This is another amazing free e-book find. How good is it? As soon as I finished it, I went and bought the next book in the series. Happily, this is a series and there is a next book (or two or so). Also happily, the books in the series are a mere $2.99, well within the price range I consider acceptable (see my rant about e-book pricing for an explanation). I would've been terribly upset otherwise, because I'm totally engrossed in the lives of these New Zealanders.
I'm not quite sure where in New Zealand Ruatana is, but in the mid- to late 1880s, the time period for this book, it's a long boat ride from Auckland. I am thoroughly invested in the life of Amy Leith and her family, the culture of the time and the setting in New Zealand. I want to kiss Shayne Parkinson for writing this wonderful book.
As the title suggests, this is not a love story or a romance. If it were, we'd hardly be talking about marriage as a “sentence,” would we? The level of my investment in Amy's life is such that I found myself talking to Amy through my iPhone. Don't do it, Amy – he's a bona fide cad! No, Amy, don't listen to Susannah – she's a selfish bitch! The characters are so well-written that you'll find Susannah every bit as tiresome as every character in the book who has to live with her. Considering the size of the house and the close conditions these people live in, I'm surprised someone doesn't quietly drown her in the river. I'm quite certain they would've been forgiven (possibly even encouraged) and the deed covered up.
This is a story about life happening to Amy while she's dreaming of bigger and better things. It's a bit sad, especially in contrast to the life of her cousin, Lizzie, who is not only a planner, but a doer. (Although I see some problems on the horizon for Lizzie in Mud and Gold, the next book in the series – but that's getting ahead of myself.)
I could go on and on about how much I love this story and its characters, so I'll shut up now and just recommend it. The only investment in reading this first book is your time, but beware – you will most likely get totally involved and then you'll have to invest in the rest of the books in the series. 🙂