1896 Robe, South Australia
When Elsa Goody’s father and brother George die in quick succession she and her sister Rosie are in trouble. Pursued by an unpleasant suitor with dubious motivation, Elsa leaves for Victoria on the hunt for a fortune in gold coins that her brother has hidden. If Elsa can find it she will be able to save Rosie and herself from married slavery.
Their quest leads them on a cross-country journey to find the last man who saw her brother alive, Ezekiel Jones. But Elsa is not the only one looking for buried treasure. She and Rosie are beset by bushrangers and in the confusion Elsa is accused of being an accomplice. Luckily not everyone believes that Elsa is a criminal. When she finally catches up with Ezekiel, it’s clear that for him she can do no wrong.
But with everyone chasing her and bloody violence on the horizon, life is becoming increasingly complicated. Will she and Rosie ever manage to solve the mystery, find the gold and free themselves from a dark future?
I do love an Australian historical fiction, and Elsa Goody Bushranger by Darry Fraser hit the spot for me. I really liked Elsa and enjoyed all of the time we got to spend together as the story unfolded. As is often the case, it took me a few chapters to get hooked, and then I read about three quarters of the book all in one day (I think maybe this is just my reading style). I felt like once I got to know the characters the story really took off, and there were quite a few ‘just one more chapter’ moments – Fraser really puts her characters through the wringer in this one, and there were quite a few dramatic moments (and deaths!) that I didn’t expect.
One of my favourite things about this book was the way Fraser looks at different aspects of family relationships. We see the sibling relationship between Elsa and Rosie contrasted against those between Zeke and his brothers – and a look at how different the relationships were between each of the brothers. I also really liked the insight we had into Lily’s life as a widow with an empty nest, and what her relationship with her grown up children was like. I enjoyed the romances in this one too – there were a couple of them which was fun, and while they did seem a bit sudden in a way, I thought they were quite sweet and fun.
Another interesting aspect for me that Fraser weaves into this book is the newly won right for women to vote in South Australia, and how important this is to Elsa. I feel like the setting of the story on that cusp in time, but also on either side of the border between South Australia and Victoria – where women couldn’t yet vote – was quite a clever. I liked that this meant so much to Elsa, and that it was an additional freedom within reach but also kind of kept her a bit tied to Robe even when it looks like there is nothing there for her.
I want to give a minor content warning on this one for infertility and also for infant loss/still birth, which do pop up (fairly briefly) in the book.
Overall I thought this was fun and adventurous and satisfying. I would actually quite like to see more of these characters – I want to know how the future pans out for them! Darry Fraser was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book and her writing process – please do come back to check it out on Wednesday.
Elsa Goody Bushranger by Darry Fraser
Source: I received a free copy for review from Harlequin books (Harper Collins). All views are my own.
Category: Australian historical fiction romance
Themes: feminism, family, romance
Format: Paperback (409 pages)
Find Darry Fraser online on her website here.
My review of The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser.