A Family of Strangers
Young servant Kate O’Neal is transported to Botany Bay from England in 1793 after injuring her wealthy rapist. To survive the dangerous crossing she becomes the mistress of Lt. Kendrick. In Australia, the volatile Kendrick’s fortunes rise and fall with his incessant gambling. After he beats Kate in a drunken rage, she begs him to take her to his farm, where ten convicts linger. With Kate’s knowledge of farming from her Irish childhood, she inspires the hostile convicts and turns them into friends. Kendrick soon loses all he owns and for protection, Kate becomes the mistress of his superior, Captain Spencer. Spencer indulges her in her wish to run a store. As she battles the merchant community for her place, she struggles to hold on to Spencer’s love, until her past comes back to haunt her.
I found the writing awkward, the characters histrionic and unbelievable. Kate is someone just passed from one man to another, with little backbone of her own. The dialog and actions are too modern, so there is little sense of time and place. On the ship sailing to Australia, everyone cooks in their cabins as if they have hot plates. This dangerous act would not have been allowed on a wooden ship of this era. Every other word out of several characters’ mouths is “bastards,” used in the modern form, not for someone who is illegitimate. Except for the sex and violence, with its simplistic language and lack of detail, this novel seems written for teenagers. It’s an interesting plot with poor execution.