Title: Sisters of Freedom
Publisher: 7th April 2021 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, women’s fiction, romance
My Rating: 4 cups
A passionate tale of three sisters as they strive for freedom and independence and follow their hearts to unexpected places, from a master storyteller. For readers of Fiona McIntosh, Nicole Alexander and Natasha Lester.
Sydney, Christmas, 1901. Federation has been achieved but Australian women are yet to gain the right to vote in their new nation's elections and have a say in the laws that govern them.
Bolshy, boisterous Frankie Merriweather is a fervent advocate for women's rights, determined to dedicate herself to the cause, never marrying or becoming a mother. She can't understand her artistic sister Ivy, who wants a life of ease and beauty with her soon-to-be fiance, law student Patrick Earle.
Meanwhile, their married sister Aggie volunteers in an orphanage, decrying the inequality of Australia's social classes ... and longing to hold a baby in her arms.
When an accident takes Ivy, wounded and ill, into the violent and lawless zone of the Hawkesbury River, a year of change begins. Ivy's burgeoning friendship with her saviour Riley Logan, a smuggler, and his sister, the poverty-stricken but valiant Fiona, will alter the lives of all three women forever.
Sisters of Freedom is a highly engaging story of three very different sisters, yet all fighting for the same cause - equality for women and the right to vote at the turn of last century. Mary-Anne has once more created a memorable tale of early Australia to lose yourself in - filled with courage and strength, these sisters each have a story to tell.
‘... sisterly love was a powerful thing and it was holding them all in its grip now as sibling loyalty made prisoners of them all...’
With an overall focus on women's suffrage and independence, there are also subplots involving domestic violence, childless marriage and the willingness to marry for love. All of this Mary-Anne deftly interweaves through each of the sisters' tales. Quiet Aggie and her longing for a child of her own, outspoken and determined Frankie fighting for a cause and Ivy with her life changing experience. My heart went out to Aggie and her quiet fortitude, Ivy’s heartfelt and sincere qualities shone through but it was the forthright Frankie that brought a smile to my face.
‘I’m telling you, Albert, they need to hurry up and give us women the vote so we can make laws to protect each other. It’s about time.’
When the story moved to the small communities living along the Hawkesbury River, I was entranced - as were the sisters - to this impoverished and harsh way of life. The time spent in both the physical environment and Fiona’s world was enlightening. The contrast between this life and that of the Merriweather sisters could not be more stark yet finding themselves imbued with the experience was authentic.
‘It held secrets, this river, and so did the people who lived along it.’
This is a well told story with engaging characters regaled at a critical stage of this country’s development. Yes, there is the requisite romance (with a twist) but Mary-Anne makes it work within the context of the theme. Read the story of the Merriweather sisters, their strength and determination with their ability to rise to challenges will be time well spent.
‘We can and we will,’ Harriet predicted. ‘We can achieve anything our hearts desire if we have enough passion and determination, and you all have that in droves,’ she said, nodding at them with pride. ‘What a wonderful day to be a woman, girls. A wonderful day indeed.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.