The Whaler’s Daughter – Jerry Mikorenda – Fitzroy Books – Published 24 July 2021
In 1910, twelve-year-old Savannah lives with her widowed father on a whaling station in New South Wales, Australia. For generations, the Dawson family has carried on a very unusual way of life there. They use orcas to help them hunt whales. But Savannah believes the orcas hunted something else—her older brothers, who died mysteriously while fishing. Haunted by their deaths, Savannah wants to become a whaler to prove to her father that she’s good enough to carry on the family legacy and avenge her slain brothers. Meeting an aboriginal boy, Figgie, changes that. Figgie helps Savannah to hone her whaling skills and teaches her about the Law of the Bay. When she is finally able to join the crew, Savannah learns just how dangerous the whole business is. A whale destroys her boat and Savannah sinks into the shark-infested waters. That’s when the mysterious spirit orca Jungay returns to rescue her, and she vows to protect the creatures. That vow tests her mettle when the rapacious owner of a fishing fleet captures the orca pod and plans to slaughter them
The Whaler’s Daughter caught my attention, despite the dull cover, as I knew it was similar to true historical events and I wanted to see how the author would combine history with fiction.
A message of environmental protection, the author does a great job of conveying the historic events and perspectives from an approach that it is relevant for modern readers.
Few might know the story of Eden and the orca’s that worked with whalers in Australia. This story, I hope, will bring that story into the light. While much of the story in The Whaler’s Daughter differs from what is recounted of the events in Eden, there is enough to align the stories.
Along with themes of protecting the environment, caring for and working with animals, The Whaler’s Daughter also raises themes around the roles of women. Savannah is a strong and headstrong character. She knows exactly what she wants and that is to ride in the whaling boats along with her father’s crew. As she fights for her place, she has more encounters with the orcas. She initially fears and hates them, holding them accountable for the death of her family members. But as she gets to know them more, learns of the plans of the nearby towns leaders and gets her first encounter on a whaling boat, Sav must change everything she thought she knew.
The Heart’s Charge – Karen Witemeyer – Hanger’s Horsemen #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 1 June 2021
Members of Hanger’s Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed, never expecting they’d deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he’d nearly married a decade ago.
After failing at love, Katherine Palmer dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. From mixed ancestry, illegitimate, and female, Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society’s mold. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her with his courage and kindness, but there are secrets behind his eyes–ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.
However, when a handful of urchin children from the area go missing, a pair of Horsemen are exactly what the women need. Working together to find the children, will these two couples find love as well?
It is impossible to resist Karen Witemeyer’s writing. Once again she absorbed me into this story of adventure, romance, strong female characters and the men of integrity who love them.
The Heart’s Charge provides us two stories in one. We readers first met the Hanger’s Horsemen in the first book in the series and in this second book we join up with two members of the group, Mark and Jonah. Together, Mark and Jonah stumble upon a pregnant woman in labour. They, reluctantly, assist in the birth and find themselves responsible for the care of the young infant. This then leads them to Harmony House, a place where children of any race or background can find a home. A surprise awaits them both. Mark finds the woman he once wanted to marry and who broke his heart. Jonah finds a strong and resilient Eliza who might just be the one woman who can work her way past his tough exterior.
Harmony – Richard Yaxley – Omnibus Book – Published 1 March 2021
In 1914, Tom Stott falls in love with Gracie O’Donnell, but their love is thwarted by circumstance and war. Tom finds himself part of the blood-soaked landings at Gallipoli, while Gracie marries another. A deception, born in a place and time on the brink of war, traverses the world as successive generations seek freedom in a century of change. It isn’t until American teen Noah Clifford joins his mother Deborah, his grandfather Will and his great-grandmother Gracie in Australia that the secrets of the past are revealed, secrets that will take them back to the beaches of Gallipoli…
Harmony is a unique novel than spans multiple generations. Rich with a variety of character voices and a writing style that makes you pay attention to every single line, Harmony is a novel that compels the reader as much as it disorientates.
I don’t usually read historical YA fiction. I’m even less likely to pick up a war novel. And while Harmony could easily be believed to fit easily in either of these genres, it is not so easily categorised. Harmony does begin with a tale of heroism and a young boy heading off to war. Our first in a line of characters is Tom Stott. Farm boy, brother, son. Also the sweetheart to Gracie O’Donnell. However, when Tom answers the call to arms he leaves behind a pregnant Gracie who must marry another man.