by Mary Devlin

January 2002
ISBN: 0-595-20793-6
Reviewer Graphic Button Writer's Club Press
Trade Paperback

While hiding from her lecherous stepfather, gentlewoman Devon Wakefield is mistaken for a criminal and placed on a convict ship bound for New South Wales. By the time someone actually believes her story, she has already suffered many atrocities and the ship has almost reached its destination.

Jonathan Lake is a lieutenant in His Majestyís Navy who has been assigned to the new colony. He is shocked to see Devon onboard the convict ship because he knows she is no criminal. He can rescue her from the shipís hold, but he cannot save her from the rough life that awaits her on New South Wales.

New South Wales is nothing like London. It is unexplored land filled with strange animals, uncultured people, and harsh, uncultivated land. In order to make Australia a fit place to live, everyone has to work. Even with all the efforts of the government, there is always a food shortage, and theft is common. Despite the back breaking labor and the hunger pains, Devon finds herself in love with the new land. She discovers she has a knack for farming and even makes a few friends.

The land isnít the only thing Devon finds attractive. She is also head over heels in love with Jonathan. Unfortunately, Jonathan is already engaged to Irenie, a well to do widow in London. But time has a way of changing things, and soon Devon has his heart.

When you live in the wild, there is always the chance that a thorn may blow your way. That thorn comes in the shape of Richard Ross, the cousin of the Lieutenant Governor. Richard Ross is an evil man who always does whatever it takes to get what he wants, and this time, he wants Devon. After catching Jonathan in an act, which could be considered criminal, Richard blackmails Devon into marrying him by threatening to turn Jonathan in to the authorities. Still loving Jonathan even though she believes he is in love with Irenie, Devon agrees to the marriage.

Unaware of the reasons for the marriage, a disillusioned Jonathan returns to his life in London. Though he has changed, London and its people have remained the same. As he goes about his days noticing the absurdity of the townís flamboyant and wasteful lifestyle, Jonathan can only think of life in New South Wales. New South Wales is where his heart is, and when he learns Devon is in trouble, he sells his belongings and returns there to stay permanently.

But years have passed, and neither Jonathan nor Devon is the same. Is the love that once burnt in their hearts still there? Either way, it does not matter to Richard Ross. Devon has something he wants, and he has no intention of letting her go without a fight.

Even though Devon Wakefield is a well crafted novel, one you can enjoy by candlelight in the middle of a thunderstorm, its plot is not heart racing, and it is not unique. It is the typical tale of boy meeting girl, the two falling in love, and the something which separates them. Over a period of time, they long for each other, and eventually either end up together or try to rebuild their lives despite their great losses.

What makes this story atypical is the impressive talent of Mary Devlin. She has taken a simple story and turned it into a brilliant display of words describing a love so strong that it is capable of weathering any storm. Even though portions of the book deal with harsh events and cover discouraging incidences in history, Miss Devlin handles these scenes with a gentle sensitivity that does not allow the tragedy to overshadow the kinder aspects of the novel.

All the characters are skillfully drawn, and their struggles for happiness are very absorbing. Though I did not always understand Devonís behavior, I became so caught up in her life that I could not stop reading until I knew how her life would turn out. Even though the book was lengthy, I wouldnít even lessen my pleasant torture by peeking at the last page of the novel. So captivating was Devonís plight that I had to read every single word. I must admit thought that my enjoyment in reading Devonís tale would have been increased if I had known more about her life before that night on the docks.

Though Jonathan Lake is an admirable fellow, he does not particularly stand out for me. I would have liked his character much better if he had fought for Devon right after he discovered she had married Ross. After all, Devon was the woman he loved, and he just ran away with his tail between his legs.

The background characters who enhance every scene are a diverse group from convicts to unrefined natives to the upper crust of London. Each person has his/her own intriguing tale, which is ingeniously blended into Devonís life. Richard Ross is one of those characters. The twist about his marriage to Devon is exceptionally well done. I never expected it.

If youíre out fishing for a good historical romance, Devon Wakefield is a fine catch. The bait - a tempting prologue that introduces you to the spirited, title character. The hook - a story told so well that you order pizza instead of cooking.

Reviewed in March 2003 by Natasha.

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