BOOK CLUB: The Widow of Ballarat

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Author: Darry Fraser
ISBN: 9781489250407
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: 19th December 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Mira

The Widow of Ballarat is Darry Fraser’s third novel and although it clearly stands on its own as a novel, there is a link to her previous two books, the Murray River series.

Set in Ballarat, the day after the infamous Eureka Stockade uprising in the goldfields, Fraser continues to demonstrate her research skills and ability to seamlessly blend historical fact with fascinating, engaging and realistic characters.

Fraser pulls no punches in highlighting the hardships of working on the goldfields during the gold rush in the mid 1800’s. The requirements for all to pay their monthly gold licence fee, even those who weren’t digging but providing services such as laundry “in case they came across a nugget in their work”, the desperation that led to the Eureka Stockade uprising, and the dramatic over response by the government troopers, and the violence that so many women endured at the hands of their fathers and husbands.

Nell Amberton is the central character in this tale. Forced into matrimony by her father with the sickeningly violent Andrew Amberton even before his first wife’s body has even cooled in the grave, Nell vows not to end up the same way. Amberton taunts her that she will only be secure when she produces a male heir, as stated in his legal papers.

The morning after the Eureka Stockade uprising Amberton drags Nell and some bags of gold into a carriage to flee the goldfields, abandoning the men who are working his claim. When the carriage is stopped by a bushranger, Amberton, like the bullying coward he is, uses Nell as a shield as he exits the coach. It comes as a great surprise to all then, when the bullet that fells Amberton does not come from the bushranger’s gun, leaving both Nell and the bushranger to wonder where the bullet came from.

But for a woman in the 19th century, the death of her husband, even one as cruel as Amberton, did not afford any security. Unless Nell was delivered of a male heir, as per Amberton’s will, then she had no claim to the property they lived in, or any form of support, and would likely be returned to her scoundrel of a father so he could sell her off in matrimony again. Reluctantly she finds herself living with Amberton’s sister, who clearly considers Nell to be a burden, and her nephew Lewis, who wants Amberton’s purported gold to address his own financial woes.

Nell must use all her wits to ensure that she remains a free woman and salvages her future from the pit of despair in which she finds herself, while at the same time trying to understand the feelings she seems to be developing for the handsome young bushranger, whose face she has not seen, yet is drawn towards.

This is a fabulously written book, which deals with a tumultuous period in Australian history, in an honest and realistic manner, and yet also encompasses love, loyalty, the beginning of the movement towards rights of women and the amazing strength to survive that some women demonstrated.

At her book launch Darry Fraser stated that she felt the need to write this book to explain where a character in the River Murray series sprang from, and for those familiar with her previous books there will be an “Aha” moment. For those who may not have read Fraser’s prior work I hope this book inspires you to seek them out.

Highly recommended 5 stars.

This guest review was submitted by our Beauty and Lace Club member: Marcia who was lucky enough to meet the author at a book launch.

You can follow Darry Fraser on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

The Widow of Ballarat is available now at Harlequin, Angus and Robertson, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading The Widow of Ballarat so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

26 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Widow of Ballarat

  1. This is a well written tale, which exposes a period in Australian history that was anything but easy, especially for woman folk.
    There is the usual love, loyalty, the not so loyal that we as readers love to devour but there’s also reference to the beginning of rights for woman.
    This tale tells the story of Nell a young woman living in the goldfields of Ballarat who is sold by her father to a man who is anything but an honest and caring husband.
    It tells of Nells brave fight to protect herself from her husband and later others that try to take advantage of her. This is a young woman who will not to sit back and be taken advantage of.
    Thank you Derry Fraser for your well written story of a glimps back at the hardship the woman of that time possible faced. I’ll be sure to read your other stories in the River Murray series.

  2. Thankyou so much for allowing me to read this book The Widow of Ballarat. This would be among my top favourites for the year. The storyline of how Nell was widowed, the realistic description of the people living through the gold rush almost made one feel they were looking on. I have loved both Darry Frasers books and have downloaded the prequel to The Widow of Ballarat You can’t write fast enough for me Darry, look forward to your next book.

  3. The Widow of Ballarat followed a storyline of real life goldfield living along with taking care of yourself in some of the harshest conditions. Nell is a strong woman who fends for her right to live the way she intends after her husband was killed and others were after what she had succeeded in getting. The story of wrongdoing, family, friendships and knowing who to trust and be relied upon is uncovered during the story. Will Nell get through it all and find happiness when things start to fall apart?
    A great read about Australia and Ballarat history surrounding goldfields. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story.

