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.