Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: China and the Boxer Rebellion

Bitchery reader Rina says, “Help, please?”

I have a pretty good memory for the plot, but I’m totally at a loss for the title or author.

I got it from the library when I was about 10 years old, so it would have been published in the 1980s or earlier.  Would be given a G-PG rating (no sex at all, IIRC), but was written for adults.  Hardback, fairly thick, green or blue cover, female author.


The main character was named Lucy and was an English girl growing up as an orphan in China in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  She meets a young English man in a Chinese prison who is about to be executed, and she agrees to marry him so that his work looking for a hidden treasure won’t fall into his enemy’s hands after his death but will remain with his estate.  They’re married by the prison chaplain, she’s released, and he’s presumably executed.  Years pass.  She makes it back to England somehow and is living unhappily with a family who are shocked by her savage Chinese ways (OMG, she calls legs “legs” instead of “limbs”!).

So then, one day, her husband shows up on her doorstep—turns out he faked his own death to escape from prison and now has come to collect his wife.  She’s not too unhappy about this because she remembers him being very nice to her when they were in prison, but when she moves in with him, he completely ignores her (they even have separate bedrooms) except for rare occasions when he takes her to the opera or theatre.  She can’t figure out why he’s so cold to her, and thinks there must be something wrong with her.  Little does she know that he really does love her but thinks she’s in love with someone else, so he ignores her in order to leave her free to love the other dude.  Except she totally doesn’t: she loves her husband but is too bewildered by his strange moods (and too timid, as a result of her submissive upbringing) to ask him what’s going on.  (I also remember the husband telling her that her servile ways freak him out—not in those words—and that she needs to understand that she is his equal and doesn’t have to submit to anyone.  He’s a good guy.)

Somehow they make it back to China just in time for the Boxer Rebellion (I think to look for this treasure the husband has been hunting), something happens, husband is injured in the fighting, and in his fevered ramblings, he mutters that he loves Lucy.  Lucy is ecstatic, and after his fever breaks, they confess their love for each other and live happily ever after (with the treasure, IIRC).

A marriage of convenience, a husband who’s frosty on the outside but passionate on the inside, a very sweet and likable heroine….these are some of my favorite elements of Romance, and, oh, how I would love to read this again!


Anyone got an idea? That’s a lot of detail – surely someone knows this book.


Help a Bitch Out

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  1. 1
    Black Val says:

    Moonraker’s Bride, by Madeleine Brent

  2. 2
    ev says:

    People like you just amaze me Val. I can’t remember what I just read much less most of what I read years ago. Although there are some that just do stick with me, but those are mostly sci-fi/fantasy for some reason.

  3. 3

    I was reading your description of the book and I was jumping up and down in my chair because I actually knew what book you were talking about. I loved that book! The setting was so different and exotic from anything else I was reading at the time. I think that’s why the name of the book stuck in my memory. But could not remember the Author’s name.

  4. 4
    MoJo says:

    Oh, I have a beat-up-damn-near-disintegrated copy of Tregaron’s Daughter by Madeleine Brent.  It’s on a keeper shelf with all EIGHT of my other keepers-till-I-die.

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    Aaaand Black Val got it in one! That’s worth a Smart Bitch Titleâ„¢. Way to go Val – stay tuned for coronation.

  6. 6
    Malin says:

    I highly recommend Madeleine Brent’s books! You could have knocked me over with a feather boa when I googled the name and found out MB was a pseudonym for a guy called Peter O’Donnell! (Of Modesty Blaise fame.)

    Seriously, this is some quality writing with quality heroines and unusual situations. Heroines surviving adversity, making their own way outside of (or inside of) society.

    Anyone else read MB growing up? What did you think?

  7. 7
    AgTigress says:

    I am a huge fan of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise books, but although I have long known about his other persona as a romance novelist, under a feminine pseudonym, I have never actually come across any of these books.  He is a fine writer, with real insight into character, and I am not surprised to hear that his romance novels are good.

  8. 8
    Lucy Maude says:

    Mary Jo Putney ripped off huge portions Brent’s plot for the China Bride.

