The book begins in the 1990s where we are briefly introduced to Amy a young woman adopted at an early age searching for clues about her birth parents, we learn that her name at birth was Nima and she has unusual eyes which mark her out as being a little different.
Then the story flashes back to the 1950s and we are introduced to the main heroine of the tale Patricia, sister to the chronically sick James she bears the brunt of her domineering ex-army major fathers disappointment that he doesn't have the son he wanted to follow in his military footsteps and her submissive and rather cowed mothers misplaced guilt complex, turning her teenage years into a sheltered and rather lonely adolescence.
Keen to impress her father she is flattered when he demands her help in compiling a book he is writing about the time he spent abroad living in Ladakh, a place his fond memories of provide an escape from his humdrum and disappointing life.
When this in turn leads to the opportunity to actually travel to this remote country about which she has heard and read so much, she jumps at the chance of travel and excitement albeit as her fathers companion and assistant.
Upon arriving in the Himalayan kingdom she immediately understands his fascination and love for this mystical and beguiling place and finds a similar instant attraction towards the quite and unassuming local helper Kalden who has been introduced to them as their guide, partly because of his ability to speak English (although haltingly) because of time he spent with an English family of missionaries in his childhood.
His life as a fourth son holds little opportunity and Kalden is destined to soon enter the monastery as a monk, a life he has little enthusiasm for, nor any likelihood of avoiding his fate.
When fate throws these ill fated young people together, despite their huge cultural differences they are instantly and irrevocably drawn to each other and an ill advised and secret relationship rapidly develops between Patricia and Kalden and what follows is a heartbreaking but enduring love story destined to fail ... or is it? You must read the book to find out.
Its truly romantic and the characters are full blown and realistic if, understandably, a touch flawed by their circumstances. The dual time aspect although focussed heavily on the past really lifts it and adds to the story. An accomplished and satisfying debut romantic novel.
My only slight niggle, which wasn't enough to spoil the book for me but irked me a tiny bit is the halting English which Kalden speaks making him sound childlike and a touch dim, which jars with his warm and emotional character somewhat.
Don't let this put you off in any way, This is a heartwarming, passionate and very tender love story. Sit yourself down with a big mug of hot chocolate and have the tissues ready!