  4. The Widow of Ballarat By Darry Fraser

    Set in the 1854 goldfields of Ballarat, we follow the life of Nell Amberton. She becomes a young widow when her husband Andrew is shot dead by a bushranger as they are fleeing the goldfields the day after the Eureka uprising.

    Her husband’s sister Enid thinks Nell knows where Andrew’s gold is, Enid’s son Lewis is heir to Andrew’s property, and believes he will become rich now that Andrew is dead. Nell has not produced a child, so she is not entitled to anything, and must make her own way in the hard and violent life on the goldfields.

    This is a well written and easy to read account of the hardships of life in the 1850’s, and how difficult it was for any women to make a living. The reader is able to learn about the daily events, the Troopers role, and the tough environment people had to endure with the hope of “striking it rich”.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club, and to Harlequin books for the chance to read this great account of life in the Victorian goldfields. Another wonderful book from Darry Fraser

  5. This was the first book of Darry Frasier’s that I have read. I absolutely loved it. I will definitely be reading her other books.

  6. I did post my review yesterday but it appears to be missing. Trying again!

    This story highlights to me the harshness of reality of living and working in the goldfields. When Nell finds herself in a situation of danger, living as a widow to a harsh husband who has been killed, she realises she needs to make a life for herself and protect it in any way she can.
    Her sister in law and nephew, along with her father make life difficult for her. She turns to an unlikely person for assistance.
    Harshness, violence, greed and love are covered in the story based around The Ballarat goldfields incorporating the Eureka Stockade.
    Great story!

  7. Set in 1854 – Ballarat goldfields, Darry Fraser’s 3rd book really gives you the feeling you are walking back through history.
    The main character Nell, is an enduring strong woman, who’s life seems to be full of bad circumstances & people. Nell is a survivor, and although endured terrible abuse from her father & husband, she has an enground feeling of what life could be.
    I really enjoyed reading this story of bushrangers, gold miners, government troopers, survival, love & hope.
    It’s a wonderful Australian history lesson.

  8. I have not read a Dary Frasier book before and really enjoyed reading The Widow of Ballarat.
    This story is set in the gold fields of Ballarat it is 1855 and women have no rights, it is a time when men make all the decisions and fathers could sell their daughters to whomever they chose for money, a compelling story of passion, resilience, and a woman’s relentless quest for independence. It is the Story of Nell Amberton who is left a widow when he husband is supposedly shot dead by a bush ranger. Nell has had a very hard upbringing with a controlling father and then sold into a marriage with a very abusive husband who had beaten his first pregnant wife to death, now that she is free of her abusive husband she is determined to make a life for herself and not to have to rely on a man to support her. I would give this book 4 stars

  9. The Widow of Ballarat starts with Nell, an abused wife who becomes a widow. It is the day after the Eureka stockade and the horse and cart that she is travelling in with her husband is stopped by a bushranger. Her husband is shot dead. This is December 1854, a difficult and cruel time to be a woman. Did the death of her husband save Nell’s life? Or has her situation became more complicated and direr with no money and no place to live?

    Thank you to beauty and Lace and to Harlequin Books for the opportunity to read ‘The Widow of Ballarat’ By Darry Fraser. I found that there were scenes at the start of the book that were hard to read, however getting beyond these scenes I enjoyed the story. I liked Nell’s strong surviving character and I liked the character of the bushranger. I like how while reading this book you were transported to another time. A time with hearty meals soaked up in bread. A time when a whole community were housed in tents. A time that was not too hard to comprehend and it felt realistic. A time when people were drawn to Ballarat in the hopes of striking it rich by finding gold and changing their lives. Hopeful people arriving and living in Ballarat being pulled into this hard-disheartening survival way of life.

  10. Thank you to beauty and Lace and to Harlequin Books for the opportunity to read ‘The Widow of Ballarat’ By Darry Fraser. This is the first of her books I have read, and it wont be the last.
    The book tells the story of Nell a young woman, sold by her father to a terrible man who caused the death of his first wife. Nell is determined that the same fate will not befall her.
    The book is set in the Ballarat goldfields in the 1850’s. This was an interesting time in Victorian history. The government charged a fee to everyone working on the goldfields, regardless of whether they were miners or not. The injustices led to the Eureka Stockade Darry covers these events well, making me feel I was almost part of the uprising.
    When her husband is killed, Nell’s life does not improve.. Life on the goldfields is difficult for everyone, more so for women. Nell took on laundry work, which was exhausting and to an extent dangerous. There were few women to the number of men.
    Alongside the historical side the novel is also one of romance. Nell slowly realises she can be with her bushranger and still maintain some independence, At this time women were the property of men and the law gave them no rights or protection.
    I could not put this book down and would recommend it to everyone.

