I absolutely loved The China Bride by Mary Jo Putney. It is a story of an orphan girl born to a Chinese mother and a Scottish father who was involved in trade routes with China. After both parents' death, Troth Montgomery is "adopted" by a rich business associate of her father and is forced to live as a boy working as a translator and spy. Troth feels like a half-breed and longs to visit her father's homeland. In her capacity as a translator, she encounters viscount and adventurer Kyle Renbourne and soon after, she saves him from street ruffians. After discovering her true identity and observing her outstanding ability in martial arts, Kyle hires Troth as his guide to a sacred temple in China in exchange for Kyle transporting Troth to Scotland. As they embark to the temple, they do so under the disguise of a grandfather and doting grandson for fear of anyone discovering Kyle's true identity (these scenes are truly memorable and quite amusing). Kyle, whose heart was broken 10 years earlier after the death of his wife, is surprised when he starts to feel passion ignite between them. Unfortunately, on the return trip, Kyle's identity is discovered and he is sentenced to death. Before his execution, he marries Troth via hand fasting, who then travels to England to inform Kyle's family. Once in England, Kyle's family takes her in and accepts her as his grieving widow. It really caught me by surprise when Kyle's executions (there were many of them) turned out to be hoaxes by a cruel overseer of the village. Thankfully, Kyle is eventually rescued by Troth's adopted father, but not before catching malaria, and he is sent back to England to convalesce with a promise never to return again.
Once back in England, it takes a long time before Kyle even speaks to Troth. Troth doesn't know what to make of Kyle's lack of attentiveness and hopes it is only because he is recovering. Then she overhears him talking with his father who doesn't approve or accept the marriage. Keeping to the tradition of hand fasting, she agrees to stay with Kyle until the year is up and no longer. In the few weeks left in their marriage, Kyle travels to Scotland with Troth to visit with her father's family as originally promised back in China. Along the way, Kyle discovers he really loves and admires Troth and her strong determination. Because he doesn't want to live without her, he convinces Troth of this in a very satisfying manner.
I listened to the audio version of this story and really appreciated the varying voices and emotions portrayed by the narrator, Davina Porter. As this is the second book in the Brides trilogy, I look forward to listening to the first and third books in the series. Lucky me!