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Beyond Sunrise    by Candace Proctor order for
Beyond Sunrise
by Candace Proctor
Order:  USA  Can
Ivy, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

India McKnight has never been a woman to follow the normal dictates of her times. All her life she's longed for adventure and to escape the stagnant existence her mother endured while married to India's staid clergyman father. Now a very modern-thinking Victorian woman, India travels the globe and writes about her experiences. She is the author of renowned books and articles cataloguing her adventures in far-off lands and her theories about lost civilizations.

When her next trip takes her to the exotic south sea island of Takaku, she plans to study volcanic rock formations located high on the cliffs, but none of the local guides are willing to undertake the trip. They're all afraid of the cannibals living in the region. The threat of ending up in a native cooking pot does not sway India. She'd venture forth alone if she must and is about to make arrangements to do so when she's approached by captain Simon Granger. He informs her there is one man whom she might convince to act as her guide - if the price is right.

Disgraced naval officer Jack Ryder has been keeping a low profile on Takaku for years and knows the landscape like the back of his hand. It's said he also gets along well with the natives, even the cannibals. India makes immediate arrangements to see him. Jack Ryder is sleeping off a drunk when an unwanted female visitor rudely awakens him. Not only has she come calling at an ungodly hour, India McKnight seems determined to seal what Jack considers a truly insane business arrangement. When harsh words and crude behaviour fail to scare off the starchy Scotswoman, Jack reluctantly agrees to take Miss McNight on her ill-advised trek to the volcanic formations.

Ryder's foul mouth and rudeness appall India, but she takes it in stride. She has, after all, dealt with men like him before, and will again. She reminds herself that in two days time she'll never have to set eyes on the man again. Little does India realize that her 'business arrangement' with Ryder is just what Simon Granger has been waiting for. The British Navy holds Ryder responsible for the sinking one of their vessels and the death of most of the crew. He's been on the run for years but now the nephew of the ill-fated Lady Julianna's captain is determined to bring his uncle's murderer to justice. India's research trek is suddenly cut short by the arrival of Simon Granger and his entourage of armed sailors.

Furious and assuming that Granger and India set him up together, Jack takes her hostage. He has no intention of being dragged back to England to hang. Over the course of the next few weeks as Jack and India engage in a game of cat and mouse with the British navy, they must also deal with growing feelings for one another. When Jack reveals his dark, tragic past and the real story behind the sinking of the Lady Julianna, India is appalled and determined to help him clear his name and find his estranged daughter. Jack too, discovers that India McKnight, while annoyingly stubborn at every turn, is not at all the 'priggish spinster' she works so hard to portray.

Candace Proctor has written a wonderfully exotic, character driven tale. India and Jack's blatant disdain for each other sizzles off the page from the moment they meet and Proctor's expert use of crisp, colourful and often amusing dialogue sustains this tone for some time until the pair realize that their situation would be better solved by forming an alliance. India's determination to remain unmarried and independent and Jack's similar vow to never again give his heart and soul to a woman are shattered as they reveal their deepest secrets - secrets that could destroy their new-found passion. Beyond Sunrise is indeed a rare historical romance.

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