  11. Darry Fraser has a special talent of grabbing your attention to her story writing straight away. This is the second book of hers I have read and can say she is up the top of my favourite authors list. I really love how she captures the surroundings and the way the characters talk. I know what Ballarat looks like but not once did it resemble today, it took me right in time with all the hardships they endured and the rights they didn’t have. If history was taught by reading Darry Frasers books, it would be so much more interesting. Nell was a great character with strength and determination to survive on her own without any choice because of turmoil and sadness she first endured. Finn was a really good man and loved his character of Bushranger as well as Flora and her mother being a great support for Nell. I am now wanting to read what’s after The Widow of Ballarat. Fantastic review Marcia! xo

  12. The Widow of Ballarat was set in 1854 that’s when gold was worth a lot money, people would kill for gold if they had to.
    Nell was married to a violent man he did not love her she was his slave and no hope of every being happy.
    I would recommend this book to read you won’t want to put the book down until the end.

  13. The Widow of Ballarat is an enchanting novel about the struggles of men and women as they negotiate the perils of Australian life during the gold rush era of the mid 1800s. We meet Nell, a young, head strong lady who is forced into marriage to a ruthless, abusive man. Many know of the husbands’ behaviours but little is said and Nell has to suffer. From adversity, Nell is determined to survive and thrive but it will take a mammoth effort of self preservation and determination. Who are her friends, who can she trust, and will she ever fall in love?

    Darry Fraser is a very talented author and the research she has conducted and included in this story is evident. This is a rich tale of the trials and tribulations of a significant era in Australian history, and it is clear that the author has worked hard to recreate stories of that time for this novel. This story easily stands alone in a single novel but I have heard there is a prequel which I am very eager to read.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club, Mira (Harlequin Enterprises) and Darry Fraser for the opportunity to read this fascinating story.

  14. I first found Darry Fraser through Beauty and Lace so was understandably excited to see The Widow of Ballarat on the December call out list. To say I am a fan is a understatement!

    Her writing is just so seamless and enjoyable. She transports you back to the 1800s with ease. You feel as though you are right there with the characters as part of the story yourself.

    As in her previous two books i have read, she maintains a strong female lead battling the hardships women went through in the 1800s. I must say it was nice to see a book about what the women went through on the diggings, in such a male predominant area.

    Although a standalone book, there is a character tie in to her Murrey River novels (Which I also highly recommend!)

    Overall a beautifully written, heart warming tale of survival thats hard to put down.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the chance to read and review such a great book!

  15. I hadn’t read any of Darry Fraser’s books, before ‘The Widow of Ballarat’ and was looking forward to it, because of family connections to that era, 1853-1854. I wasn’t disapointed, I loved it!

    Set in the aftermath of the Eureka Uprising, we find our strong, determined herione, Nell Amberton witness her husbands death but not at the hands of the bushranger, who has just held up their coach, but someone else, unknown. Nell must now navigate both her family and her late husbands family, who think she has now come into a fortune in gold, whilst forging a new life for herself. There is the mysterious stranger, who seems to know more about her than he should, a nephew, by marriage, who wants the gold and a father set to take what he thinks is his and marry her off, again.

    Yes, you do find out about they mysterious stranger and who killed the husband. A good twist.

    Beautiful written, I felt that I was there and could feel what my great-great-grandmother would have gone through, too.

    I hope that Darry writes Flora’s story, next. I have now added Darry to my reading list, to watch out for.

  16. I really enjoyed yet another amazing historical fiction in The Widow of Ballarat.

    Darry Fraser very skilfully transports you back in time to 1854 Ballarat at the time of the Eureka Stockade when gold mining was at its peak.

    In a compelling story of passion, resilience and a woman’s fight for independence Nell Amberton was sold into marriage by her father only to find herself living with a horrible, violent man who had apparently killed his first wife.

    Then her husband rushes her out of Ballarat and along the way they are accosted by a bushranger and Andrew Amberton is shot dead.

    With no grief for the loss of this abusive man she now has to deal with life as a widow in a time that woman in many ways were powerless and had to struggle for survival.

    Nell Amberton is a survivor and fights for her independence as the death of her husband brings about a chain of events that include the bushranger.

