BOOK CLUB: The Mistress of Dara Island

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[Total: 3 Average: 4.3]

The Mistress of Dara Island turns out to be a title that has many layers of meaning, some not evident until very late in Averil Kenny’s third novel. I found this both entertaining and thoughtful.

Thalia Ramsey has grown up barefoot and wild, and nothing like a young lady of the 1950s is expected to behave. This doesn’t bother her. She expects to spend her life on Dara Island, which she’ll one day inherit from her mother, who in turn inherited it from her father. The Island is all he has to leave, but Thalia sees it as a paradise.

Thalia’s father has turned the previously untamed island into a thriving honeymoon resort, upmarket and profitable. Yet his wife retains ownership, and she and Thalia share a dream of how the island should be. Excessive development is not part of it.

Conflict with her bullying father leads Thalia to fear for her promised future. And then a sudden disappearance leads her on a search for answers which will turn up far more secrets than she ever expected.

Readers will spot many of the answers before Thalia does, but will likely still find a surprise or two. Regardless of how much of the plot you anticipate, the unwinding is satisfying and largely believable. This is quite a grounded novel, and you’re not going to have to suspend your disbelief by much.

Kenny’s previous novels, including Those Hamilton Sisters, have been set in much the same time period. In each Kenny provides a strong sense of the attitudes of the time, particularly those around how women are expected to behave. I found some parts of this novel quite hard to read, I was so infuriated, and I suspect that’s exactly what Kenny wanted to evoke.

Her descriptions of the island are atmospheric and empathetic, presenting a vivid picture that engages the reader.

Most importantly, the characters are believable, and in most cases understandable. Indeed, even the less pleasant characters become more understandable as we see more of the past and the secrets that reach forward from it. Few readers could resist empathising with Thalia and her mother. You’ll care about what happens to them, and there’s every chance you’ll be so deeply involved with them that you’ll find some moments in the plot take you off guard.

The writing style isn’t fancy, but it’s absorbing and easy to read. The story moves between two distinct time periods – you won’t have trouble keeping them separate, and I found the transitions were smooth.

This is a highly entertaining piece of historical fiction, although the historical aspect sits very lightly on it. Empathetic characters and an interesting plot will give most readers a very satisfying read.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Mistress of Dara Island by Averil KennyYou can read their comments below, or add your own review.

8 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Mistress of Dara Island

  1. The Mistress of Dara Island by Averil Kenny is a great read.Full of family secrets and lies, deception, romance, suspense and danger.

    Dara Island is in far North Queensland, the story is set in 1960s with flashbacks to the 1940s during World War Two.

    Tally Ramsey has grown up believing that she and her Mother, Nerissa, have been left the Island by her Grandfather. Tally dreams of the day she will become manager.

    Her strong personality brings her into conflict with her ruthless father Richard. He is a powerful man, a bully, feared by everyone including his wife Nerissa.
    Tally is unexpectedly sent away to boarding school.
    Years later, a not so rebellious and more mature Tally returns to Dara expecting to be the manager working along side her family. However her Father has other plans.

    Tally plans to get to the bottom of what is going on on the Island and find out what her Father is hiding. One of her many problems is ,just who can she trust.
    The mystery, suspense and a romance keep you turning the pages quickly!
    The events all fall into,place, but will Tally ever get to be mistress of the Island she loves.
    A very enjoyable read.

  2. Thankyou Beautyandlace and echopublishing for the opportunity to review ‘The Mistress of Dara Island’ by Averil Kenny.

    Thalia (Tully) born in 1946 and living a carefree life (apart from her tyrant of a father Richard Ramsey) on Dara Island.
    Her widowed grandfather had purchased the Island when he brought her Mother Nerissa to this remote Island in the Coral Sea.
    She had never met her Grandfather who died before her birth but was told by her Mother that she would one day own this piece of paradise.
    Her father had developed the Island into a popular resort.
    However, her happy lifestyle is interrupted when she is sent by her father to boarding school and later she finds work away from her beloved Island and in Cairns as a Junior Cadet in journalism.
    On learning of disturbing news she returns to Dara.

