Synopsis: Cassandra Blake has raised her three motherless sisters. The girls are the pride of their book-loving, impractical father, and not in a hurry to marry. Then the American Civil War cuts off supplies of cotton to Lancashire, the mills fall silent and there is no work. There is a stark choice: stay and risk starvation or pack up and begin again elsewhere. Cassandra has fallen in love with Reece Gregory, but he can’t support a wife. When he’s given the chance to start a new life in Western Australia, he seizes the opportunity, promising to send for her. Then an old feud tears the family apart. Cassandra is kidnapped and her sisters are forced to sail with a group of desperate cotton lasses to Fremantle. Penniless and alone, Cassandra is determined to find them again – but when she is offered a way, there is a painful price to pay
Review: This was not the light-headed historical romance that I had expected, although it had started that way. Instead, it revealed the depths of hardship during the American war which had huge effects onEngland’s sustainability.
Four sisters nurse their sickly father as they waste away due to hunger and poverty. The only hope for Cassandra, the eldest is her friendship with Reece, who visits weekly and they discuss the pleasures of books and travel. They love each other, but in those tough times he was unable to offer her marriage. He takes a job offer in Australia with plans to send for her in a year or two when he is more financially stable.
Meanwhile, an estranged uncle takes pity on the sisters and provides them with additional food and support, but this infuriates his wife who has a hateful grudge against his family. She is a wicked woman, who is truly sociopathic (or mentally unwell) and will not let anything get in her way of running the girls out of town. When Cassandra is kidnapped and tortured, the girls have no choice but to take their Aunt’s orders and leave not only their hometown, but also their country. They are forced to take ship and immigrate to Australia without knowing if their sister was dead or alive.
Cassandra is a very strong character and despite the trauma she experienced she continues to move forward out of responsibility to her sisters and for the love of her father. I was quite upset by her experience and hoped it wouldn’t break her or her ability to rekindle her loving relationship with Reece. Thankfully she pulls through and embraces her new life in Australia. There are plenty of sub-plots with other minor characters which I assume will continue on throughout the trilogy.
I highly recommend Farewell to Lancashire for historical fiction fans who want a taste of early Australia. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author, starting with the sequel to this title, Beyond the Sunset which focuses on the youngest sister Pandora.
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About the author: 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. Her novel Pride of Lancashire won the Australian Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2006.
This book was read as part of the these three challenges: