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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Review: Daughter of the Hunter Valley

Title: Daughter of the Hunter Valley

Author: Paula J. Beavan

Publisher: 29th September 2021 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 384 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, romance

My Rating: 4.5 crowns


Alone. Near destitute. But brave and determined. Can Maddy beat the odds to create a new home in the Hunter Valley? An exciting Australian historical debut, perfect for readers of Darry Fraser.

1831, New South Wales

Reeling from her mother's death, Madeleine Barker-Trent arrives in the newly colonised Hunter River to find her father's promises are nothing more than a halcyon dream. A day later, after a dubious accident, she becomes the sole owner of a thousand acres of bushland, with only three convicts and handsome overseer Daniel Coulter for company.

Determined to fulfil her family's aspirations, Maddy refuses to return to England and braves everything the beautiful but wild Australian country can throw at her - violence, danger, the forces of nature and loneliness. But when a scandalous secret and a new arrival threaten to destroy all she's worked for, her future looks bleak ... Can Maddy persevere or should she simply admit defeat?

A captivating historical tale of one young woman's grit and determination to carve out her place on the riverbank.

My Thoughts

Paula’s debut novel is a wonderful colonial adventure set in the Hunter Valley in 1831. Following the death of her mother in England, Maddy travels to NSW to find her father and comes to the realisation that the promises from his letters had been full of lies. When he then also dies, she decides to stay on and work the property fulfilling her parents’ dreams. 

‘What had started as their dream had become a millstone around Maddy’s neck, and the weight of it was drowning her.’

Being a woman of this era, Maddy is confronted with the harsh Australian outback: convicts for labourers, destructive weather patterns and even bushrangers. The story tells how she works hard to make a life for herself in this new, yet wild land. It depicts a strong female lead who shows great strength, bravery and determination to persevere despite the many obstacles. There is also a romantic element to this tale but for me, this was not the strongest or most engaging element. 

‘I am convinced you have my best interests at heart, but I was not raised to follow the accepted conventions.’

What I loved about this story was the way Paula captured the feel for what life would have been like for colonial Australians. I appreciated her writing ability to accurately portray descriptions of both the landscape and how dangerous the elements could be. Paula has obviously done her research as I felt swept away to a time and place from almost two hundred years ago. Whether it be the extremes of weather, the remote living or the lurking dangers both natural and man made. 

‘It’s a tough land. It’s harder, dryer, and hotter than anything we’re used to. I don’t know if your pa would have made it work, but there’s steel in your spine that will keep you trying long after you could have, perhaps should have, given up. And that’s the kind of person this country needs.’

For a trip to the past when life on the land was often harsh and unforgiving, Paula provides us with a heroine to cheer for. A sensational debut novel and I look forward to more stories from Paula. 

‘Maddy was seated in a kitchen with a convict and a hired overseer, about to share a pot of tea. Her life was reduced to two thousand acres in a colony on the far side of the world and she’d never been happier.’

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This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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