Anglophiles will find this novel a delightful society romance with enough mystery and high stakes to draw in those who aren’t romance fans.
The main plot involves Major Pettigrew and his courtship to the unlikely Mrs. Ali. This is charming in a tea-and-cottages sort of way, as it hearkens to a somewhat idealized version of England. But there’s tension underneath the coziness, because they’re not just separated by socioeconomic status but also by race.
Race is kind of a central theme in this novel, along with cultural identity. The major is considered quintessentially English, even though he was born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali is considered a Pakistani, even though she was born in Cambridge and had never left the British Isles. Simonson deals with other racial stereotypes and prejudices, mostly between the English and the Pakistanis, but also between the English and the Americans.
Don’t think this is just a romance, however, because Simonson gives you plenty of plot. Major Pettigrew has one half of a pair of guns, the other of which is his by rights (except that there’s a small legal issue…) His family wants to sell it, but he’s determined that they should remain together, as his father intended. Roger, the Major’s son, wants to get in with the local lord so he can be involved in a housing project–which will destroy the village as they know it. Meanwhile, they keep running into a young woman named Amina, who (along with her son George) have some mysterious connection to Mrs. Ali.
Everything gets resolved satisfactorily, but not without mishaps and adventure and a few revelations about the true character of some villagers who pretended to be friends. There are some daring escapes, heroism, lives saved, hateful assassins and even a small tragedy or two, but mostly everything works out for the best.
I recommend this for anglophiles, people who like romance, people who like adventure, and people who like cozy mysteries. It’s a delightful book and it crosses a lot of genres, so there’s really something here for everyone.