Title: The Prodigal Sister
Author: Darry Fraser
Publisher: 1st December 2021 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance, historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups
Headstrong Prudence North faces a dangerous blackmailer who threatens her family and her dreams of escaping domestic drudgery. An enthralling historical mystery from a bestselling Australian author.
1900, Melbourne, Victoria
Miss Prudence North is freshly returned from university in Scotland and determined to find her place among the male-dominated world of the new forensic sciences when a high-ranking policeman waylays her. He threatens to charge her father for illegal medical practices unless she helps him build a case against local landowner Jasper Darke by spying on him.
With her sister's illness worsening, if their income disappears, Prudence will have to take on nursing and domestic duties and she'll never have the freedom she craves. Prudence has no choice but to agree.
Immediately taken with the handsome Mr Darke, a seemingly good and honest man, Prudence can't see what nefarious activities she's meant to be reporting on. She'll have to get closer...
But when a body turns up at her father's surgery, the forensics reveal to Prudence there's more going on about all this than meets the eye. It's clear it's up to her to uncover the truth - of this murder, of whatever's going on at the surgery after hours and, especially, of the intriguing Jasper Darke. Her life, her family and her future rely on it.
Darry Fraser is at the top of her game with her latest Australian historical fiction writing. The Prodigal Sister is another wonderful tale to immerse yourself in with a strong female lead in male dominated colonial Australia. I love the fact that in each of her novels, Darry takes her female lead and explores with them at a time when women were on the cusp of acquiring some form of independence. Into this Darry can always be relied upon to weave an intriguing mystery with just the right amount of romance.
When you pick up one of Darry’s books, you know you are in for something special. You not only get a rollicking good yarn but also some exceptional research embedded within the tale that takes it to the next level. This time Darry looks at Huntington’s disease, something that was not well understood in the nineteenth century and the impact on lifestyle for those who suffered from it. She also includes the early days of women in tertiary study with a specific focus on forensic science in assisting police in solving crimes,
‘Don’t come in here, you’ll disturb evidence,’ she cried, holding out her arm.’
Throughout it all, however, Darry continues to provide you with a strong historical setting of the day to day living from a time long passed. Issues of female independence are once more put under the spotlight as Darry gives a little taste of the momentous changes that would ultimately unfold for women. In a time when Aussie authors are making their mark in historical dramas, Darry has done a fabulous job with wonderful storytelling, putting herself right up there with the best in these Australian colonial sagas.
‘It is a man’s world in which you’ve set a course, and you will learn, my dear, that it can’t end well.’
So if you like a good story, women attempting to exert independence, throw in a dashing hero to assist, then this will be the book for you. Life wasn’t easy for women who were often regarded as male property and I admired the many strengths of the lead character, Prudence North.
‘Educated at one of the finest, most respected universities in the world, she had a degree. That was so much more than many men, and yet paid employment, a position with a high level of credibility, was almost non-existent because she was a woman.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.