Author: Tea Cooper
Tea Cooper is the Australian author of both contemporary and historical Australian fiction, none of which I had previously read.
The Currency Lass is an historical story set in the early 1850s in the Hunter region, now some of the town names (because they were towns back then) were familiar but many of them definitely were not. I must say I was intrigued by the descriptions of Bathurst because that’s a place I have been.
Cooper has painted a vivid picture of a young Australia, definitely still a land of wide open spaces. Not even talk of a train, it’s all horseback, carriages and steamboat to get around. This book combines historical fact with a vibrant imagination to bring to life the Australia of the 1850s as gold-fever was striking.
Catherine Cottingham is the sole heir of her beloved philanthropic father, she has been groomed to take over the running of Cottington Hill when the time comes and she looks forward to continuing his life’s work. With that in mind she can’t understand why he is so determined that she marry wealthy Sydney businessman Henry Bartholomew, a man that she finds repellent and distasteful. A character that I found odious from his very first scene and only grew to loathe more as the story unfolded.
Catherine has no intention of marrying Batholomew and she tells him so on their first outing, to the circus. Unfortunately for Catherine when her father passes away and the will is read the reasons her father wished her to marry the wealthy businessman become clear, but Catherine is no closer to being convinced that it’s the right decision.
Inheriting the property is only possible once she reaches twenty-one; so in the meantime it is held in trust by the family solicitor, who also believes she should marry. The marriage seems like it could be a good idea, Bartholemew will pay off the mortgage on the property and it will be owned outright but Catherine doesn’t believe he has honourable intentions when it comes to Cottington Hill. The minute she does marry all of her assets will pass to her husband, she isn’t able to own property as a married woman. The only option she can see that works is to avoid Bartholomew until she reaches twenty-one and is able to inherit the property in her own right.
Catherine is an independent and headstrong young woman, determined to be mistress of Cottington Hill and have the property be her only love, if only she can stay away from Bartholomew long enough. She is also an accomplished horse rider so watching the circus tricks made her long for the exhilaration to be found performing them. Her desire to avoid Bartholomew and the circus heading to the goldfields prompt her to do what many people have dreamed of doing, and run away with the circus.
There is more to Rudi’s Equestrian Circus than meets the eye. They travel the countryside in search of audiences but that is not all they seek. Sergey, one of the star attractions, is on the hunt for revenge and he won’t rest until he finds the man responsible for his brother’s death. His desire for revenge has overtaken his life but Catherine’s addition to the circus may just remind him there’s more to life.
The Currency Lass is a tale of the thirst for revenge but also of betrayal, forgery and greed. It isn’t all dark and dishonourable, alongside the depravity is a deep sense of love, loyalty and sacrifice for the greater good.
The characters are complex and the situations they end up faced with become a little too coincidental creating extra confusion and adding an extra layer of tension. This was an engrossing novel that I thoroughly enjoyed and would love to see a sequel set a few years in the future that lets us see how things have panned out for our fair-haired heroine.
The Currency Lass is book #9 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017