The Orphan of Good Hope
In 1683, Johanna Timmerman is one of eight orphaned girls being sent from Amsterdam to the Cape of Good Hope to marry rich burghers living in the Dutch East India Company (VOC) settlement at the tip of Africa.
But Johanna already loves another orphan, Frans de Jong. Their romance blossomed after exchanging shy glances at church services. When she discovers he is also being sent to the Cape, she signs a contract for a burgher marriage in the hope that she can escape her obligations and find Frans.
Claes Van Loon, and his wife, Floriane Perroneau, accompany Johanna on the voyage. Claes is a corrupt, lascivious official who has designs on the innocent young girl, but Floriane befriends her and tries to keep her safe while at the same time being intent on exposing her husband’s fiscal misdeeds. Much of the plot involves the intrigues to bring this about.
The youthful characters are likeable enough, and Claes is a magnificent villain. Although primarily romantic fiction with a predictable conclusion, there is historical interest here for anyone unfamiliar with the Dutch settlement at the Cape and how the Lords Seventeen ruled the VOC. Most of the action takes place in close quarters, and greater exploration of the exotic blend of cultures and spectacular natural surroundings could have added more depth. The slavery that was endemic to Cape Dutch society in this period does play a minor role.