    It is easy to find yourself enveloped in the characters of this story including Finn, Flora and Josie. All who showed their courage and strength.

    This is a powerful, intense and emotional novel.

  17. What a great read set in the gold rush days at Ballarat.
    This book ‘The Widow of Ballarat’ depicts the hardships of both men and women in the 1850’s but more so the inequality and cruelty to women and their tenacity for the women to fight for equality and survival.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this well researched book by Darry Fraser. Thankyou Beauty and Lace as well as Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review this book

  18. Set in the days of the Ballarat gold rush era in the mid nineteenth century, The Widow of Ballarat, is the story of Nell. As a young woman Nell is sold into a violent marriage by her drunken father. Her husband is subsequently killed, fleeing the Eureka Stockade, at a violent and lawless time in Australian history.
    Nell is left without financial support and determines that she will be an independent woman and sets about obtaining work and a home for herself, in a time when women’s rights were not recognised, and women did not work outside the home.
    However, the goldfields were a different story with women having their own businesses and mining licences. Nell goes to work for her friend Flora, who has a laundry. It is back breaking, hot work in the goldfields.
    But Nell has a secret and faces many challenges keeping the secret.
    This story combines romance, history and mystery as Nell struggles to maintain her independence and develop a relationship that will support her ideals.
    The author Darry Fraser provides a great insight into life on the goldfields, the inequities for women and the unjust British law for miners which led to the Eureka Stockade and its subsequent violence by government troops.
    Thankyou Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for The Widow of Ballarat – a good read!

  19. I have read many historical romances over the yeas, but none set in Australia, or in a time that was a huge part of our rich history.
    Set in the 1900’s, a great time of change, as women became more forthright, and worked for their survival .Many are still ‘sold’ by their fathers, and suffer at the hands of a violent husband, as is the main character, Nell.
    The story tells of her brutal arranged marriage, and a father just as brutal, but out of it comes death and freedom, setting wrongs right, and eventually, true love.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, the first I have read by Darry Fraser. and will be seeking out her other titles.
    Sincere thanks to Beauty & Lace, and Harlequin, for the opportunity to read this page turner of a book, 5/5

  20. I really enjoyed reading The Widow Of Ballarat by Darry Fraser.
    I love historical fiction and this novel certainly does not disappoint .
    It was especially enjoyable to myself living in rural Victoria all my life and being able to recognise so much of the novels settings was a lovely change .
    Set in the late 1800’s, we follow the story of our main character Nell who is sold into a very violent marriage by her alcoholic father.
    The pattern of abuse continues with her new husband .
    When things change abrubtly Nell has to fend for herself in a time when women werent recognised as being able to do so nor should they try to do so.
    A story with mystery, romance and historical aspects I really enjoyed the Widow Of Ballarat and look forward to reading more to come from Darry Fraser.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review this great novel.

  21. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for selecting me to read The Widow of Ballarat.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    A historical romance set in Ballarat during the Gold Rush.

    It gave a great insight into how life was during those times.

    I very much liked Nell’s character and her independence. I loved how Nell’s character began to grow by making friendships and how her romance blossomed.

    I enjoyed this book very much and will definitely keep a look out for more books by Darry Fraser!

  22. Having spent part of my life living in Ballarat and knowing the history of the region, I enjoyed reading ‘The Widow of Ballarat’ and matching the story with my knowledge of the geographical area along with the history.

    Nell brought the story alive for me as I imagined being a woman living and enduring the Gold Rush times. Certainly not an easy journey but one definitely worth knowing and the author showed great knowledge of the happenings of the day which made it very believable for me.

    Thankyou Beauty and Lace as well as Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  23. Nell Amberton shows such bravery as a newly wed trying to work to help support herself in such trying living conditions in the Goldfields of Ballarat.

    She witnesses the death of her husband and then begins the fight for her own survival ensuring she has work in the Goldfield laundry she meets another strong and courageous woman in Flora. They support each other through the hardest of times just to survive.

    After a devastating fire erupts in Nell’s camp tent she is perused for the whereabouts of her late husbands gold bars to which she has sewn some into the hem of her long day dress.

    She sees this as a form of survival to help her start her new life as a Widow

    Darry Frazer has opened my eyes to the history of great pioneer women within Australia

    Her style of writing keeps the reader fully engaged and allows your imagination to look into the way it was for women in early settlement times, it shows you they had confidence in themselves to follow thier dreams and to be a voice to be heard and listened to.

    A most enjoyable book to read.

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