzz with the tale of Will Repton. The lone survivor of a massacre in Tibet has returned to England a hero, but the traumatized explorer has no time for glory. Another dangerous expedition awaits. Nothing will deter him from his quest, and no one will unearth his secret—until Will meets Charlotte Baker.
IS NO MATCH FOR AN ADVENTUROUS HEART
Vivacious Charlotte Baker also has a mission—to find a man whose bold spirit matches her own. When she meets Will Repton, she immediately recognizes him as her soul mate, and she’s naively willing to turn her back on the rules of propriety to ensnare him. Will is torn between his fascination with Charlotte and his vow to finish his quest. He knows what it is to risk life and limb—but what if his most perilous adventure doesn’t lie across an ocean, but within his own lost heart?
Susanne Lord is a writer of Victorian-era romance and author of the London Explorer series published by Sourcebooks. Originally from Okinawa, off-base and on, she now makes her home in Chicago where she is an active member of Chicago North RWA. When not writing, attending theater or reading, she enjoys hiking the English countryside and visiting historic homes and gardens.
This was a really sweet story. Charlotte longs for adventure and what better way to find it than with the infamous ‘Chinese Will’ Repton. He is a world traveller and recently returned to London. Charlotte must marry well to redeem her family, but all the men who flock to her don’t hold a candle to the feelings she has for Will.
The story centers around the push and pull between the two. Will is extremely closed and Charlotte is fanciful and free. Opposites attract in this case, but it’s mainly Charlotte chasing after Will. Will’s reticence comes from the fact that he needs to return to Tibet to right the wrongs that forced him to leave.
What I found so interesting about this book was the historical aspect. The author has done incredible research about the world outside of London at the turn of the century. We never really think about what is happening in other parts of the globe, unless it is North America or India. I really liked hearing about China and the trouble in Tibet. The story is set at the turn of the Century and I loved learning about a different time, as most books focus on the Regency period.
The secondary characters were great – I really loved Wally, Charlotte’s brother. The inclusion of an openly gay character was fascinating. His story is great and he was a wonderful character for Charlotte to rely upon.
Overall, this book is an interesting book for the reasons mentioned. I quite like when I learn something new from a historical romance, so this was perfect!
Suzanne shares her thoughts on the explorer aspect of the book below:
Who is your favorite Victorian-era explorer and why?
This is not an easy question to answer. Kind of a touchy subject, really, if you start delving into the Opium Wars and British Imperialism and religious conversion of native populations and all that. I’ll leave that to other forums, as far better brains than mine have scrutinized those topics.
But even keeping my answer within the realm of the individual, the men and women who sailed to distant lands were motivated by the same things that would motivate any of us: money and ego, security and celebrity. In reading memoirs and accounts of their lives, you find explorers who were all-too human and fallible, governed by self-interest, greed and envy. And through a 21st century lens, what they recorded was often marred by racial and cultural prejudice and a disturbing hegemony.
Exploration was rarely a selfless, humanitarian undertaking, and I find it impossible to argue the history of exploration wasn’t also greatly a history of exploitation. These traveling scientists, surveyors, anthropologists and missionaries were world-changers—for good or ill.
Yet when I lower the volume on my jaded, 21st century voice, and reflect on their achievements and contributions to the collective of human knowledge, there is so much that lures me to those men and women. In them you find amazing acts of survival, intelligence and talent, compassion and sacrifice, and of course, courage. Mountains of courage.
Victorian-era explorers sailed for months over nightmarishly deep, dark oceans. Their ships froze in arctic ice. Cholera killed them in the jungles. Native people killed them for their trespassing. Many left their homes knowing there was a better than average chance they wouldn’t return, or return with their health permanently ruined.
Even the notion of venturing to a foreign land with little ability to communicate and no easy access to information is anxiety-forming for me. I don’t do road trips for fear of reckless drivers, cruises for fear of disease, and don’t even get me started on my phobia of airplane trays.
So for all my conflicted feelings towards them, the emotion that usually edges out the others is admiration. But I can’t name a favorite. What I can do is list the explorers who are most closely linked to my character, Will Repton.
Robert Fortune was a Scottish plant hunter who travelled to China in 1848 for the East India Company. Disguising himself as a Chinese man (yes, really), he was able to learn tea-processing methods and transport thousands of tea plants to Calcutta, which provided the source plants for the cultivation of tea in India. And as for the massacre that occurs in THE LONDON EXPLORERS series, that grisly inspiration was provided by the experiences of another Scottish botanist, George Forrest, and the murders and atrocities that occurred during the 1905 Tibet Rebellion. I learned a great deal of about Tibet from the memoir of Susanne Carson Rijnhart—a Canadian missionary—in her attempt to reach Lhasa.
I’ll never meet those men and women so I’d never presume to judge or pretend to know their hearts. Even bent to the cynical as I am, I have tried to remember what explorer Richard Burton wrote in his 1856 notes on exploring the Lake Regions of Central Africa and Zanzibar, and it is a sentiment no one would object to:
“Of the gladdest moments, methinks, in human life, is the departing upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine…and the slavery of Civilization, Man feels once more happy… Afresh dawns the morn of life, again the bright world is beautiful to the eye, and the glorious face of Nature gladdens the soul. A journey…appeals to Imagination, to Memory, to Hope…”
Whatever the motivations of those past explorers, we remember that the world is not, and has never been, black and white. I hope you find the London Explorer series full of characters that are as complex and fascinating as their real-life counterparts