In 2016, Patricia Findlay leaves a high-powered career to move to Hong Kong, where she hopes to rekindle the bonds of family and embrace the city of her ancestors. Instead, she is overwhelmed by feelings of displacement and depression. To make matters worse, her father, CEO of the family bank, insists that Patricia’s duty is to produce an heir, even though she has suffered three miscarriages.
In 1912, when Isabel Taylor moves to Hong Kong with her husband, Henry, and their young daughter, she struggles to find her place in such a different world and to meet the demands of being the admiral’s wife. At a reception hosted by the governor of Hong Kong, she meets Li Tao-Kai, an influential member of the Chinese community and a man she met a decade earlier when he was a student at Cambridge.
As the story unfolds, each woman must consider where her loyalties lie and what she is prepared to risk for love.
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What could be more enticing than to sit down with a novel and transport yourself back in time? Historical fiction has always been my favourite form of reading and now I write in that genre. And I'm a person who disliked both History and English in school!
Here's the story. In 2004, I moved to Hong Kong with my husband and no job. To keep busy I decided to research my grandfather’s part in the Great War. What began as an effort to understand his life and my grandmother's ultimately blossomed into a fulltime occupation as a writer.
My latest novel is TIME AND REGRET - a blend of mystery, history and romance. Two other novels - UNRAVELLED and LIES TOLD IN SILENCE - have entertained many readers. I have an active blog—www.awriterofhistory.com—on all aspects of historical fiction including interviews with a variety of authors and others involved in this genre. Additionally, I'm a book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. I live in Toronto where I’m happily married with two adult children.
I am delighted to hear from readers. Please contact me at email@example.com or via my website www.mktod.com.
A year earlier, when Patricia and her husband Andrew had been planning the move to Hong Kong, she hadn't imagined how difficult it would be to leave everything behind – her demanding job, an intimate group of friends, her husband's two children, her mother – and father-in-law, who in many ways had become closer than her own parents. Nor had she imagined how disorienting Hong Kong would be.
“The Admiral's Wife” by M. K. Tod is an exquisite and beautiful feast for the senses. In this dual timeline story, two women's lives are forevermore entwined although living a century apart, one in pre-WWI British Colonial Hong Kong and the other in the early 2000s in the midst of the vibrant neon-pulsing city. Patricia, an expat who grew up in America but has come back to China to spend time with her aging Chinese parents, along with her husband Andrew, is filled with trepidation over the ancient customs of family loyalty and adhering to the strict traditions of the culture. She is a modern woman, with very American ideas, but when her father convinces her to explore her Chinese roots, she uncovers a mystery in her family, one that will change the future for all of them. The mystery of her great-grandfather, Li Tiao-Kan, and a British woman named Isabel Taylor.
With one arm on Henry's shoulder and her hand in his, she looked at the sea of new faces and for a moment thought she must be dreaming. To be so far away from England yet dancing to a familiar tune, surrounded by British men and women, felt like a fantasy. Round and round they went amid the swirl of colorful gowns, the sparkle of jewels, and the polish of dress uniforms.
Isabel Taylor, a very Victorian woman who supports her husband, Henry's appointment to the Admiralty in Hong Kong is thrust into this very different world of rickshaws, paper lanterns, Buddhist temples, strange languages, and tries to find her place and friends during Britain's colonialization of the city. She is surrounded by the strict rules of Victorian life, of being the good little wife, of tending to her home and supporting the proper charity events, of taking care of their daughter and providing an heir to carry on her husband's line; but she is craving something different. In an unexpected turn of events, she reacquaints with a man she met in England years earlier – Li Tiao Kan, a tall, elegant, refined gentleman whose manners bespeak very English virtues, yet his exotic Chinese looks and background intrigue Isabel.
She didn't remember going to sleep, or eating, or pinning up her hair. She barely noticed the rickshaw ride to the temple, the hammering and banging of a construction crew on Caine Road, the eagles soaring overhead. Although she knew such a meeting could undo her, she could no more resist it than she could resist breathing.
Not only does Isabel and Li's relationship change their own lives in their present time of 1912, but it will change the life of Patricia Findlay in the future as she uncovers the truth behind some fraudulent activity going on at her father's bank, which makes her question the depth of her loyalty to her father, a man who has always placed honor as one of the highest virtues held within the Chinese culture. This story treads very human emotions, that of acceptance, trust, love, friendship, family, and honesty; as well as the unbearable pain of grief and rejection.
“My wife says these ancient legends tell us that all things may grow and change. A snake may become a woman, for example. A plant may become an animal. A human may become a god. And naturally, the reverse is also true. In tonight's play, the snake becomes a woman. But she wants more. She wants love.”
“Perhaps such tales of growth and change symbolize our desire as humans to strive for more,” Muriel said. “More wealth, more beauty, a happier family, and so on.”
Ms. Tod genius in writing shines through this novel as she effortlessly tells two stories, one of Patricia Findlay and the other of Isabel Taylor, from one chapter to the next, and the result is outstanding. The narrative captivates the reader in a page-turning and breathtaking way, and the description, the world-building of both centuries, is nothing less than stunning and immersive. You can feel the raw emotions, the chaos of the city, the elegant parties, the storms brewing, the shimmering silk dresses, the intolerance between races, the disappointments and loss... and on and on. Without a doubt, the passion Ms. Tod has for Hong Kong and the immense research she undertook to develop such a tight and well-told story is worth high praise and is very recommended.
She looked directly at him, lifted her hand and blew him a kiss. No one would ever know who that kiss was intended for. But he would. And as the ship began its slow turn away from the pier and out into the harbor, he blew a kiss back to her. Watching Hong Kong recede into the distance, she kept her gaze on Teddy as his figure grew smaller and smaller and ultimately vanished. Her life had changed in ways previously unimaginable.
“The Admiral's Wife” by M. K. Tod receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company