    Such a lovely story it made me want to go to Dara Island!
    The characters were believable and interesting and I had only sympathy for Nerissa and Tally.

  3. Thank you to Beauty and Lace, Author Averil Kenny and Echo Publishing for the chance to read and review ‘The Mistress of Dara Island’.

    Like always I love that Beauty and Lace finds Authors I am yet to read, and this fabulous novel makes me want to read Averil’s other novels – ‘Those Hamilton Sisters’ and ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’.

    The novel mainly centres around the 1960’s on a beautiful tropical island, Dara off the Queensland coastline but does feature flashbacks to the 1940’s.

    The main character Thalia or Tally for short is a free spirit who lives on the island with her parents Nerissa and Richard ‘Bullshark’ Ramsey – a man feared by most including his family but more despised by Tally.

    Tally has grown up knowing the island was to be left to her mother and herself and she is counting down the days until she is old enough to manage the resort, a popular honeymoon destination.

    As she gets older, she is angered when she is constantly sent away from her beloved island to boarding school in Brisbane first and then upon graduation returns home to be sent away again. This upsets Tally as her mother does not support her wanting to stay and work on the island and her father goes and hires a new Manager refusing to give Tally a chance.

    Why does her mother not support her, the island is to be Her’s one day, but we start to discover there are secrets and reasons why her mother acts the way she does.

    When there is a disappearance on the island, Tally returns and the secrets the island holds start to unfold.

    I found this easy to read and so very hard to put down, great characters and plot. If you can’t run away to an island at the moment, at least this book can take you there.

    Highly recommend 5 stars*****

  4. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Averil Kenny’s The Mistress of Dara Island.
    The book follows a time line of Nerissa (mother) and Thalia (daughter) lives on Dara Island, this story has it all – family secrets, mystery and murder set on an island in North Queensland.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it an easy read and look forward to reading other books be Averil Kenny.
    I gave this book 4 stars

  5. Murder, Mystery and secrets. I find so many authors that go wrong writing these because either they give too much away too quickly or you finish with still no clue what’s happening.
    But Averil Kenny has nailed it.
    I really enjoyed the story and the plot kept me engaged and wanting more!
    I definitely recommend giving this a read!

  6. The Mistress of Dara Island is the first book of Averil Kenny’s I’ve read, it definitely won’t be the last, it was brilliant!
    Set on a beautiful resort island in north Queensland the story follows Thalia ‘Tally’ Ramsey as she’s grows up on the island she adores but after always being at loggerheads with her father all her life, she leaves as she cant see a future on the island.
    She’s eventually drawn back to solve a mystery disappearance, where she realises the island and people she thought she knew are hiding decades old secrets.
    This story is crafted beautifully, the mystery has you guessing all the way through with little twists and turns, you think you have it figured out then another curve ball is thrown in. The characters are lovable and hatable!
    A great story that had me reading late into the night to finish it and see how it all panned out!
    Thankyou Echo publishing and Beauty and Lace for the copy to read and review!

  7. The Mistress of Dara Island by Averil Kenny is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of historical fiction that will keep you wanting to read long into the night.

    Thalia grew up on Dara Island barefoot and carefree, and will one day inherit the island from her mother. Yet all is not smooth sailing as her father keeps finding ways to send her away and does not want to have her work on the island. Family secrets, murder and mystery – this book has it all.

    This will not be my last Averil Kenny book.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Echo Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this great book.

  8. The Mistress of Dara Island is one not to be missed on your reading list this year! Following Tally’s life on the Island, the secrets it holds and her Mother, Nerissa’s promise this story promises to keep you reading. Her father, a slight rogue and his desire to keep Tally off the island as she grows, tempts her will to find out the secrets lying within. With a will there is a way and Tally has it in streams. A delightful read! So far my most loved read this year.

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