GENRE: Fiction • Gay • Historical • Interracial • Romance
LENGTH: 288 pages
Sequel to The White Rajah
After his time in Borneo with James Brooke, John Williamson travels to India. Working for the East India Company in Cawnpore, he struggles to fit in: a gay man in a straight society; a farm labourer's son in a world of gentleman's clubs and refined dinner parties; a European adrift in an alien land. But he finds he is good at his job, overseeing a colonial administration that has been running the country for a hundred years. He falls in love with the country and, in particular, with a young nobleman in the court of the local lord.
Successful at work and happy with his lover, he thinks he can finally meet life on his own terms. Then Indian troops rise in mutiny and the country is plunged into war. With the British Raj teetering on the edge of destruction and Cawnpore a byword for horror across the Empire, Williamson has to choose whose side he is really on.
In this sequel to The White Rajah, the fictional Williamson is caught up in real historical events which provide a thrilling background to his own story. Williamson meets some of the key figures at a crucial point in British history and witnesses events which shocked the world and shaped the future of British India.
Now the bombardment stopped and, for a moment, all was silent. Then came the unsteady notes of a bugle at the lips of a man who clearly lacked experience with his instrument. Cracked as the sound was, though, even I recognised the order to charge. We rode from the ruins of the riding school, forming a ragged line as we emerged onto the plain. For a few moments we were trotting. I drew my sword, already finding it difficult to control the heavy blade against the movements of the horse. I worried that if we lurched I could end up pricking my own mount with the point and I wondered how I would cope at the gallop. Already some of the horses were stretching themselves to their full speed. Instinctively, others joined them. My own horse pushed forward and I could hardly have held him back, even had I wished to.NOTE:
There was still half a mile to the British defences and we were hurtling forward. Dust rose all around, mingling with the smoke which still hung in the air from the artillery barrage. My ears were filled with the thunder of hoof beats and the cries of my companions.
"Deen! Deen!" "For the faith! For the faith!"
We rode on. Now, from the saddle, I could see across the pitiful defences to where my fellow Europeans lay with their muskets ready at their shoulders. Beside them, I saw crouching figures dressed in rags. I did not at first recognise them as the white women of Cawnpore, their finery destroyed, their beauty tarnished. Yet, seeing them steadfast beside their men, ready to reload and pass new weapons to the warriors, I had never thought them finer.
Now we were two hundred yards from the parapet. Now one hundred. Still we rode, with no fire from our enemy. Already, the horses were tiring and the impetus of our charge had been lost but we were almost upon them. Then, when we were just 50 yards from their defences, Wheeler's tattered army opened fire. Three nine-pounders belched flame and smoke. One round of grapeshot found our range. All around me, men and horses were thrown to the ground. Had we not galloped the whole way from the riding school, the speed and exhilaration of our charge might well have carried us to the parapet despite our losses but the horses were already slowing. As riders tugged desperately at their reigns to avoid the welter of bodies beneath our horses' hooves, the animals swung about, causing even further chaos in the line. Within seconds, the charge had turned into a mass of wheeling, panicked horseflesh, riders yelling in impotent rage, scarcely more rational than the beasts they rode.
Ahead of me a horse fell. Its forelegs scrabbled to raise it from the ground but then it collapsed, whinnying its pain and terror. Instinctively, I kicked Kuching on and we jumped the doomed creature but now all around was chaos. I swerved to avoid another fallen horse, reining back until Kuching stood, flanks heaving, eyes rolling in terror. Again and again, the British muskets fired. All around, it seemed, men were falling to the ground. Exposed to the rebels' fire by the inadequacy of the mud wall that offered their only protection, the British gunners nonetheless stood at their posts and I knew that it would be only seconds before the cannon were ready to fire again.
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