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Synopsis of the book:
The year is 1802, the place New South Wales, Australia. Erin Kelly is the eldest child born to an Irish family that have recently settled on the land with a view to farming it. Sadly, things have not gone well with her mother passing away and her distraught father now drinking away all the money from the farm, in the process racking up debts to businessman and landowner Brett Wilde.
Following the escape of a group of criminals, they kill Erin's father leaving the 18 year old to somehow bring up her brother and two sisters. As on her deathbed she promised her mother that she would always look after the younger ones in the family. Her priority must be to ensure they have enough money for food and that what remains of the harvest is gathered.
Despite having to deal with her own grief, she sets about raising some money by selling a rum barrel her father had not drunk, to a local rum bar. The lady from the bar who has recently broken her leg agrees to pay her a good price as long as she works as a bar wench for two weeks. She reluctantly agrees and after a few days she has her first encounter with Brett Wilde who as a result she hates with a passion.
My thoughts on this novel:
I thought this was a very good and generally well written romantic adventure. The story had a very good concept and feel to it, plus it developed well. It was basically an unusual love story between Erin and Brett in which the themes were most definitely love and hate. In which these two strong characters found communication difficult and admitting feelings for the other practically impossible.
Admittedly this is not my first experience of this author's work, as about nine months ago I read 'Moth to a flame' which I also enjoyed. Which actually is my biggest complaint about this book, because the two stories are quite similar. For example both feature a young naïve girl who has recently lost her parents in Australia and she meets a rich and successful man. I just found the two ideas very similar and disappointing because of it as I was looking for something new and fresh and didn't get it.
On the other hand, I am right to criticise her hear? Because it is clearly a popular and winning formula for her and once you have success don't you try and replicate it again as it is hard enough to be a successful writer after all? Regardless I felt a little cheated and it made me wonder if this concept was in all her other books as well. As it gave me an advantage I didn't want, as I knew or thought I knew in theory how the story would develop.
So from my point of view this book was not quite as good as the previous one because I felt in some respects it was a carbon copy of it. And a concept is always best the first time it is used, as it is so new and different. That said this story was still enjoyable, fascinating and had been engrossed in it. As I felt sympathy for Erin's horrible position and I was very keen for her to beat the odds and be able to support her family in their new home.
However at the same time I take my hat of to any writer who can write a successful period story. As I think they are very hard to write because not like today you have to go and research exactly what life was like all those years ago. And I'm sure if any get any small detail wrong knowledgeable readers are going to pick you up on it and expose your ignorance. So from this viewpoint I think the author did well to tell a compelling story and make it seem real as well as coming to life for the reader.
My criteria for selecting this book was simple, I wanted to read another book from this author and I wanted to select a more recent one than the last I read and this one was published just last year. Coupled with the idea that was portrayed to the reader from the front cover 'romantic suspense set in nineteenth-century Australia'. I thought this had lots of potential and the idea behind it I was interested in.
Although I was annoyed as well as below this was a critic praising another of her books. Sorry what is the relevance of a different book to anyone about to read this one? None for me and to push my blood pressure even higher there were another four compliments from journalists on the back page as well!!
My mood was not improved when I looked at the summary on the inside cover. As having read the book two short paragraphs in no way did justice to the very good novel. The author very much under sold the story here and I thought she could quite easily have shared a little more of the early events with the reader instead of completely glossing over them. It barely set the scene and could and should have been expanded to demonstrate just how desperate Erin's position was.
I was surprised when I started reading the book as it did not have a prologue and it should have done. Instead it jumped straight into following Erin and bringing the reader up to speed about the situation the family were in, with the father drinking far too much. I thought a prologue would have been a good idea sharing with the reader the background as to how and why they came to Australia from Ireland and what their expectations were.
Despite this I found I almost immediately got into the story and while it was not enjoyable hearing about Erin's woes, I wanted to know more and was keen to see what happened to her as I could not see any way out of the strife the family were in and I admired Erin's desire to keep the family together and keep her mother's dying wish.
I found I was totally transfixed by the story, as I so wanted Erin to succeed for her family, as I feared the consequences of them having to split up. The only thing I didn't enjoy was some of the shocking or unpleasant things she had to do, but this added to the realism and the desperate circumstances she was faced with. It was hard in places for me to read about them, especially as she none of it was her fault and she was only trying to help her family.
As a result of this story taking a similar path as the previous one I had read from this author, I had a fair idea of what was going to happen. In one respect this was good as I knew or I thought I knew what would happen, but at the same time the author did bring in a few twists that made you question what the outcome really would be.
Despite knowing more than I wanted to about the path of the story, it did not stop me appreciating the writing and enjoying all that I encountered. Although at no point did I feel I could relax as the relationship between Brett and Erin was full of ups and downs with surprises round most corners.
The book was well paced throughout, with plenty of action and adventure to enjoy. With a good climax to the story that was fast paced, exciting and in character with the rest of the story. I found it quite nerve tingling and I was very unsure how the story would conclude, but ultimately satisfied with the ending.
Erin Kelly with was the novels beautiful lead character and probably for me the best feature of the book. I found I really admired her guts, courage and strength, while I respected her values such as taking on responsibilities for her younger brother and sisters. When things went wrong for her I felt really sympathetic towards her and really wanted it to somehow turn around for her, as she was such a warm, kind soul.
She was a girl that was forced to grow up very quickly. I liked the way she rarely thought of herself, always putting others she cared about first. I felt the author really knew and understood her the way she shared her thoughts, actions and emotions. I loved the way she distrusted Brett's motives and even if he was trying to be kind to her she would see the other side and think he was up to something bad. Overall she was a fabulous character and one it was easy to relate too and respect.
Brett Wilde was the other side of this love story and the other main character in the story. Initially I think the author gave us the impression he was not a nice man at all. Although over time you got to understand him and even like him as his personality started to reveal itself a kinder more gentle side. He grew on me as a character and I even found some humour in his conversations with Erin. It was good the way the author also wrote maybe without the same depth but still showed his feelings on things and how Erin managed unwittingly at times to really hurt him.
There were several other important characters within the story, but you never really got to understand them as well as either Erin or Brett. As a result you only really had Erin's opinion of them and you never really understood how they felt about what was happening, which I think was both sensible and good as it could have detracted away from the main story.
For me this story was always rich in suspense, just a little mystery but oozed this suspense. Admittedly, different from the type I'm used to in crime thrillers but still very interesting and nerve jangling. As you never knew what would happen to Erin and her family and the author very skilfully always put doubts in your mind throughout the story.
The writing style of the author I always found appealing and easy to follow. With good length chapters that you really felt were leading somewhere, ending at logical points. These chapters had good descriptions of both the characters and the countryside in this contrasting country, so that you had a really good understanding what it was like their in the early part of the nineteenth century.
I thought the author had the length of the story just right, as for me the piece had reached its natural ending. Although admittedly I would have liked an epilogue to update us in 'the years to come', (sorry couldn't resist that!!), what happened to all the main characters within the story.
I found this to be a very readable and enjoyable piece of romantic fiction. For me Erin was a fabulous lead character and most things revolved around her. I would certainly recommend this, although my only issue with it was the striking similarities with her previous book. But despite this the quality was definitely in her writing and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of novel.
Publisher: Severn House
ISBN-13: 978- 0727867735
About the author: www.janettanner.co.uk
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
@CPT Daniels January 2011