=== Background: ===
Some time ago I went to my Niece's Summer Fate. There were many stalls, with an amazing variety of games, entertainment, food and drink to purchase. I was immediately drawn to a used bookstall, which was surprisingly quiet. So after mooching around for a while I selected the books I would buy, I got in total five for a £1 of which this was the first one I selected.
=== About the author: ===
Janet Tanner has become a very popular British author. So far she has written 30 books of which the majority have been multi generational sagas. She has had her work translated into several different languages, while also working under two pseudonyms Amelia Carr and Jade Shannon. She has been short listed twice for the RNA awards.
=== Synopsis of the book: ===
The year is 1856 and the 'Maid of Morne' is sailing on the epic three months voyage from England to Australia. Those onboard are looking for new lives and with the recent gold discoveries there's money to be made too. Among those packed liked sardines in economy class on the lower deck are the beautiful Regan and her father Thomas Gardner, looking for a new life to start a theatre company out there.
There is little to do onboard in these cramped conditions so Regan is encouraged with her father playing the fiddle to sing. Her beautiful voice is heard by Zach Casey and Dickon Trenoweth, who encourage then to perform for them upstairs with the wealthy travellers the following night. Thomas doesn't need to be asked twice as he sees this as an opportunity to get a good name before they have even reached their new homeland.
Thomas is a gambler and they were only able to afford this life changing new life by a lucky win. While upstairs Thomas eyes the gaming tables longingly, while Regan tries to make sure the opportunity never arises. Regan wakes one night to find Thomas gone, she finds him drunk and penniless playing Dice with Zach. To her horror he now plays for her and loses her to this evil man. Thomas feels terrible and challenges Zach to a duel but he accidentally shoots and kills himself, leaving Regan destitute, lonely and in this man's clutches she now blames for her father's death, but one at the same time owns her.
=== My thoughts on the book: ===
This novel was nothing like I expected and early on in the piece I wondered if I had made a mistake in picking it up and reading it. But I am very pleased to say I really enjoyed it and found the longer it went on the better it became. It was well written with a fabulous story and so many other great qualities that made this such a rewarding read.
I have read a Janet Tanner novel before this was called 'The Truth Game' which I really enjoyed. I liked her different style of writing as I like to read new authors because they all have something different to offer. This novel is one of her most recent and only published last year.
I have never really enjoyed historical stories before. I suppose I find it hard to relate to the time and society they were living in. It may also be that I find it difficult to understand the hardships they have to put up with when these days we have so much. So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I started reading this novel, knowing that it cost so little it wouldn't matter if I gave up.
I suppose I choose this book for two reasons initially, firstly I enjoyed this author's first book and I was keen to see if another would be as good. Secondly, there was a quote on the front of the book, but after re-reading it the wonderful words were not about this novel at all but a previous one. Why on earth would you do that? It makes no sense; I do not want to know about how great another book is when I am reading this one!!
Not only that, I thought the title was intriguing too. Especially when the author explained in her forward notes at the start of the book that she first called the book 'The Flower in the Valley'. So I was very keen to see which title best fitted the novel and in hindsight I think she picked the better and the right title.
I also liked the quality the author used in her summary of the book on the inside cover of it. So often for me these appear an afterthought, when in many ways it is what persuades or not the buyer to purchase it the book. This was a reasonable size but the quality came as the author sets the scene for the novel really well. Leaving so much open as to what could happen to Regan that it draws you into read it like a moth to a flame, so you just have to find out what happens to her.
However very early on in the story I wondered what I was doing reading this. As I said before I do not like period stories and relating to this one I thought would be hard. But I soon found I was quite gripped by the story, as Thomas was the first moth to the flame, as he couldn't help himself despite his daughter's best attempts to stop him gambling their savings away.
Being a typical man I struggle to understand and deal with emotion and feelings such as love. So reading a love story would not usually be something I would entertain as a lot of the sensitivity would be wasted on me. However this book has changed my views on this as I could actually relate to both the lead characters feelings and thoroughly enjoyed the way the author told their story.
I found I could easily relate to the characters within the story. Certainly Regan and the heart-breaking situation she found herself in with her dead father. I had to know what perils and bad things lay ahead of her as I thought with the way the story was going anything was possible and I had to know what would happen to her when she finally reached Australia.
At this stage I was nor really sure what I was reading, as it first it appeared to me to be a period drama. Dealing with Regan and her new life in Australia. But that was less than half the story as it was in a large part about her relationship with Zach. How this changed from hate and blaming him directly for her father's death, to expecting and understanding that he was in actual fact trying to be good to her. As it turned more into a love story with all the problems they both had coming to terms with each other's feelings and the others motives and actions.
However there was still more to this story, as three quarters of the way through it the author brought another revelation into the mixing pot. It was murder and it really took me by surprise as to add a new dimension to all aspects of the story. This was skilfully written and had me on the edge of my seat as I needed to know who was the guilty party and why.
This led to a very fast paced and exciting conclusion to the book. It was well thought out and had me afraid of what the truth could and would be. As I was never sure what twists this cunning author would employ. It made for a fascinating story and one I was totally involved in and really wasn't sure how it would end.
The books lead character Regan was marvellous. She was so full of courage, fight and spirit, it was difficult not to admire and like her. The author clearly understood this amazing women's mind and really explained her thoughts, feelings and viewpoint in a wonderful way. I totally admired this character as I think she was described to perfection. I even become so embroiled in her story that I feared for her safety when bad things were happening to her and those around her that she cared for.
They say it takes two to tango and they are obviously right. The depth in Regan's character was superbly brought to the surface by her co-star Zach. Initially it was easy to dislike and distrust this mysterious businessman, but as the story unfolded you got to learn more about him and understand him better. He was an excellent character and only wanted Regan to love him. However you were never really sure what his gameplan was and what his real intentions were.
I found their relationship and quite often the lack of it fascinating. I really enjoyed the way these two found it impossible to trust one another and even for example when Zach was doing something good for Regan she mistrusted his motives. So that the positive thing he was doing became a negative in her eyes. I just wanted to bang their heads together and get them to talk to each other properly. As I could see they cared for each other but their relationship was shrouded in doubt and insecurities from both sides.
The other support characters were all well described and quite diverse in their personalities. The author clearly had a picture in her minds eye about all if them and explained both them and their actions in a way that was in keeping with their characters and personalities. They all had a depth about them that was impressive and added to an already thought provoking novel.
I liked both the mystery and particularly the suspense the author created. As a result you were never sure what dangers Regan would stumble upon and the author described them excellently. So that you could see the problems but initially the headstrong Regan could not. I never had any idea what would happen to her next and this added to the suspense, as you were sure it would not simply be happy ever after.
The length of the story was exactly right to tell Regan's story. I would like to have seen an epilogue to have rounded the story of properly. With my only other very minor complaint being that new chapters did not start on a new page they immediately followed on from the previous one. It just would have looked better and looked more professional.
=== Conclusion: ===
I would really highly recommend this excellent novel. It was such as surprise and revelation to me and I really enjoyed it. The story was ingenious and very compelling, with so much mystery and suspense to enjoy as Regan's life changed direction. I even enjoyed the love story and thought she deserved happiness for everything that had happened to her and this from a man who would usually avoid love stories at all costs.
Publisher: Severn House
About the author: www.Janettanner.co.uk
Thanks for reading my first ever love story review.
This Review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
@CPTDANIELS October 2009