The Veil of Illusion

Rebecca Ryman, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (632p) ISBN 978-0-312-13200-2
Set primarily in Calcutta in the 1870s, this lush, involving sequel to Olivia and Jai chronicles the efforts of the widowed Englishwoman Olivia Raventhorne to restore the tarnished reputation of her beloved Eurasian husband, Jai, who has been branded a traitor because of his alleged involvement in the infamous Bibighar massacre of 1857, during which 200 European women and children were slaughtered. Entwined with the story of Olivia's quest is that of the ill-starred romance between her ravishing daughter, Maya, and the wealthy young Englishman Christian Pendlebury, son of a ruthless and sophisticated British official. Like the rest of proper colonial society, Sir Jasper Pendlebury has severe doubts about Maya, despite her immense wealth and impeccable taste, because of her mixed heritage and her father's reputation. Meanwhile, prominent among a tangle of subplots are the calculated machinations of firebrand newspaper editor Kyle Hawkesworth, and a feud between Olivia's two sons. Throughout, the characters are drawn boldly, if simply, and the action is narrated in fancifully overblown prose: ``It seemed ironic that so simple an epitaph and so modest a grave in this tranquil niche of some distant, undisturbed forest should mark the passing of a life as complex and turbulent as that of Jai Raventhorne.'' After many emotional cliffhangers, each character gets precisely what he or she deserves in a series of contrived, though satisfying, resolutions. It's easy enough to root for underdogs as romantic and put-upon as the dashing Raventhornes--so most readers will be pleased to find that Ryman has left plenty of room for another installment in that family's turbulent history. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1995
Release date: 08/01/1995
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