THE TEMPLE DANCER, by John Speed
India, 1657. The Portugese are losing their grip on their commercial empire based in Goa, on the western coast. A beautiful young temple dancer, Maya, is bought as a slave by the influential Dasana family to win favor with the vizier at the Bijapur court, a powerful state in the country's interior. The long, dangerous overland journey made from Goa to Bijapur includes Lucinda, naive heiress to the Dasana fortune and the smiling eunuch Slipper, who join Maya in the howdah atop an elephant. As guards, a grizzled Portugese warrior, DaGama, rides with the handsome Indian Pathan, representative of the Bijapur sultana. Ruthless young adventurer Geraldo, Lucinda's handsome but dead-broke cousin, makes eyes at both women, but his heart is only for himself. And then the caravan is attacked. The first of a trilogy by a writer who has immersed himself in the time and the place, the story will pull you right in...a 5.