India, 1839: Linny Ingram, the respectable young wife of a British colonial officer, settles down to write her life story. In the claustrophobic, mannered world of British India, Linny seems the perfect society wife: pretty, gracious, subservient. But appearances can be deceptive. Linny Ingram was born Linny Gow, an orphan raised in the cold, gray slums of Liverpool. Sold into prostitution by her stepfather when she was only eleven, Linny is a born survivor and an accomplished chameleon and manipulator. Through a stroke of luck and considerable scheming, she manages to re-create herself as a proper Victorian young lady, middle-class and seemingly respectable. By befriending a merchant’s daughter, Linny secures a place with her new companion on a ship bound for India, where they will join “the fishing fleet”—young women of good birth but no fortune who sail to India in search of a husband.
India, with its exotic colors, sights, and smells, is a world away from the cold back alleys of Linny’s childhood. But even there, she is haunted by her past, and by the constant threat of discovery. To secure her place in society, she marries Somers Ingram, a wealthy British officer with secrets of his own. Soon Linny discovers that respectability and marriage bring a new kind of imprisonment, as well as the same menace and violence that she thought she had escaped. But Linny is not about to surrender easily. In the lush tropics of India she finds not only the means for rebellion but also the love and freedom she never had in England.
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