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  • Location: China, London, England

The Secret Mandarin

The Secret Mandarin

Why a Booktrail?

1800s: A disgraced woman. A faraway land. A forbidden love

  • ISBN: 978-1847561893
  • Genre: Fiction, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

Robert Fortune was a Scottish plant hunter and botanist in Victorian London best known for introducing tea plants from China to India. His sister in law was the socially disgraced Mary Penney. In order to protect her from scandal he suggests she accompany him to China where he wants to go and steal plants for the East India Company. However, Robert hides his real motives for going – to spy for the British forces, newly victorious in the recent Opium War. They head off to the unknown and for Mary this could prove to be more dangerous than ever for she is unaware of the true situation.But then things start to change and Mary discovers a whole new world she knew nothing about.

Travel Guide

Robert Fortune was a Scottish plant hunter and botanist in Victorian London. A renowned and celebrated figure in his day who dared venture into China at the time of the Opium War to steal secrets for the British. Mary ventures out there having to escape from London society so both find themselves in a strange new land far away from home and for dangerous reasons.

China at the time of the Opium Wars was a world stage set full of intrigue. The British are regarded as the enemy having ‘won’ the recent war. The risks of stealing plants but spying is extremely high and the consequences deadly.

Their journey takes them across hills, through valleys and everything in between in China. They face many obstacles in trying to take and preserve their plant samples. Their efforts in obtaining the tea plants which would eventually become their ultimate prize, are  admirable (if not illegal.)

China is evoked in sights, sounds and smells and the world of tea and tea plants is fascinating and like walking beside these two characters as they discover their new world. They adopt new personas and disguises and this shows the level of societal restraints in place at the time. The view of women in a man’s world for example, the political landscape and the fact that women were disgraced for behaviours which today would mean little.

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