Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Review: Rebecca Brandewyne’s THE JACARANDA TREE – Another Great Romance from Brandewyne and Another Great Escape, this time to 19th Century Australia

Brandewyne serves up a suspenseful tale of 19th century Australia and a society that consisted of those trying to recreate London in the far continent, the Exclusivists, and those sent there against their will, primarily convicts, who struggled to survive, and once freed became the Emancipists, looking to better their lives.

Set in the period 1855-1870, this is the story of Arabella Darracott, a highborn young English lady, who while in Yorkshire was told by a Gypsy that she would one day experience a ship wreck on the “other side o’ the world” where she would become a prisoner and encounter a demon “neath a purple-bloomin’ tree.” Later, upon her father’s death, she sails to Australia to join her guardian. But her ship breaks up on the Great Barrier Reef and she finds herself rescued and nursed her back to health by a dark, handsome stranger named Lucien Sinclair. Unbeknownst to Arabella—when she falls in love with him—he is a wealthy former convict who was convicted of murdering his wife, Verity. To add to that, in Sydney, someone has been murdering prostitutes and calling them “Verity” as he slices them up Jack the Ripper style.

Brandewyne vividly portrays the lot of the women transported to Australia, often for petty crimes (or no crime at all) and forced into lives of prostitution. And she shows us the prejudice against those who were sent to Australia for ostensible crimes, which prejudice continues to this day. (People there are quick to assure you none of their ancestors were the ones transported.) Arabella is a wonderfully likable woman, a risk taker, who thinks for herself. Lucien is a man hardened by life’s blows yet he survives to overcome those who would oppose him and to take the woman he has claimed.

Brandewyne is a great storyteller and I have come to love her romance novels. This one is among them and I highly recommend it.

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