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Review: The Bushranger’s Wife by Cheryl Adnams

on January 14, 2021

The Bushranger’s Wife 
Cheryl Adnams
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2020, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

How do you tame a wild colonial boy? With an even wilder colonial girl.

Central Highlands of Victoria 1861.

Jack the Devil’s reputation precedes him. The most notorious bushranger on the Central Highlands, nothing throws him off his game-until he holds up Prudence Stanforth and her grandmother. Jack can’t help but be captivated by the feisty Pru and her lack of fear in the face of danger.

Weeks later, Pru crosses paths with the respectable businessman Jack Fairweather, and it’s not long before she recognises him as the bushranger who stole her favourite necklace. His price for the locket’s return is a kiss-a kiss that ignites sparks in them both.

When Pru discovers her grandmother has been keeping a devastating secret, running away with Jack the Devil is the perfect escape for her broken heart. The dangerous nature of his less than salubrious occupation is a poetic contradiction to her sheltered upbringing, and only fuels their passion.

But as life becomes more complicated, will the return of dark elements from Jack’s past ruin their chance at happiness?

This was okay…but I didn’t love it.

Prudence is travelling with her grandmother all the way from England to a place near Ballarat in Victoria, where her uncle has grown his wealth on the goldfields and built an elegant mansion. Along the way they are robbed by “Jack the Devil”, a notorious bushranger who loves snatching jewels but prides himself on not being violent. Prudence cannot hide her excitement at the hold up being a bit of an adventure, until Jack the Devil forces her to surrender her locket, a cheap trinket but the only thing she really has that reminds her of her mother. Later on, Prudence meets Jack Fairweather, a local businessman, whom she recognises as Jack the Devil (or really, he basically tells her) and they make a bargain. And the later on, when Prudence discovers her grandmother deceived her on something, she flees to Jack and decides to marry him.

I think for me, just neither of the characters were really appealing. Jack is arrogant and I was always looking for a deeper reason that he was a bushranger, that he thought robbing people was justified, or a legitimate way of making money but there was really nothing there, for him, it was just easy. He was just a thief. And he was so proud of himself because he wasn’t violent, like it put him so much further above other bushrangers who might injure or attack, especially young women. Look ok, good for you Jack, you’ve never killed anyone. But you’re not exactly worth bragging about, are you? Stealing people’s belongings, in some cases, irreplaceable belongings is not something to admire. Also, I found it odd that he gave his identity up so quickly to Prudence, even though he could sort of tell she’d found the whole hold-up thing intriguing rather than frightening. It just didn’t seem a good idea, to go around revealing his secret past time so easily. He basically does it 2 minutes after they meet when he is in his “businessman” persona. And Prudence is often just too dumb to live, she’s weirdly excited by being robbed, thinking it’s an “adventure”. She’s been raised in a life of wealth and privilege but it bores her and she wants more – so when she hooks up with Jack, she decides she wants to go along and rob people too. Honestly. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to see her as brave and feisty, wanting to do what the men do but that whole part just didn’t do it for me. She’s like one of those women in TV shows who insist on going everywhere and doing everything and then turning out to be incredibly good at it, even better than those who have been doing it for years. I just didn’t find their shared past time romantic or enjoyable to read about. I also found it somewhat amusing when they were offended at the local police officer questioning Jack or being interested in his movements, because how dare they assume that Jack might be an actual bushranger when he is um *checks notes* an actual bushranger.

There were elements I enjoyed – the descriptions of the local area, even Prudence’s struggle against the life she was being groomed for, marriage to an eligible man and a life of running a household and coordinating staff, etc. Prudence’s troubled relationship with her grandmother was also very well done. The old woman was quite formidable and she made many mistakes with Prudence in order to save face in such times and ended up paying the price. The writing itself was good – just didn’t really like the bush ranging aspect, which kind of was a core point of the story. But I guess I just don’t find crime romantic! I tend to feel very much the same about modern day OMC books. The tension was built well also, towards the end of the novel, although I did find the ending a bit lacking, a sort of neat fix and kind of irrelevant to the main plot in terms of the whodunnit.

This was a quick read but a mixed bag for me personally.

5/10

Book #6 of 2021

 

The Bushranger’s Wife is book #2 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

It is also book #1 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2021


One response to “Review: The Bushranger’s Wife by Cheryl Adnams

  1. […] Cheryl Adnams about everything to do with her new release The Bushranger’s Wife (2021), and Bree@Igirl2manybooks reviewed the book. Once again The Last Truehart by Darry Fraser proved popular with Veronica @ The […]

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