1871. When Fergus Deagan’s wife dies in childbirth, she makes him promise to take their family to Western Australia to join his brother Bram, also to marry again. She’s right. His young sons and newborn daughter do need a mother’s love and he needs something different.
Disowned by her father for becoming pregnant, Cara Payton bears a stillborn baby. She’s in deep despair, until a plea to wetnurse a motherless baby gives her life new purpose. When Fergus proposes marriage, she accepts. She respects him and is happy to stay with the baby she now loves.
During the voyage to Australia, she and Fergus draw closer. Then her past rears its ugly head and they face a terrible crisis.
When they finally get to Fremantle, Fergus and Bram, always rivals, struggle to make friends. To make matters worse, Bram has financial problems and there is no railway where Fergus can find engineering work. Can the two brothers solve their problems? Will the newcomers find a way to build a new life?
And from the world of Ewespeak and retired action heroes, we now move seamlessly to 1871 Swindon and embark a P&O steamer to travel to Australia to start a new life… what better demonstration of my eclectic tastes?! I’ll be honest though, this book would never have registered on my radar if I hadn’t been required to provide a review – a friend suggested it was likely to be a “fairly standard shawlie”, so I approached it in that spirit – I was ready to skim read and give a bland review.
How wrong can you be? I’ve been totally absorbed for the last couple of days – this was a thoroughly excellent read. By all the rules, I really should have hated it – it’s a totally linear story (no to-ing and fro-ing), there are a few really stereotypical characters, and I don’t think anyone would have bet against me on how things were going to turn out. But Anna Jacobs does it so well – my heart ached for Cara, and I almost cheered when things started going right for her. And when everything moves to Australia and we encounter Livia and watch her growing relationship with Remi… I just loved it.
This is the fifth book in a series – while I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of background round Bram and his wife Isabella, his many siblings, and Livia, this book worked fine as a stand-alone. The writing is essentially simple and straightforward, nothing too complicated – and a total joy to read. The historical detail is obviously important to the author – and it really shows, the era and settings really do come alive.
Well done Anna Jacobs – you are simply quite wonderful at what you do. Thank you for one of the most enjoyable reading weekends I’ve had in ages.
The Trader’s Reward is the fifth and final novel in Anna Jacobs’ wonderfully atmospheric saga series ‘The Traders’, set in Europe, the Orient and Australia’s Swan River Colony. It was published in hardback and for kindle in April 2014 by Hodder and Stoughton, and the paperback is due for release on 11 September.
Anna Jacobs grew up in Lancashire and emigrated to Australia, but still visits the UK regularly to see her family and do research, something she loves. She is the author of over sixty novels: addicted to writing, she figures she’ll have to live to be one hundred and twenty at least to tell all the stories that keep popping up in her imagination and nagging her to write them down. She’s also addicted to her own hero, to whom she’s been happily married for many years. To contact Anna or to find out more about her books, do visit her website.