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Review: Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

My Interest

I saw an ad for The Bibliolifestyle on Instagram and agreed to get their newsletter. This was one of the books in their Winter 2021 newsletter and it sounded good” “…at the stroke of midnight, Maddy meets Luke Devereaux…” The cliched name of the hero did it for me. I needed to read it.

FYI: The The Bibliolifestyle newsletter had several books I had put on my TBR already and had a few others I had not yet encountered such as na hour-by-hour, day-by-day account of the Abdication (Crown in Crisis by Alexander Larman) and a new William Boyd (Trio) so I’m glad I agreed to receive it.

The Story

Madeline Bright (aka “Maddy”) is the daughter of the head of the Civil Service in Bombay. It is 1913 and so far it is only an arms race in Europe. The Heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne is alive and well. No reason to worry. At the Club’s New Year’s party Maddy meets her soulmate–Luke Deveraux, dashing my hopes of a lovely older man–younger woman romance with the very nice, very suitable Dr. Guy to pieces. I couldn’t blame her. Luke was exciting and nice and sexy and decent and her age. Fast-forward to August 1914. We all know what happens. Luke is among those damaged by the war. He undergoes operations and therapy, but nothing brings back his memory….until… I liked Maddy and Luke. I liked Guy, I liked Maddy’s parents. Cliched or not, it was a good story.

My Thoughts

Even with a cliched storyline, it was a good read, but there were problems. For example:

  • I found it hard to believe that daughter of such a high-ranking Brit would be sent to University to become a teacher in 1913. That seemed very unlikely, but perhaps the author found someone similar in her research. Otherwise, it was an attempt to lure modern readers into liking her more. That was unnecessary.
  • No spoilers, but part of the romance was not likely to happen given how small British Civil Service Bombay was in terms of gossip.
  • No British woman of that era would have encouraged a male, Muslim servant in India to be familiar and call her “Maddy.” Maddy’s father would have sacked the man instantly. That was another absurd addition to “modernize” it for current-day audiences. Better to have just let the story of what those previously invisible Indian troops did and endured at the front speak to the modern-day.
  • Not so the idea that Major’s wear stripes on their sleeves–they don’t. Nor would a mere Seargent be at the same club with officers. Even today that would be a tough sell.
  • I could be wrong, but a mosque doesn’t have monks, Plus, I was left wondering if the author even knows what a “bearer” was–he crops up in unusual places.
  • Also, there was a chapter so poorly proof-read it said Bombay, but they were having trouble seeing out of the ice on the windscreen. Hmmm…Audio version so it might have simply been a reader’s mistake.

I had problems with the ending–it seemed the author painted herself into a corner (no spoilers). I also felt everyone was shockingly self-aware.

If there were so many problems, why did I enjoy it? Except for my issues with the ending, the problems did not affect the story. I cannot tell more about the story without major spoilers. Were there cliched moments? Of course–the whole set-up was cliched, but it was a “good read” and that’s what it was meant to be. I liked how things from the past emerged over time in the first half of the story. I liked that Maddy wasn’t insane and didn’t go to the front via u-boat infested waters and miraculously find her man. I liked the way others protected her and loved her. I liked sweet Guy–always there to fall back on. I liked Luke and Peter, I felt sorry for Ernest and disliked Diana. I liked that Maddy and Della pushed the boundaries at various times, but overall were true to their times. I felt sorry for Alice and was glad she saw that she did truly love Richard. I didn’t like Iris, but she was just a prop anyway!

Note on the reader. She called “Lyons Corner House LEE-OWNS” and Maddy forever said Mah-Mah for Mama like an infant. Very weird. But those are not the author’s fault.

My Verdict

3.5

If you like Colonial India fiction, you’ll like The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies.