Actress Mary Penney has brought disgrace on her respectable family.
Desperate to avoid scandal, Mary's brother-in-law, the ambitious botanist Robert Fortune, forces her to accompany him on a mission to China to steal tea plants for the East India Company. But Robert conceals a secret - he is a spy for the British forces, newly victorious in the recent Opium War.
His task is dangerous - the British are still regarded as enemies by the Chinese and exporting tea bushes carries the death sentence. In these harsh conditions Mary grieves for her London life and the baby she has been forced to leave behind, while her fury at Robert intensifies.
As their quest becomes increasingly treacherous, Robert and Mary disguise themselves as a mandarin and man-servant. Thousands of miles from home, Mary revels in her new freedom and the Chinese way of life - and when danger strikes, finds unexpected reserves of courage.
I love historical romance novels and when I saw the cover of this book and then read the back cover I was totally intrigued, only to be sorely disappointed. This book turned out to be very slow going even though it is only 370 pgs. Mary tells the story and it reads like a diary but not in diary form. It takes so long to get onto the story as the author is telling you everything and describing everything and I must admit ... which I hate to do, I actually did skip pages without losing the plot of the novel. I just couldn't warm up to either Mary or Robert as I found them both very selfish people for various reasons. I did admire Mary for her courage and the adventure she does embrace eventually, as women in that time really weren't able to do much. It's a pity she was a fictitious character. Robert Fortune is a real person who was a famous Botanist and he was married to a Jane Penney. The author has taken licence with the story, but has stayed historically true as possible.
It was an interesting read for just once, I won't be picking it up again soon.
I rate this book 3 stars.