The Heart of India Series by Linda Chaikin, and published by Bethany House Publishers (1993, 1994) will keep you up at night. You will be so excited to find out what comes next in this thrilling tale, that you will definitely have trouble putting it down. The three book titles are Silk, Under Eastern Stars, and Kingscote. It took me less than three weeks to read all three and I was absorbed in the amazing tales of  enduring faith in Christ, political intrigue,  good and evil characters, an exciting river safari, snake bites, near poisonings and the fate of a kidnapped three-year-old Indian boy named Gem.

The books take place in the late 1700s at a silk plantation in India, owned by Sir Hampton Kendall. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have several children: Alex, Michael, Kathleen, Coral and Marianna. Elizabeth’s mother and sister, Lady Victoria and Margaret, live a wealthy life in England. Margaret is married to Sir Hugo Roxbury who is involved in the East India Company. Hugo and Margaret have one daughter Belinda, and an adopted son, Doctor Ethan Boswell.

As the story begins, Coral’s parents are debating the possibility of sending sixteen-year-old Coral to England, where her sisters are attending school. They are aware that her cousin Ethan is a doctor and may be able to cure the tropical diseases that afflict her. Coral has a strong faith in the Lord Jesus, due to her mother’s influence. At present, she is arranging a baptism for her good friend, Jemani, an untouchable, who has recently come to faith in Jesus through Coral’s influence. Jemani is married to Rajiv and is expecting a baby.

When it is rumored that a Bengal tiger known to have injured several people is on the loose, Michael and  a family friend, Jace Buckley, try to track him down. They are successful and the tiger is killed.  Jemani is baptized. Shortly after that, her husband goes missing. When she hears that he has been killed, she goes into premature labor. Jace returns. Jemani passes away in childbirth, but before she dies, she has Coral promise to take and raise the child as her own. Jace hands the baby to Coral and she names him Gem, stating that he is a treasure in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Coral’s father agrees to the adoption of the baby.  A Burmese woman, Jan-Lee, who has recently given birth, becomes Gem’s care-giver and nurses him. Life is good for three years until little Gem is kidnapped in the middle of the night.

Coral goes into a deep depression and her parents insist a change of scenery is needed. She travels to England to Roxbury House, the home of Sir Hugo and her Aunt Margaret. Shortly after that, she receives a note from Jan-Lee, stating the dead baby found in the river after Gem’s kidnapping, may not have been Gem at all. This baby had a large scar on his foot, and Gem never had one. Coral is elated that Gem may still be living somewhere, and she secretly plans to hire a mercenary to find him. Coral’s Uncle Hugo, a man driven by ambition, secretly wants to destroy Coral and her family and take possession of Kingscote for himself.

Meanwhile, Jace and Michael have decided to sail Jace’s ship, the Madras, to Spain and join in a partnership setting up a tea plantation in Darjeeling. This goal is thwarted when they encounter a huge storm and Michael is thrown overboard and dies.

The plot thickens as Coral decides that in Gem’s memory, she will begin a Christian school at her home plantation and teach the children Bible Stories. She contacts the missionary, William Carey, visits him, and receives a Bible in Hindi. She must keep this dream secret, for if Uncle Hugo knows, he would surely thwart her plans. Time has passed, and Coral is nearing twenty.

The story continues and eventually ends happily. I had so much fun guessing what would happen and how it would all turn out, that I don’t want to tell what happens in the end.  I will say that this is a story with some deeply spiritual insights. Coral is a woman who passionately wants to discover and do God’s will, no matter the cost.

She puts her calling of teaching young, poor children in India above her own hopes and desires. As her sisters are captivated with social gatherings and ball dresses, she is not. Her faith goes much deeper and she prays for Gem’s safety daily, not knowing what has become of him. She is cautious in the area of romance, for both Ethan and Jace are quite interested in her. She prays for God’s guidance and realizes how His amazing grace has been working things together for her good and His glory. These books encouraged me to continue following the Lord and the calling He has on my life.

The Heart of India Series is recommended for older high school students and college age/ working adults.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

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