1854, Ballarat, Victoria. When Nell Ambrton’s husband is shot dead by a bushranger, there are few who grieve his passing, and Nell least of all. How could she miss the monster who had abused her from the day they wed – the man who had already killed his innocent first wife? But his death triggers a chain of events that seem to revolve around the handsome bushranger who murdered him – a man to whom Nell, against her better judgement, is drawn. But Nell has far more than a mysterious stranger to worry about. With a mess of complications around her late husband’s will, a vicious scoundrel of a father trying to sell her off in matrimony, and angry relatives pursuing her for her husband’s gold, she is more concerned with trying to ensure her safety and that of her friend, goldfields laundry woman Flora, than dealing with the kind of feelings that led her astray so catastrophically before. After the violence on the goldfields, Nell’s fate also hangs in the balance. It seems that, after all, she might need to do the one thing she has avoided at all costs … ask for the help of a man.
Anybody who has been to school in Australia has learnt about the Eureka Stockade (a rebellion on the gold fields). However, Darry Fraser’s take on one of the most (in)famous events in Australian history is so richly researched I was astonished by the detail.
There’s a common misconception Australian history has nothing to offer, but – in reality – we had all the dangers, the drama, the outlaws (bushrangers) you could possibly want.
Marketed to me as historical romance, but published under the MIRA line, The Widow of Ballarat is as much historical *fiction* as romance.
The early chapters were gripping in their originality. Each time I thought something would happen a certain way, it changed. I was really impressed with those scenes.
My only criticism is that occasionally all the characters’ internal debating went on for a bit…
However, it was great to read a book with these themes.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.