Diana R. Chambers – Author of “The Star of India”

Publishers Marketplace Deal Report

Category: Fiction: General Other
Imprint: Sourcebooks Landmark
October 16, 2023
Diana R. Chambers’s THE SECRET WAR OF JULIA CHILD, set during Child’s World War II service in the OSS, working under General “Wild Bill” Donovan, to Shana Drehs at Sourcebooks Landmark, at auction, for publication in fall/winter 2024, by Pamela Malpas at Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency (world English).

Julia Child is an icon of our era. With my lifelong ties to Asia and predilection for spy novels, I was deeply intrigued by the story of her early years, when she was still unformed and searching for her path in life. Pearl Harbor galvanized her.

Still single at thirty, Julia McWilliams spurns a Pasadena society marriage in order to join the war effort in Washington, where she soon goes to work at the Office of Strategic Services, America’s first espionage agency. An avid reader of mysteries and spy thrillers—with her own literary ambitions—she rises from clerk to head of General “Wild Bill” Donovan’s secret File Registry. Filled with hunger to serve in the field, Julia is finally transferred to Admiral Mountbatten’s new South East Asia Command, where she is to set up an OSS Registry and be Donovan’s “fly on the wall.” In Ceylon, she must work with the annoying and arrogant chief mapmaker, Paul Child. Later, Donovan sends her to launch a Registry in southern China and look into a thriving black market of airlifted US goods. Finding Paul there, Julia calls upon his help. They bond over Chinese meals—and shared peril as Japanese forces draw closer. 

Having traveled all over India, China, and Southeast Asia in my life, I revisited my story’s primary locations in India, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), and southern China. My research also led me to a new understanding of World War II, particularly the “Forgotten War” in Asia.

I am honored that my publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, is equally excited about this important piece of history. And proud to have received these advance reviews:

“An exciting, little-known reveal of the story behind Julia Child’s WWII service, showing her resilience and bravery in the spy world as well as giving fascinating insights into the war being waged in Asia. A must read.”
—Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of Where The Sky Begins and The Venice Sketchbook

“…Chambers’s gripping novel unveils another dimension to Julia. In this fictionalized account of Child’s real-life work with OSS during World War II, Chambers humanizes Julia and manages to make her even more remarkable. You’ll fall in love with Julia all over again, and with this tantalizing novel.”
—Nina Schuyler, award-winning author of The Translator and Afterword

The Star of India by Diana R. Chambers

The Star of India is available from Penguin Random House India

The Star of India is based on the true-life romance of rising young actress Nancy Valentine (“the next Lana Turner”) and Cambridge-educated WW2 hero, the Maharaja of Cooch Behar.

After their fated meeting in postwar Hollywood, the dashing ruler sweeps Nancy back home during India’s tumultuous run-up to Independence. Amid the power struggles of every political, royal, and religious faction, Nancy is entangled in a whirlwind of intrigue, espionage, and attempted murder. The Maharaja, known as Bhaiya by family and friends, comes under great pressure from his elegant and formidable mother, Maharani Indira of Cooch Behar, who believes his marriage to a foreigner will weaken the family’s position with their people—and make them vulnerable to a government takeover.

Amid growing opposition to the couple’s union, the state’s fabled Mughal Ruby disappears, and an ancient prophecy will shadow them all.

Diana spoke on “Research and Imagination in Historical Fiction,” in conversation with Mandira Nayar, for the 2020 Orange City Literature Festival. Watch the replay on YouTube!

Read “The Great Beyond” (PDF) by Diana R. Chambers, which appeared in the newsletter of the Prabha Khaitan Foundation

Read interviews with Diana from Mid-Day and The Week

Diana R. Chambers reveals the intriguing secrets behind the making of this book and answers some fun questions about her love for India, in an exciting conversation with RJ Stutee Ghosh. Watch the replay on Facebook Live!

Buy it now:
Amazon India

Lockdown Reading

One of “seven new must-read books on Kindle for the lockdown season”!
The Star Of India brings together the glamorous world of golden era Hollywood and the last days of the British Raj in India… The thrilling novel has everything from romance and murder, to a cursed Mughal ruby and the freedom struggle.”
The New Indian Express

“Part biography, part fiction and in great measure unseen history, this retelling speaks of exhaustive knowledge and research and is jam-packed with startling revelations about various members of the royal family in question, of Cooch Behar, as well as of other celebrated Indian royalty… For lovers of historical fiction, this is a special treat; the true story of a little blonde girl with an unusual affinity for India who meets and woos a most extraordinary man of destiny.”
Deccan Herald

“This elegant novel blends the Golden Age of Hollywood with the fiery last days of India under British rule. Diana Chambers envelops readers in a world of romance and intrigue with her lush evocation of place and multi-layered depiction of the passionate relationship between an American starlet and the forward-thinking maharaja whose love for her threatens to bring his kingdom crashing down. With shades of Isak Dinesen and E.M. Forster, The Star of India anchors an intimate story within one of the most fascinating eras of the 20th century.”
—Kim Fay, Edgar Finalist for Best First Novel, The Map of Lost Memories

Nancy Valentine and Bhaiya