Title: The Ladies of Missalonghi
Author: Colleen McCullough
Opens: …‘Can you tell me, Octavia, why our luck never seems to change for the better?’…
Blurb: Sometimes fairy tales can come true-even for plain, shy spinsters like Missy Wright. Neither as pretty as cousin Alicia nor as domineering as mother Drusilla, she seems doomed to a quiet life of near poverty at Missalonghi, her family’s pitifully small homestead in Australia’s Blue Mountains. But it’s a brand new century – the twentieth – a time for new thoughts and bold new actions. And Missy Wright is about to set every self-righteous tongue in the town of Byron wagging. Because she has just set her sights on a mysterious, mistrusted and unsuspecting stranger … who just might be Prince-Charming in disguise.
My Thoughts: Set in The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia, in the time just before the outbreak of the Great War, the story revolves around a small town community, Missalonghi, made up almost entirely of various branches of the same family line – the Hurlingfords. Missy Wright’s mother, Drusilla, has been shunned by her family since she married for love, not money. Now widowed, she lives an impoverished life with her sister and daughter Missy. Plain, thin and doomed to wear brown, it seems Missy’s life is set to follow that of her mother and aunt. Their lifestyle is pretty typical of the day as it was quite common for widows, sisters and unmarried daughters to live together – especially later after the Great War when there was such a shortage of men. There are a few other poor single Hurlingford ladies and they all have to count their pennies while the men in the family, all wealthy and powerful, totally dominate all businesses and control the finances – never seeming to spare money for their poorer relatives.
When Missy’s rich cousin announces she is to marry a much younger but well-heeled man, Missy fears that a home and family of her own has passed her by. Then she meets a stranger named John in her uncle’s shop – a man who has bought up a whole heap of land from under the noses of the controlling Hurlingford men and has them all very worried. Egged on by the new librarian Una (who gives the whole plot of the book away before she lends it out) Missy sees a chance to turn her life around. It does involve being a bit deceitful but it is not in malice. But a girl has to take a chance. Just who John Smith is, and what he is up to, along with Missy trying to get him as a husband makes the basis of this lovely little story.
THE LADIES OF MISSALONGHI is a small book but the fact that it is packed full of scandal, friendship, gentle romance, laughter and good old-fashioned satisfying revenge makes it an easy and entertaining read.
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B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.