When 18-year-old Kitty Carlisle’s father dies in 1838, her mother is left with little more than the possibility of her beautiful daughter making a good marriage. But when Kitty is compromised by an unscrupulous adventurer, her reputation is destroyed. In disgrace, she is banished to the colonies with her dour missionary uncle and his long-suffering wife. In the untamed Bay of Islands, missionaries struggle to establish Victorian England across the harbour from the infamous whaling port of Kororareka, Hell-Hole of the Pacific. There Kitty falls in love with Rian Farrell, an aloof and irreverent sea captain, but discovers he has secrets of his own. When shocking events force her to flee the Bay of Islands she takes refuge in Sydney, but her independent heart leads her into a web of illicit sexual liaison, betrayal and death.
The genesis of this book, the first in The Smuggler's Wife series, comes from me wondering what people at Waitangi might have been thinking on the day that the Treaty was signed. Was it a day heavy with political import and gravitas, or was it more like New Zealand’s first Big Day Out? I also wanted to look at friendships between Maori and Pakeha women at mission stations. And relationships between Pakeha men and Maori women, for that matter.
‘Kitty is Deborah Challinor’s fifth novel, and in it we experience historical romance writing at its best…Challinor is extraordinarily talented. She knows her New Zealand history well but she never puts it at the centre of her narrative. Her characters do not come across as mere ciphers but as real living people…I enjoyed this book, both for the expertise of the writer and the thrill of good fiction set in earlier days in my homeland.’
New Zealand Books, Spring 2007
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