Edmund Sherbourne feels God is leading him away from his life as a missionary in India and back to England. His brother has married a most unsuitable young lady, and now, they are actually considering having a child—something that must be stopped immediately! But he doesn’t anticipate being summoned by a wealthy businessman whose daughter has run-away from home—and the reward that is offered for safe return—a reward that is truly everything Edmund has worked for in India and never hoped to obtain.
Violet Rosse isn’t the child Edmund expects. She has run away from home to escape being returned to England and the loveless marriage her father has arranged for her with a complete stranger. Her passion is orchids and birds—and to study both, she needs to stay in India. She maintains that she’ll simply die if she’s sent back to England and under no circumstance will she reconsider—she has no option but to escape and make her own life—no easy feat for a woman in 1816.
Edmund locates Violet with remarkable ease—but talking her into returning home is another matter. The conversation goes from bad to worse—and finally, Violet flees Edmunds presence in tears. Edmund is left with a sullen servant woman who insists she knows where Violet has fled. Is she actually taking Edmund to Violet—or to his death?
And what does God intend for Edmund to do—return to England to stop his brother’s perceived mistake—or stay in India and realize his dreams?
I sympathized with Violet right away. An only child, she is virtually ignored by her wealthy father until he decides he can make a profit off of her by offering her in marriage to an acquaintance. Naturally, Violet panics and flees, hoping to pursue her own desires and to avoid marriage—not that she’s against marriage, just an arranged marriage.
Edmund is torn between his desire to serve God and help his family. I found him rather stiff and unyielding—and couldn’t understand why, when faced with a bribe; he didn’t hesitate to jump at it. I felt a missionary would have at least spend some time in prayer over the decision, since it meant leaving both God’s service and his family.
Sweet Violet is a well-written historical novel that makes the sights and sounds of Calcutta, India, come alive. I could almost see the red-stained teeth of the old men chewing beechnuts, and hear the market place chatter as the missionaries made their way down the street. Living in an area with exotic birds and flowers must be truly special and I enjoyed experiencing it in the book. The characters are also well developed, but the dialog was a bit stiff and sometimes hard to follow. Ms. Palmer excelled in the setting more than in making the characters come to life in Sweet Violet. Never the less, Sweet Violet is not to be missed. Pick it for an unequaled escape to the tropics of India.