Lindsay, Rachel. (1984). Forbidden Love. London: Mills and Boon.

Venetia Jackson, a pretty civil servant press officer in London, is sent by her uncle, Sir William Blunden who works in the Foreign Office, to act as an assistant to the wife of a Foreign Office diplomat in Hong Kong. Since this is work rather beneath her abilities, Venetia knows there is more to the situation than meets the eye but Sir William is not forthcoming on the matter. Margot Adams, the diplomatís wife  has an alcohol problem although this doesnít occur to Venetia until late into the book. Neil Adams, the diplomat, is quiet and a little awkward. Venetia believes he is completely devoted to Margot even though Margot is having a very open affair with an unsuitable Russian, Boris Kanin. Venetia is wooed by a charming, ultra successful Chinese man called Simon Hoy. Boris Kanin also tries to win her over but it is for Neil Adams that she falls, and he falls for her. In a not very gripping denouement, Margot helpfully kills herself in a car accident having been ditched by the nefarious Boris, leaving Venetia and Neil free to live together happily ever after.

The plot revolves around hazily defined trade negotiations between Neil Adams (representing the United Kingdom Foreign Office) and China. Neil is concerned that Simon Hoy may only be interested in Venetia in order to find out information about these negotiations. Neil is also suspicious, rightly, of Boris who tries to sabotage the negotiations but with Vanessaís help, he is able to avoid being embarrassed by Borisís various machinations.  Hong Kong does not figure geographically to any great extent.  Since most of the journeys in the novel are made by car there is little indication of the physical location. Characterisation is strictly limited to the three British protagonists. Venetiaís choice of Neil, reaffirms their mutual Britishness, characterised by emotional reticence, modesty and morality. These characteristics are missing completely from Boris, and whilst Simonís morality is not in question his reticence, modesty and ethnicity are. Boris is a stock villain: hairy, simian, boorish, with an insatiable sexual appetite, and an anti-British agenda; Simon Hoy, the alternative foreigner is smoother, more charming;  his unspoken drawbacks are his nationality and his confidence. There are few other Chinese characters and they are limited to strictly auxiliary servant roles, who assist Venetia and Neil in their attempts to avoid Borisís tricks.

The text could barely even be characterised as orientalist since the representation of other is so fleeting as to be almost non-existent. The author makes no real use of exoticism despite her topic and geographical location. And whilst Simon is no doubt rejected because of his nationality there would be little difference to his characterisation (or role in the plot) had he been German, say. His otherness as Oriental is not particularly prominent, although undoubtedly present. The book is almost completely seen from Venetiaís point of view, which is limited by the genre in which the protagonist finds herself .  (KB)


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