  9. 9
    nekobawt says:

    wow! i haven’t read this book in like 10 years…i’m amazed rina’s description sounded familiar. i’m pretty sure (the readers’ digest version of) it is sitting on my dad’s bookshelf in his living room—under an inch of dust.

  10. 10
    Suze says:

    OMG, I loved, loved, LOVED Madeleine Brent!  She was a man?

    I can still remember a huge number of scenes in the Moonraker’s Bride, and it’s at least 25 years since I read it.  I especially liked when Lucy was thanking her new English family for taking her in, and promising to do her best to be a good concubine.

  11. 11

    I loved Madeleine Brent’s novels!  Never knew she was a he, though.  Now you’ve inspired me to track them down and read some again.

  12. 12
    AgTigress says:

    Here are the details on Peter O’Donnell:’Donnell

  13. 13
    DS says:

    Long Masquerade was one of my favorites.  Also Stormswift and the Golden Urchin.  I loved the fact that his heroines were do damned competent.

  14. 14
    AgTigress says:

    I loved the fact that his heroines were do damned competent.

    Modesty is probably one of the most competent heroines ever written!  And she is genuinely likeable with it.

  15. 15
    Leslie H says:

    I read Tregaron’s Daughter with a 103 degree temp when I was 12! Still loved it. Lucian, Lucian…

    Merlin’s Keep I think is my fave, with A Heritage of Shadows as close runner up. All my copies were lost in a house fire Sept 29th, I am hot on the trail of re-acquiring them all.

    They are Buy-them-every-time-you-see-them. No, you can’t have too many copies of TD.

    Did you know that the insurance company measured my bookshelves, counted how many books were in a yard of them, and paid me by the yard!? Who’d have thunk a complete Barbara Cartland collection would pay off?!

  16. 16
    Renee says:

    Wow! I loved Madeline Brent’s romantic suspense novels, but haven’t thought about those books in ages. The book sounded familiar, and as soon as I heard the title it all came back. I guess I’ll be another one looking to reread these books!

  17. 17
    Jackie L. says:

    Jeez, second book I’ve ever read in any of these and the only one I recognized.  Madeline Brent’s heroines weren’t born competent, they had to struggle and achieve and work at competence.  I think that’s why they were so admirable.  Gotta say for a guy, he wrote first person female very, very believably.  They all made my keeper shelf, too.

  18. 18
    Tinkerbon says:

    I finally knew one of these! And of course got to it too late … Just wanted to add to the “I heart Madeline Brent” comments.

    They were right up there with Mary Stewart in my formative years for “romantic/suspense” reading.

    — Bonz

  19. 19
    laurad says:

    Add me to the “jumping up and down because I finally knew one list”, lol.  I’ve got the entire Madeline Brent collection on my keeper shelf; not only were they wonderful romances, but they were always such exotic adventures as well.  I still have a little crush on not only Lucien, but Nathan McPhee as well.

  20. 20
    Melissa says:

    Hey, I knew this one!  Too bad I read the post two days too late to have a shot at a title.  :)

    I discovered Madeline Brent at my grandmother’s house where I read Stormswift.  I liked it so much that I haunted my local library until I’d read all the copies they had.  Once I got a paying job (vs. being a candy striper) I started buying my own copies.  It took years to get them all, but now I am the proud owner of a complete MB collection. 

    I think my favorite is Golden Urchin, followed by The Long Masquerade and Stranger at Wildings.

  21. 21
    Rina says:

    Oh my God, I missed this when it was posted!  Thank you!  And THANK YOU!! to Black Val and everyone else who knew this one—tomorrow after work, I’m going to the library to get this one.  This has put a great big grin on my face, like so: :D

    And I can’t believe it was written by a man!  I remember loving and identifying with the main character so much—it’s unusual for me to find male authors who write female characters that well (maybe I need to expand my repertoire).

  22. 22
    Marla says:

    I LOVE THIS BOOK. There is so much humor in it – like when she thinks she’s been bought as a concubine – plus all the romance and adventure. And like the other readers I enjoy how competent the heroines are. The plots of all these Brent books are very very similar, but it doesn’t matter – formula isn’t necessarily bad. Rina, I’m glad you remembered the book and now can find a copy, because I’m so excited for anyone reading it!

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