Orphan Boy (The Deerness Series)

Written by Elizabeth Gill
Review by Douglas Kemp

The second in the Deerness series, set in north-east England at the end of the 19th century. The eponymous orphan is Niall McAndrew, whose mother died while giving birth to him, and he is also blessed with an absent, feckless father. Despite a challenging childhood, Niall is a resourceful and good-looking young man and is determined to make a career and name for himself in business, at a time when his lowly background made it hard for anyone to break in to the local elite.  Despite his supportive, long-standing friendship with his childhood friend, Bridget, who also has some demons from her own upbringing to cope with, Niall finds it difficult to throw off the shadows of his humble origins and the success he finds in life is decidedly mixed.

This is standard saga fare – easy to read and to follow the undemanding plot. All the usual boxes for this genre are well and truly ticked.  At times the story seems to be unnecessarily stretched out, possibly to meet a set word count. One other comment: the cover is excruciatingly twee, with a photograph of an impossibly sad-looking boy dressed like a hideously comic Dickensian pastiche figure.