Darry Fraser is comfortable writing stories set along the Murray River and South Australian bush, and it shows in this polished, pitch perfect novel that combines adventure, romance and history with a wonderful and determined heroine. This is not the first novel characters Maggie or her love interest Sam have appeared in. Fraser’s characters appear and reappear, weaved throughout her books. The premise for this story was set up in Where the Murray River Runs, however The Good Woman of Renmark is very much a standalone read for those new to Fraser’s work.
It’s 1895, in 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 at Olivewood, a house on the Murray River, when disaster strikes. She is forced to defend herself and her friend Nara from assault by a dangerous man who has been acting inappropriately for some time. This man is well respected in town and Maggie knows no one will believe she acted in self-defence, so she flees downriver on a paddle steamer. The further Maggie runs, the more she discovers there are some things she cannot escape… 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. He doesn’t think twice when Maggie’s mother asks him to find her.
Fraser draws a rich cast of characters, in particular Maggie, who is wonderful: feisty, stubborn, resilient and a woman born well before her time. She doesn’t need a man but she desperately wants one… one man in particular. Sam. The first half of the book has her reflecting on Sam, and him searching for her, which is excellent for building the tension between the two characters. It’s immediately clear that there is an intense connection between Sam and Maggie, and Fraser weaves that into the story well.
The Good Woman of Renmark ticks all the boxes for a great historical romance, including a HEA, and fans of that genre will love it. But this novel is so much more than that too. Despite its historical setting, it is a timely read with its descriptions of the Murray River. Fraser does a marvellous job of transporting us up the then mighty Murray – we all know how the river is now struggling. This entertaining page turner is a wonderful reminder of how quintessentially Australian this setting is. No doubt there will be more Darry Fraser books set in this region, which anyone who reads this novel will be happy about. The Good Woman of Renmark leaves you wanting more. A highly enjoyable read.
About the author:
For Darry Fraser, writing is her journey and the Australian landscape – rural, coastal, and desert – is her home and hearth. History, hidden catalysts, and powerful connections between humans drive her stories. Well-developed characters and layered stories woven with passion denote her love of telling a great tale. Darry is a daughter, a sister and an aunty. She loves animals, especially dogs, and walks her beloved Dog every day. She is left-handed, has an extreme fondness for plain-flavoured potato chips and fresh licorice, and loves a bold berry-flavoured red wine (not necessarily at the same time).