THE SHADOW OF THE EAST by E.M. Hull
The story opens in Japan where the hero Barry Lord Craven has spent the last two years of his decade after wandering the globe. Barry, the reader quickly learns, is from a long line of adventurers and explorers, men who have wanderlust in their blood. Although he despises his own father, a man who abandoned Barry and his mother in favor of foreign travels, he has nevertheless followed in his predecessor's footsteps. This eventually leads to a truly shocking revelation (that I cannot reveal without spoiling the plot) and a tragedy that has a traumatic and far reaching effect on Barry's life.
Directly following this crisis, Barry receives a letter from an old friend who has passed away, requesting that Barry assume guardianship of the friend's daughter who is residing at a French convent. Perceiving this favor as a means of redeeming himself for his sins, Barry accepts the guardianship. He arrives in Paris expecting a child, but discovers a beautiful young woman instead. Thenceforth, the romance slowly unfolds between Barry and Gillian Locke.
There are several noteworthy secondary characters who play pivotal roles, to include Barry's land steward, his Japanese valet who saves his life on several occasions, and his spinster aunt who takes Gillian under her wing. While main protagonists are both sympathetic characters, Barry is very much a tortured hero who sacrifices his personal happiness in an effort to overcome his past. While I would still categorize this as a romance, the love story is really secondary to the hero's journey (in both the literal and figurative sense as the setting shifts from Japan to England and then to the Middle East) and his ultimate redemption.
Although disappointed with the denouement that I felt was too abrupt, I would still recommend THE SHADOW OF THE EAST as a highly engaging escape read for those who enjoy dramatic stories.
NOTE: This title was originally published in 1921 the electronic version is now available for free in the public domain.