Friday, August 3, 2012
New Review: Candice Proctor’s NIGHT IN EDEN – Enthralling Story of Love in New South Wales, Australia in the early 19th Century
NIGHT IN EDEN tells the story of Bryony Wentworth, who was transported to New South Wales in 1808 as punishment for the accidental death of her cheating husband. And in telling us her story, Proctor has told the story of so many other women prisoners, some of whom for minor crimes were torn from their homes in England and sent on prison ships to Australia become the slaves and involuntary whores for hard men. Byrony was torn from her 3-year-old daughter when she is sent there and spared rape only because she was very pregnant with her second child, a boy who dies months after his birth. While still mourning his death, she is forced to become the servant of Captain Hayden St. John, a war hero whose aristocratic wife has died leaving him a baby son who must be nursed. So, Byrony becomes his wet nurse. She also expects to be raped, and though St. John certainly wants her in his bed, even asks her to be his convict mistress, he is a better master than most and will not take her unwilling. Byrony sticks to her “pride and principles”--all she has left--and though she longs for him, too, she tells him no—at least initially.
Proctor vividly brings to the forefront life in Australia in the early 19th century away from Sydney Town. It’s a new view of the Regency, to be sure. And she shows how badly those brought to the colony there as prisoners often fared. How they were cruelly treated and looked down upon by crude free men even after serving their time and became free themselves. Proctor has done an amazing job.
There is great suspense as we encounter the Aborigines, great sadness as the frontier “swallows up” children who wander away, and great passion between a man and a woman who, under other circumstances, might have courted and married in the normal way. Proctor once was quoted as saying "I like to write about strong women, women who sometimes aren't even aware of their own strength but discover it when tested by life. And I make certain my heroines end up with the kind of men they deserve-- honorable men, men who can be both gentle and strong, who never lose their sense of humor and don't feel threatened by a strong woman." Such are Bryony and Hayden.
I loved this story and highly recommend it. Buy it used if you have to (I did) but do get it.