Sisters of Freedom by Mary-Anne O’Connor

‘Daughters of freedom, the truth marches on, Yield not the battle till ye have won!’

Sydney, December 1901. The states have federated, the Commonwealth of Australia has been formed. But Australian women have not yet been enfranchised, and many would like to see this changed.

The Merriweather family gathers to celebrate Christmas: Albert, Harriet, and their daughters Agatha (Aggie), Frances (Frankie) and Ivy. Aggie has been married to Robert Stapleton for three years. She volunteers in an orphanage and is longing to have her own children. Frankie is a dedicated advocate for women’s rights, and is determined never to marry while Ivy, who loves art and colourful clothing, hopes to marry Patrick Earle, a law student, and have a family. Three different sisters, each with her own dreams for the future.

Ivy has an accident which changes each of their lives. Patrick has left her briefly on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, and when he returns, she is gone. Riley Logan, travelling up the river by boat, comes across Ivy and takes her to his sister Fiona further upriver. Riley does not have the time to take Ivy downriver and he knows that there are some unsavoury characters lurking nearby. Fiona, her husband George, and their twin daughters live in a small shack by the river. Fiona helps Ivy and the two of them become close. Ivy does not forget them when she returns home, and the Merriweather family is grateful to Riley and Fiona for their help, and Ivy wants to establish a school along the river. She and Riley intend to work together to achieve this, but once Ivy becomes engaged to Patrick her plans are halted.

Ms O’Connor’s story takes us though several issues affecting Australian women including poverty, domestic violence, and the fight to enfranchise women. While two aspects of the storyline were resolved just a little too neatly for me, I was more than happy with the ending. Suffice to say that the path of true love does not always run smoothly.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith