19 January 2023
Hong Kong Collection #2
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour
Based on a little-known true story, from award-winning author Siobhan Daiko comes a tale of love and survival against all the odds set in Hong Kong at the start of the Pacific War.
In the spring of 1939, dashing young William Burton and the beautiful Constance Han set sail from London on the same ocean liner to Hong Kong.
Romance blossoms while they enjoy games of deck quoits and spend sultry tropical evenings dancing under the stars. Connie is intrigued by Will’s talent for writing poetry, and she offers to give him Cantonese lessons to help him with his new job— a cadet in the colonial service.
But once in Hong Kong, Connie is constrained by filial duty towards her Eurasian parents, and their wish for her to marry someone from her own background. She can't forget Will however and arranges to meet him in secret under the magnificent canopy of a flame of the forest tree—where she fulfils her promise to teach him to speak Chinese.
Before too long, trouble looms as Japanese forces gather on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. Will joins a commando group tasked with operating behind enemy lines, and Connie becomes involved in the fight against local fifth columnists.
When war breaks out, they find themselves drawn into a wider conflict than their battle against prejudice. Can they survive and achieve a future together? Or do forces beyond their control keep them forever apart?
Based on factual events this fictional WW2 story takes us into the heart of a country torn apart by conflict but which at the heart of it all is a love story between two people who refused to let prejudice and war tear them apart.
William Burton and Constance Han meet on board the P&O liner RMS Carthage heading for Hong Kong. Twenty-three year old Will is to take up a post as a cadet in the colonial services, whist Connie is returning to her family after studying in England for three years. Irresistibly attracted to each other from the start, and once in Hong Kong, Will and Connie continue their relationship in secret as Connie’s Eurasian parents would not approve of Will’s background. However, the shadow of war beckons ever closer and soon both Will and Connie findthat they are caught up in a fast moving conflict which places them both in grave danger.
The Flame Tree is well written historical fiction which sheds light on a particular moment in history and brings to life the horror of living through a time of conflict and of the political and cultural differences leading to the fall of Hong Kong in 1941. Whilst I knew something of the events around the war in the Pacific, it has been interesting to have this fictional account which describes everything so vividly and in such well researched detail.
Intricately written, and with a beautiful love story at its heart, The Flame Tree is a story which stays with you long after the last page is turned.
About the author
Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and a rescued cat. Siobhan was born of English parents in Hong Kong, attended boarding school in Australia, and then moved to the UK—where she taught modern foreign languages in a Welsh comprehensive school. She now spends her time writing page-turners and enjoying her life near Venice. Her novels are compelling, poignant, and deeply moving, with strong characters and evocative settings, but always with romance at their heart.
Twitter @siobahndaiko #TheFlameTree
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