Lucy Waring, an orphan living in a Chinese mission, is the only one who can take care of the fifteen children living with her. In order to provide food, she's forced to steal, for which she ends up in the prison, where she meets Nicholas Sabine, a man with only a few hours to live, his execution is coming up shortly.Inside a prison cell the two struck a strange friendship that culminates with Nick's marriage proposal. Lucy, unable to deny a dying man, accepts. The next day, she's a widow.She returns to England, attempting to put her life back together, but the shadows of the past quickly catch up with her.This is a great gothic romantic suspense set against the backdrop of China and England at the turn of the century, culminating in the great Boxer rebellion in China.The author's narration makes the characters rise to life before the readers eyes, sweeping us into a fascinating tale of romance, intrigue, horror, and mystery.Lucy is the typical female of that time. Even though she wasn't as sheltered as her contemporaries in England, having grown up in a Chinese orphanage, she's still pretty naive and a little too trusting for her own good.Her upbringing is more than evident as she returns to her homeland, where she struggles to fit into the "pampered" society, when she's been used to work, gain her own money since she was a babe.Nicholas Sabine is an intriguing character. Though his looks may liken him to the male leads of nowadays romance, his actions belay the same resemblance. Though we don't comprehend his behavior at the beginning, his motivations and true feelings make complete sense in the end.Though the plot seemed a little unrealistic at times and the perils kept accumulating, it was a very refreshing read. For a man, the author had quite an uncanny ability to peek into the female psyche, belaying the male protestations that women are a complicated lot no one seems to understand.