Title: The Good Woman of Renmark
Author: Darry Fraser
Published: November 18th 2019
Publisher: Mira – AU
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
Adventure, romance and history combine in this thrilling 19th century journey through the South Australian bush and along the mighty Murray River in the company of a determined heroine.
1895, Renmark, South Australia
Maggie O’Rourke has always had a hard head. No man was going to tie her down to a life of babies and domestic slavery, even if that man was as good (and as annoyingly attractive) as Sam Taylor. Maggie is happily earning her own way as a maid in a house on the Murray River when disaster strikes.
Forced to defend herself and a friend from assault by an evil man, she flees downriver on a paddle steamer. With death at her heels, Maggie begins to realise that a man like Sam might be just who she wants in her hour of need. As for Sam, well, Maggie has always been what he wants.
The further Maggie runs, the more she discovers there are some things she cannot escape…
The Murray River is a place of escape, sanctuary, adventure and freedom for the spirited lead of Darry Fraser’s The Good Woman of Renmark. This is the tale of an enterprising woman who is ahead of her time. Darry Fraser’s latest takes the reader on an exciting venture through the bush to the river, in the troubled times of Australia’s past.
The Good Woman of Renmark relays the story of tough as nails heroine Maggie O’Rourke. A fiercely independent young woman, Maggie is not partial to a life of domestic drudgery. Rather, Maggie appreciates her independence, but this existence is threatened by a shocking attack Maggie and her friend are exposed to at her place of employment. This tragic incident sends Maggie into a spin. She flees to the relative safety of the river and boards a paddle steamer. The river provides Maggie with a sense of solace, protection and clarity. Maggie realises the man she has kept at distance for so long may provide her with the comfort and love she craves. The Good Woman of Renmark is a story of escape, new beginnings and stark realisation.
The seeds of this novel have been sown some time ago, as the heroine and hero of this tale appeared briefly in a previous Darry Fraser novel, Where the Murray River Runs. Although I am a fan of the author’s work, I haven’t read Where the Murray River Runs, so I saw this one as a standalone novel. It is perfectly fine to do this as The Good Woman of Renmark works completely independent of Fraser’s previous novels. I was soon drawn in to The Good Woman of Renmark thanks to the enticing first page.
We are really are blessed in Australia, to have such a skilled collection of historical fiction specialists, who help to resurrect Australia’s past for our enjoyment and appreciation. Darry Fraser is one such author and I have enjoyed making my way through her historically well informed narratives. The Good Woman of Renmark is no exception. Australian historical fiction lovers will value the research base of this tale. Fraser manages to juggle the difficult balance between providing hard facts about a specific time period and location, within a wholly engaging narrative. The facts are carefully embedded within the storyline, so it never feels like you are receiving a heavy hsitory lesson from Fraser. I did learn a fair bit from this novel historically speaking, which I am thankful to author for drawing my attention to via her informative writing.
Maggie is a fabulous character who is well formed. I admired Maggie’s toiling spirit, her clear head, bravery, fierce nature, enterprising abilities and her loyalty. She is also a little flawed and troubled, which made her interesting to follow. Maggie learns a lot over the course of the novel and I did enjoy being a part of her personal journey. She is well matched to her hero Sam and Fraser plays on the romantic interludes in her novel very well. I’m sure this aspect of the novel will appeal to historical romance fans. The supporting cast work to supplement the narrative and there are a good mix of friends and foes, who add to the interest level of the book. However, I feel the biggest physical presence in The Good Woman of Renmark is the Murray River itself. The physicality of the book is enhanced by the imposing presence of this tribulation. The sequences featuring the mighty Murray River were definitely favoured by this reader.
It was quite a wake up call to read about the life of our early Australian settlers. In particular, life in the past from a female gaze is equally heartbreaking, as it is insightful. It made me realise that we should not take the freedom that we have now for granted. Our ancestors toiled during some incredibly hard times, as we see through the heroine of this tale. If anything, although I was issued with a very entertaining read, The Good Woman of Renmark reminded me to pay homage to the efforts of our descendants, who lived a life of drudgery and pure struggle, just to survive.
A story of personal integrity, courage, stamina, companionship and responsibility, The Good Woman of Renmark is a powerful ode to life in former times, as our nation was beginning to take shape.
The Good Woman of Renmark by Darry Fraser was published on 18th November 2019 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Good Woman of Renmark, Darry Fraser, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Good Woman of Renmark is book #44 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge