Though Lieutenant Laine Harkness is not committed to the religious beliefs of Miriam’s Mission, she is a nurse, committed to alleviating pain and suffering. And so it makes perfect sense for her to accompany devout Eshana in her quest to rescue the teenage girl about to give birth in the prostitute hut near Amritsar’s Hindu temple. That rescue gets Captured by Moonlight — Christine Lindsay’s second book in the “Twilight of the British Raj” series — off to a riveting start.
Just days later Laine finds herself on a train to a less prominent posting until the brouhaha dies down, but not before she and Eshana manage to spirit away with them the young girl they have helped.
The place of Laine’s new assignment near Madras contains more than one surprise. For her part Eshana has never imagined the things that await her after leaving the 14-year-old ex-prostitute at the Ramabai Mukti Mission to return to Amritsar.
This well-crafted and beautifully written story held me captive from beginning to end. The Indian setting came alive with colors, smells, sounds, and a multitude of Indian words that lent it a feeling authenticity: “Laine’s nerves calmed somewhat and she began to eat of the pachadis and sambars, rasams and curds” (Kindle Location 2987).
Lindsay places the story firmly in history, dating the beginning “Late October 1921” and referring to various historical people and events including the Christian convert Sundar Singh, the Vellore Hospital, the Ramabai Mukti Mission, the rise of Gandhi and his non-cooperative movement, the riots surrounding the visit of the Prince of Wales, and the cholera pandemic of 1899-1923, that ended up killing more than 800,000 people in India.
The inspirational aspect of the book is subtle but deep and foundations the entire story. I found the character Eshana especially compelling. She struggles with the meaning of a difficult circumstance (“I have much work to do. Why do you lock me away when I could be working for your Kingdom?”- Kindle Location 2236) but ends up demonstrating the kind of selfless love that reminds us of the Saviour she follows.
There are romances too, but as romances go, the two here are not saccharine but tough and grounded, with resistance from most parties. Perhaps the most compelling romance is the love the characters sense from their creator, seen here through the eyes of Eshana’s friend, the young Sikh doctor Jai Kaur:
“What sent an arrow of fear into his heart was the sensation that he was being unceasingly pursued by someone other than these gentle women. Someone far greater … (Kindle Location 2576).
For a captivating yet thoughtful historical, populated by strong interesting characters that will sweep you away to the India of the 1920s, Captured by Moonlight is hard to beat. Though it is the second book of a series, it easily stands alone and readers do not need to have read book one (Shadowed in Silk) to understand the story. Discussion questions at the end of the book make this an excellent choice for book clubs.