The book opens with a gorgeous Rumi quote. Don't know Rumi? Then treat yourself to this quick overview.
Our narrator is cherishing the sights surrounding the Taj Mahal because she's been away for many years. She's pretty emotionally attached to it, anyway—the place having been built to honor her mom.
With our narrator are her guardian, Nizam (pulling double-duty as a rowboat rower), and her two granddaughters, Gulbadan and Rurayya.
As grandchildren tend to do, they remind our narrator that time goes by too quickly and changes everything.
Nizam has guided them all to a place secure from spying eyes and nosey ears (wait…is that right?), so our narrator feels that it's safe to tell her granddaughters of their origins.
The young women have apparently been kept in the dark about something pretty huge and have been deemed finally old enough to handle the enormity of this secret.
The Emperor Alamgir hates them all. There, we said it. Whew, that's a load off.
Everyone else hates Alamgir, too, though, so it's not a huge loss—right?
Wrong. It's a big deal. Alamgir not only hates them, but he hates them because they are his family. ::::Skkkrrriiiitttccchh:::: Wha?
Yup. Alamgir, formerly known as Aurangzeb, is our narrator's brother, and he really, really hates our narrator.
The girls have been lied to about their family history for years in order to protect them and their little brother, Mirza. That's because 1) they are all of royal blood, 2) Mirza could potentially assume the throne, and as such, 3) Mirza is a major threat to a seriously insecure dude.
So, our narrator begins her story by telling her kids about how her father Khurram met Arjumand, her mother, in a bead shop—and from then on it was True Wuvvvv.
Like us, the girls are a bit befuddled as to why this should be such a problem.