I’m always looking for historical romances that tackle places and times that are not as familiar to me. When I saw this one told the story of a woman and man separated when she is unlawfully accused and ends up on a convict ship and destined to spend many years working off her sentence in Australia, I was eager to read it. It bridges the story of 1830s England and Australia. It was a good blend of historical backdrop and storytelling with a bit of a fairy tale feel to it.
The story begins with the background of Eliza Dowling’s birth and how she came to be living with her aunt who worked up at the big house in the neighborhood in the kitchen. Eliza is an exceptionally bright girl because the village vicar took her instruction in hand. She is a beautiful golden-haired blue-eyed girl with great intelligence who captures the attention of the lord’s son and gets the opportunity to share the classroom with him and his jealous, spiteful sister.
All is well in Harry de Haviland’s life as he grows up on the estate with his best friend Eliza. She is the girl he falls in love with until the day his father’s situation and his sister’s conniving ways separate them. While Harry is off to school, Eliza’s situation becomes bleak. Then it becomes a nightmare when she is falsely accused of something she didn’t do. She is sentenced to be transported. The adventure of a life time awaits Eliza now and it is a perilous and sad one as she grows resigned to her fate the further her ship carries her away from Harry.
Too late, Harry learns what has befallen Eliza, but his efforts to get to her don’t come to fruition. He searches for ways to get to Eliza, but finds that he might have to give up hope and accept his father’s scheme to save the family fortune. Harry is caught between the duty to his family and heritage and his love for Eliza who is probably out of his reach forever.
As I said, the story reminded me of one of those old-fashioned historicals that read like a fairy tale in a way where the hero and heroine are allowed to fall in love in spite of their class differences and then all the powers that be are there to thwart them. The thing that brought this several notches above all that was Eliza’s journey. Once she stepped foot on that convict ship, it became a tale of hope and survival. I was so vested near the end that I was doing the ‘book whisperer’ thing to keep the story on track for my happy ending.
The story was told in alternating viewpoints between Eliza and Harry. I really liked both of them and liked how they both grow into stronger people in their own ways. The villains in this story are the ‘love to hate’ kind. Their very black-heartedness served to showcase Harry and Eliza’s good traits. Due to the story’s core plot of separation of two young lovers just when they declare their love it falls more into the sweet romance side of the spectrum.
So in the end, it was a satisfying read that I would recommend to those who are interested in reading a historical romance with a bit of adventure that takes place in rural England and Australia.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review this book.