Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson
In nineteenth century New Zealand, there are few choices for a farm girl like Amy. Her life seems mapped out for her by the time she is twelve. Amy dreams of an exciting life in the world beyond her narrow boundaries. But it is the two people who come to the farm from outside the valley who change her life forever, and Amy learns the high cost of making the wrong choice.
I stumbled upon this book during the crazed "must find free books" spree I'm sure every new Kindle user goes through. I told myself I was being silly, and that they'd be free for a reason, scoffing at some of the titles, and rolling my eyes at the covers emblazoned with semi-clad lovers in a tight embrace. I chose Sentence of Marriage for its historical context, and I'm glad I did.
Parkinson weaves a heavy tale set against a backdrop of 1800s rural New Zealand. The way she describes her country is so gorgeous that you can almost feel the fresh air on your face and smell the farm, the bread baking, and taste the thousands of cups of tea the family must've gone through in just under 400 pages.
The story is captivating, albeit very predictable. It's pretty long, and although the plot is slow-paced, particularly when you know what's coming, the detail does it more than enough justice. I enjoyed most of all Parkinson's commentary on family ties, and how these can either bind us together, or make life incredibly difficult.
It wasn't the historical romance I expected it to be, and I spent most of the time filled with anger or trepidation. The characters are so intricately developed. Although our protagonist was painted slightly too saintly for my liking, Parkinson's ability to make me loathe many of the characters has to be commended. The worst of them being our Angel Clare wannabe, a nineteenth century fuckboy who should've been thrown to the pigs. I think I'll be hating that little bitch for a long time yet. His capability for emotional blackmail was so real to me that it turned my eyes black. The author excelled in describing this one; how awful to realise we still have men like him centuries later. If I wasn't such a lady, I'd spit.
A very sad, very revealing tale on life in the colonial 1800s. I'd recommend it to historical romance lovers (especially if it's still free in the Kindle store), but don't expect a happy journey.