In the Land of the Long White Cloud

I found this book randomly at Powell’s one day, and thought the cover was pretty.  Sarah Lark’s story is quite lovely to match, and I enjoyed this book more than I anticipated that I would.

Helen is a governess in London.  Although she enjoys her job, she yearns for a family of her own.  She sees an advertisement in her church’s newsletter about colonists in New Zealand seeking wives.  The church sets up correspondence between London women and the bachelors in the new country.  Helen decides to participate, and receives a beautifully written letter from a man named Howard.  Soon she is on her way to New Zealand, with six orphan girls designated for maid service in tow.

Gwyneira is the daughter of a wealthy sheep breeder.  She has flaming red hair, and a fiery personality to match (think Merida from Brave).  When her father entertains a fellow breeder from New Zealand, he uses Gwyneira as stakes in a game of blackjack.  Against her will, Gwyneira is betrothed to Lucas, the son and heir of her father’s guest.  Soon she is on her way to the new country to meet her future husband.

The two women meet on the deck of the Dublin, the ship carrying them to their fate and the husbands they’ve never met.  They become fast friends, and are determined to maintain their relationship once they reach their destination.

Both women, upon their arrival, come to find out that their new lives are not what they imagined.  Gwyneira’s husband, Lucas, has little interest in her or the farm he is supposed to inherit.  Helen’s husband, Howard, is less the “gentleman farmer” that he made himself out to be, and more of a man barely scraping by.  Added to that, there is a feud between Howard and Lucas’s father.

The book follows the different chapters of the women’s lives.  They go from wives to mothers, mothers to grandmothers.  All the while they maintain their friendship, and struggle to survive in their new world.

I love that there are so many strong women in this book.  They go through a lot of hardships, but remain true to themselves and each other.  They are friends despite their husbands, and they allow their children to grow up together.

I also liked that the characters all come back together eventually.  Some of them seem as if they’re lost to the reader, but they always manage to resurface somewhere.  There are so many connections between everyone and the relationships remain tightly bound.

There’s a lot of hardship, but there are also some very happy endings.  Gwyneira and Helen are characters to love and return to.

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