In a dread-laden atmosphere of shocking sights and smells, the transportation of four convicts to the women’s gaol Parramatta Female Factory is as grim as their backstory. Although hiding a terrible secret between them, these young women are resilient and struggle against the harsh conditions.
The Convict Girls four-book series written by Deborah Challinor follows four bonded female convicts Friday Woolfe, Rachel Winter, Sarah Morgan and Harriet Clarke who are shipped from London’s infamous Newgate Prison to the penal colony of Sydney Town, New South Wales, to work off their sentences. The penalties for petty crime, like the strange new land, are unforgiving.
Set in 1832, the travails of Friday, Rachel, Sarah and Harrie jump off the page as each book tells the story from each woman’s perspective while moving the narrative forward. Titles are Behind the Sun, Girl of Shadows, The Silk Thief, A Tattooed Heart. As they work through their bond in different forms of servitude, the reader follows their friendship, the physical and mental strain, and their all-important futures.
Author Deborah Challinor skilfully expands and elaborates on their new lives (the homebody, the thief, the seamstress, the prostitute) while keeping the voice true. She gets the more risqué messages across without unnecessary crudeness. Her well researched, well written plots and strong supporting characters, like cruel Bella Jackson and handsome Dr James Downey, blend together to spin a gripping yarn, spiced with highs, lows, loves, laughs, drama and murder.
I love good historical fiction, this quartet is superb (look beyond the chick-lit cover art) and Deborah Challinor knows how to lure her readers. The outstanding imagery, ripe for screen adaptation, kept me reading long after I should have turned off the light. I strongly recommend this 5-star series and suggest reading the stories in sequence so they unfold in all their splendour.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
AUTHOR BIO: Deborah Challinor is a writer and PhD historian from Waikato in New Zealand. She lived in Australia while researching the stories for her Convict Girls series. The books follow four young woman transported to New South Wales for petty crimes. The character of Friday Woolfe is loosely based on her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Mary Ann Anstey who was caught stealing a silk handkerchief and sent out to Sydney Town on Lady Juliana, a convict ship dispatched in 1789 from England to Australia. Deborah Challinor has written over 16 books, historical fiction and non-fiction titles. Website https://www.read-nz.org/writer/challinor-deborah/