Bride of Danger

Written in the Stars

My One and Only
by Katherine O’Neal
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-58121-X
India is a wonderful, exotic, mysterious, turbulent backdrop for a romance novel. Add to that a time period (early 1900's) not often tackled in romance, which provides opportunities for an author to pen something out of the ordinary -- and Katherine O’Neal does just that. From her vivid descriptions of India to complex characters that stick with you, this is an adventure story that successfully intertwines romance within the adventure. Even the love scenes are adventurous and sometimes very raw.

Kitty Fontaine, the daughter of a British colonel and granddaughter of a Rajput Princess, was kidnapped as a child by rebel forces in India and eventually saw her best friend shot and left for dead during a rescue attempt. Fast forward 14 years to England; Kitty Fontaine has put everything Indian out of her mind beginning with boarding school when she slapped a classmate who wrote the word “Wog” on her desk.

The author quickly paints a picture of a woman of strength, determination, loyalty and compassion with something to prove. Kitty is a vibrant thrill seeker who flies a plane and uses the skills learned as a child to become a cat burglar in search of a particular stone to save her father from execution.

One night while searching for the “Blood of India” she comes face to face with Max Aveli, the “Tiger,” a fellow cat burglar searching for the same stone. Their search for the stone goes from competition to forced collaboration.

This is usually where you get the low down on the hero, unfortunately I can’t give you much without “spoiling” it. Let’s just say Max Aveli is mysterious, compelling, harsh and very focused on his cause but as the story unfolds you understand that he couldn’t possibly be anything else. You won't always like him, but you will no doubt respect him.

Through sometimes flamboyant prose, the author skillfully weaves the contrasting fabric that is India. The author doesn’t make the mistake of assigning the British occupation of India the role of some sort of benevolent dictatorship that glosses over the systematic rape of India. She expresses the half empty half full perspective of the same situation in the following passages:

“...rival tribes have been butchering each other for centuries. We are the force that creates order out of this chaos. We set the example. Keep that in mind and it will always see you through.”

“You must also remember the importance of taxing its people to poverty. Of conspiring with its maharajas to keep them destitute and hungry by suppressing any native industries which might compete with England’s and offer them a living wage. Not to mention your sacred obligation to hunt its tigers to extinction. Quite a chore this white man’s burden of yours.”

Unfortunately, some of the raw love scenes that had enough “purple prose” to furnish that guy who used to be called Prince a new wardrobe. Phrases like: “...rosy nipples riding mounds of sumptuous swaying flesh.” or “...her breasts swelling, throbbing, swinging voluptuously...”

My One and Only is a story that utilizes the historical setting to its best advantage. Another enjoyable factor is how the villain is hidden in plain sight, you see it but you just don’t want to believe it. The protagonists and the setting all but dominate the story; even though they are well done, the secondary characters don’t stand much of a chance. Katherine O’Neal delivers an entertaining and well-written kaleidoscope.

--Wilda Turner

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