Harlequin|September 24, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7783-1547-6
Layla Roy has defied the fates.
Despite being born under an inauspicious horoscope, she is raised to be educated and independent by her eccentric grandfather,Dadamoshai. And, by cleverly manipulating the hand fortune has dealt her, she has even found love with Manik Deb, a man betrothed to another. All were minor miracles in India that spring of 1943, when young women’s lives were predetermined if not by the stars, then by centuries of family tradition and social order.
Layla’s life as a newly married woman takes her away from home and into the jungles of Assam, where the world’s finest tea thrives on plantations run by native labor and British efficiency. Fascinated by this culture of whiskey-soaked expats who seems fazed by neither earthquakes nor man-eating leopards, she struggles to find her place among the prickly English wives with whom she is expected to socialize, and the peculiar servants she now finds under her charge.
But navigating the tea-garden set will hardly be her biggest challenge. Layla’s remote home is not safe from the powerful changes sweeping India on the heels of the Second World War. Their colonial society is at a tipping point, and Layla and Manik find themselves caught in a perilous racial divide that threatens their very lives.
Layla Roy was born underneath an unlucky star which makes her a “manglik” according to her Hindu culture. For Laya, growing up in the 1940’s, this is bad news because Mars is predominant in her Hindu horoscope and this angry red planet makes people rebellious and militant by nature.
However, this began to change for Layla on April 7, 1943. Three things happened that day but the most important was that Layla Roy, seventeen-years-old, fell in love with Manik Deb.
Dadamoshai, Layla’s grandfather was opening a new girl’s school in their town. The morning of the opening there were protestors carrying signs with misspelled words. Earlier that morning, Dadamoshai had chased the demonstrators away down the road yelling at them to “learn to spell before you go around demonstrating your nitwit ideas.”
Dadamoshai was an advocate of English education and nothing bugged him more than the massacre of the English language. He was an imposing man and had once been the most powerful District Judge in the state of Assam. People respectfully stepped aside when the saw him coming. To most people he was known as Rai Bahadur, an honorary title bestowed upon him by the British for his service to the crown.
Layla’s life as a newly married woman takes her away from home and into the jungles of Assam, where the world’s finest tea thrives on plantations run by labor and British efficiency. She struggles to find her place among the prickly English wives with whom she is expected to socialize and the peculiar servants she now finds herself in charge of.
But navigating the tea garden set will hardly be her biggest challenge. Layla’s remote home is not safe from the powerful changes sweeping India on the heels of the Second World War. Their colonial society is at a tipping point, and Layla and Manik find themselves caught in a perilous racial divide that threatens their very lives.
Before marrying Manik, Dadamoshai and Layla had a housekeeper, Chaya, who was a slim woman with soft brown eyes and a disfiguring burn scar that fused the skin on the right side of her face like smooth molten wax. It was an acid burn. When Chaya was sixteen, she had fallen in love with a Muslim man. The Hindu villages killed her lover, and then flung acid in her face to mark her as a social outcast. Dadamoshai had rescued Chaya from a violent mob and taken her into his custody. What followed was a lengthy and controversial court case that saw many people go to jail. Although, Dadamoshai was considered a highly respectable man, this showed his human nature and the compassionate side of his personality.
Both Layla’s parents had died, which is why she was living with and being raised by Dadamoshai. Her father was a freedom fighter and died in the cellular jail. Her mother drowned in a lily pond. She killed herself.
Teatime for the Firefly was a phenomenal story for a debut novel. It had a little of everything in it: mystery, suspicion, love, hate, thrills and chills and everything else you could possibly think of. I’d been wanting to read this for a while and kept putting it back on my TBR pile and now I’m sorry I waited so long because this was one well-written, interesting, and powerful story. Congratulations Ms. Patel on a fantastic debut novel!!!! You deserve a standing ovation!