Reading A World Apart took me back to my childhood when I first read another grand Australian tale The Thorn Birds, that is, as soon as my mom allowed it. I had seen the miniseries and was captivated by the story of a young Australian girl’s doomed love for a man she could never have. Peter McAra‘s story engenders all that I loved about the epic from my childhood, secrets, tragedy, forbidden love, convict transportation and throughout it all a desperate fight for survival.
Born of the illicit union of the local vicar and a married parishioner Eliza Downing is adopted by a servant of the de Havilland household after her mother’s death in childbirth. A lovely gifted child, Eliza’s keen intellect sets her apart from the other village children and she is selected to act as a companion and helpmate to the de Havilland children. Resented by the elder Louisa, it is young Harry with whom Eliza identifies with.
A sweeping Australian historical saga that crosses oceans to prove love conquers all…
April, 1820. As children, they shared a schoolroom, but no education can remove the stain of being peasant-born. So when Eliza Downing begins to blossom into womanhood and the future Viscount de Havilland notices, his family steps in to intervene.
Once full of possibilities, Eliza’s life spirals into shame and degradation, culminating finally in a false conviction and transport to Botany Bay. Through shipwreck, exile, secrets, and scandals, Eliza holds fast to the belief that Harry will come for her — but he doesn’t come soon enough, and Eliza must learn to recognize her own value and become the heroine of her own story.
Years pass, Harry and Eliza naively assume that upon reaching their majority they will be allowed to marry despite the vast class difference between them. No less conniving or envious than she was as a child, upon discovering them in a compromising position Louisa alerts the Viscount to the burgeoning relationship between the two. Determining that Harry’s attachment to Eliza could threaten his plans for his heir and faltering estate John de Havilland arranges for Harry to be sent to Oxford immediately and any communication between the two is forbidden.
Harry is disillusioned at the lack of a response to his letter to Eliza and wonders at the depth of her commitment to their relationship. Nor does Eliza question the lack of an answer to her return correspondence. Surprisingly it occurs to neither of them that communications between them may have been intercepted. The treachery of others continues to test the love between Harry and Eliza. When Eliza is falsely accused and sentenced to be transported to a penal colony in Botany Bay, Australia, this is only the beginning of the challenges Eliza must face even to survive let alone have a future with the man she loves.
A World Apart is a lovely story depicting the resilience of love no matter the obstacles. Despite some slightly unrealistic naivety on the part of both characters their story was believable and pleasant to read.
AUTHOR: Peter McAra
RATING: 3 1/2 Stars
GENRE: Historical Romance
Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review.