Sir Robert Hart, Inspector-General of the Chinese Imperial Customs, 1863-1908 had a hectic career in the service of the declining Qing dynasty.
It ruined his family life, but his friendship with three generations of Carrall women partially relieved his loneliness.
A cannon ball just missed Emma in 1854, allowing her to meet Hart in 1858 and to ask for a Customs post for her son, Jim Carrall.
Jim and his wife Frances survived a horrific French attack on Fuzhou in 1884 and their daughters visited Hart in Peking just before the Boxer rebellion of 1900.
Letters, diaries, and over seventy photographs bring nineteenth-century expatriate China vividly to life.
Tiffen has the sort of family that many of us wish we had - interesting relatives with singular names doing remarkable things at auspicious times and in exotic places.
Robert Nield, President of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society A cracking tale of expatriate life, rich in detail, as bold, bright women far from home pushed against the onerous restrictions imposed by Victorian notions of femininity.
But the greatest joy of this book lies in what it shows us about relationships between Victorian men and women. We see them as spouses, as lovers, but most refreshingly, as friends; and the core of the book lies in the deep emotional connection between Hart and three generations of Carrall women.' Emma Reisz, Lecturer in Asian History, Queen's University Belfast.
The letters to and from the Carralls and Hart, and their diaries, reveal much that is new and important about the private life of a public figure which included a hidden Chinese family, as well as the expatriate women and girls whom he nurtured and who in turn gave him comfort in his driven loneliness.
Susanna Hoe, author of Women at the Siege: Peking 1900