Annie’s Choices

by Tricia McGill


GENRE: Historical Romance



In book 4 of the Settlers Series, we catch up with most members of the extended family from the previous three books. Annie at 18 is the eldest Carstairs girl. She has lived out at Bathurst west of the Blue Mountains, where she was born just after her Mama, Bella and Papa, Tiger settled there back in 1824. After visiting her brother Tim and his wife Jo just before Christmas 1843, Annie decides to stay in Port Philip, seeking adventure much as her brother did when he set out with Jo the previous year. Annie has inherited her mother’s independent streak, a character trait that sometimes leads her to make the wrong choices.

Jacob O’Quinn works for her brother, and the likeable young carpenter catches Annie’s eye. Jacob is quiet and reserved in his manner, having spent his life with his widowed mother. When handsome Zachary McDowell, the complete opposite to steady Jacob comes along, he sweeps Annie off her feet. Heedless of advice given by others, Annie makes a choice that turns out to be the worst she could ever make.

Restless, Annie decides to return to her home, and Jacob makes the decision to escort her. The journey back across the mountains proves to be a lot more eventful than she assumed it could ever be. The road itself may have seen improvements through the years but there will always be unexpected incidents to turn life around on its axis. A suspected murder brings the might of the law down on the shoulders of the young couple.

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Frontier life in Australia was made up of back-breaking hard work. The author says in her dedication; “gallant women and brave men”, and it’s true. This is the story of Annie, a girl who has come to spend Christmas season with her brother Tim and his wife Jo. The year is 1843, and after Christmas, Annie decides to stay in Port Philip, where life is far more exciting than in the mountains where she grew up. Young and frivolous Annie sets her sights on Jacob, who works for her family. Jacob is serious and hardworking. Annie manages to get him to take her for a drive, but a violent storm hits and they find an injured girl in a ditch at the side of the road. The girl suffers from amnesia and can only remember her name – Sally. Annie’s brother and sister-in-law agree to take her in until she can recover, and Sally and Annie, being the same age, soon become friends.

Then Zachary enters the picture, and Annie finds herself attracted to the dashing, mercurial man who takes her to parties and compliments her extravagantly. Soon Annie is driving out with him on Sundays, and going to his house where his family hold large gambling parties. Knowing her brother would not like that, Annie keeps that a secret. While at Zachary’s house, she also meets a servant girl who looks disturbingly like her friend Sally, who still claims she remembers nothing of her past life, and who has now started working in the Annie’s brother’s house.

This story is like a winding brook, carrying you with it as it goes, bubbling with life and laughter, joy and tears. It’s not only a coming of age story and romance; there is adventure, a murder, a journey, and a cast of well-rounded, believable characters. It’s also beautifully written and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop until I found out what happened to Annie, Jacob, Zachary, and Sally. Ms McGill’s writing is like a tapestry with the woven threads of the story leading you further into the design – a design that shows Australia in the eighteen hundreds in all its complexity. The author also includes the massacres inflicted on the Aborigines and their consequences. I love historical romance, and this one is a wonderful addition to my collection.

“Annie’s Choice” is book 4 in the Settlers’ Series, but it can easily be read as a standalone. Warning – reading this one will make you want to read the entire series! Highly recommended.