Monday, May 5, 2014
"Charter to Redemption" by D.J. Blackmore
At the close of 1821, the penal colony of Newcastle looks to be every bit as black as it's painted. Emma Colchester charters a ride to Australia with a promise of marriage to a man she has never met. But appearances aren't always as they seem. And with a commitment unavoidable Emma learns that shackles are not always forged from iron. Tobias Freeman longs for redemption and hope. After a rough journey to New South Wales, Tobias learns the rations, the regulations, and the reprisal. But neither Emma nor Tobias expect the repercussions.
To help her family, Miss Emma Colchester intends to begin a new life far from home in the colony of Newcastle. Her aunt has arranged for her to marry Gideon Quinn, the young man in a miniature Emma has been sent. Not until she arrives does she discover she's been duped. The likeness is dated, and Gideon is now a grizzled man old enough to be her grandfather. Meanwhile, she can't help falling for Tobias Freeman, the handsome young convict who saved her life on their first dramatic meeting. Trapped in a seemingly impossible situation, Emma's only option seems to be to make the best of it.
Several things appealed to me about this book.
Firstly, it's interesting how much scope there was for people willing to live out their Christian faith in such tough times. Emma's decisions to help in the hospital (even though she had an ulterior motive at times) and later in the Sunday School, make her a good heroine. It gets 21st century readers pondering. General affluence may hide our needs, but stories like this help us think about what life is really all about.
Secondly, I liked how the brave settlers were like fish out of water, trying to adapt to life in a foreign place nothing like they'd ever imagined, from the wide spaces to the intense summer heat. They tried to get by on their old skills from the Mother Country, when what they really needed was a whole set of new skills. The many references to food from their old homes and the ladies offering convicts warm, woolly scarves at Christmas are good examples. It's good for those of us who have generations of Aussies behind us to get back to our roots.
There were frequent references to the wide, harsh beauty of the land, which I loved. The dialogue is another strength, with colourful characters like old Kevin, the convict. Not least, I liked the secrets, showing us that supposedly 'good' people may be really grasping and heartless while those labelled 'bad' are good-hearted and true.
At times I got a little confused about who was talking, as new speakers sometimes started on the same line as the person before, but I've come across this sort of flow before and got used to it again. If you keep your eyes on the quotation marks, you'll be right.
Overall, I appreciated the research which made this story so authentic.
Charter to Redemption Available at Amazon