. The Last Resident: The Love Story of British Official and an Indian Princess
In the historical romance The Last Resident, an idealistic British diplomat, Nigel, is on his way to India to take up a colonial administrative position. Pamela, the spoiled and formidable niece of the incoming Viceroy, on the rebound from a broken heart, sets her sights on Nigel. She is soon pregnant, and the two are quickly married.
Nigel's new status as a member of the Viceroy's family, as well as Pamela's intense dislike of India, pose special challenges for Nigel's career. When he befriends the Nawab of Bhojpal, the ruler of a Muslim princely state, Nigel secures an appointment as Resident, or chief diplomatic envoy, to Bhojpal. There, he falls deeply in love with Mehr-un-Nissa, the Nawab's daughter, though she is in purdah, kept away from the eyes of men. Her marriage, a political alliance, is as unhappy as Nigel's, with a husband who ignores her in favor of his paramour.
The illicit relationship enrages the Nawab and threatens to destroy Nigel's personal and professional life. In the midst of this turmoil, Nigel's wife Pamela is found murdered. Nigel is imprisoned as the obvious suspect. It takes all the ingenuity of Mr. Joseph, the Nawab's brilliant Jewish prime minister, to get to the bottom of Pamela's murder, exonerate Nigel, and allow Mehr-un-Nissa and Nigel to be united at last.
The book is rich in historical and cultural detail, depicting India on the eve of its independence from Britain in 1947. The attitudes of British colonial administrators, the vanished world of independent rulers of princely states, the fishbowl existence of diplomatic spouses, the astonishing scale of the Viceroy's Delhi palace, and the secluded lives of women in purdah are all shown to the reader through the story of the central, star-crossed relationship. A vein of humor runs through the romantic plotline.
It is clear that this story could only be told by someone with experience of India and deep knowledge of the history, tradition, and people of that time and place. Author Shahzad Rizvi, now living in the Washington area, was born and educated in a princely state, and was an intimate of the royal family of Bhopal in the final days of their rule, before their state was merged into greater India. This inside perspective, coupled with imaginative liberties, informs every page and character.
The Last Resident is layered with anecdote, with many diverting minor characters and subplots that add considerably to the book's interest. Aligarh University student pranks, the mutiny of the Nawab's murderous nephew, the rise of Mr. Joseph to his unexpected prominence as prime minister, and Nigel's executive haplessness and the resulting mess are a few entertaining examples of stories within the framework of the plot. Mahatma Gandhi even makes a cameo appearance.
The Last Resident will appeal to readers with a romantic sensibility, an interest in Indian history and culture, and a love of Dickens-style twists of plot and vivid secondary characters.