India McKnight is a contradiction - prim, uptight, and adventurous. The daughter of a sober Scots vicar, she has decided to pursue a career as a travel writer rather than following the traditional course for Victorian womanhood of marriage and child-rearing.
Exploring the islands of Melanesia, she sets her sights on investigating some legendary rock formations. She is unsuccessful in locating someone to carry her by boat to the island of Takaku. Occupied by cannibals, she is told, not suitable for a proper English lady. This, of course, does not deter India. Finally Simon Granger, the captain of an English naval vessel, recommends she try Jack Ryder.
Jack has ďgone native.Ē A native of Australia, he operates a small shipping business around the islands. Against his better judgment, he agrees to take India to her destination. What neither one knows is that Granger is using India to lure Jack out from hiding so he can seize him and transport him back to England to be court martialled. Jack, a former naval officer, is accused of sending a large number of his shipmates to a watery grave as an act of revenge.
Simon and his men confront Jack. It is only by using India as a hostage that he is able to escape capture. Forced to flee on foot through dangerous terrain in cannibal-infested territory and past unfriendly French authorities, India and Jack discover that outward appearances can be very deceiving.
Beyond Sunrise is reminiscent of other stories set in exotic locales with a prim heroine and an unprincipled hero. It particularly reminded me of Trade Wind by M. M. Kaye and Flight of the Falcon by Wilbur Smith, two of my all-time favorite historical novels. (I donít want to get into a discussion of those heroesí villainous behavior.) The idea that two such different people could be helplessly attracted to each other is one I find irresistible. With India and Jack, Ms. Proctor has set up the same conflict - character versus character and character versus savage environment - and made their gradual progression from hostility to love an entertaining tale.
Jack has more depth than is first apparent. As his background is slowly revealed, it becomes obvious that he couldnít have done the despicable things heís accused of, but there is an unexpected twist to the plot near the end. It seemed unnecessary to me, however, that he be Australian since his origins didnít figure much into the story. India is a more familiar character - no reader will be surprised by her gradual evolution into a freer, more passionate woman.
One of the appeals of Ms. Proctorís books is they are frequently set in unusual locales. Readers who have attended a surfeit of balls at Almacks will be glad to have an opportunity to adventure on the other side of the globe with India. Even without the satisfying love story, the change in venue makes Beyond Sunrise worth a readerís time.
Ms. Proctor is an auto-buy author for me with several of her titles sitting on my bookshelves. While I wouldnít class Beyond Sunrise with the authorís really excellent Night in Eden or September Moon, I do recommend it. Prim heroine, reprobate hero, sultry tropical nights. Now thatís romance!