Savage Utopia by Margaret Tanner
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 Books
Review by Camellia
Sentenced to transportation to Australia, for trying to kill her incestuous father, Maryanne Watson boards a convict ship. During the journey she meets and falls in love with an American convict, Jake Smith. Jake hides a terrible family secret that if it ever saw the light of day, would send him to the gallows.
When they arrive at the penal colony, she is assigned to Captain Miles Fitzhugh. After he rapes her she flees for her life. She finally meets up with Jake who has escaped from a chain gang, gone bush and lives with the aborigines.
They roam the wilderness together trying to find their utopia. When Maryanne falls pregnant, Jake, who has a price on his head, risks coming out of hiding, so he can legally marry her so their child will not be born illegitimate.
Margaret Tanner creates a story of inextinguishable love and of the indomitable desire to survive shown by some prisoners transported from England to Australia in the 1800s.
The vicarious experience the reader has with Maryanne Watson is heartbreaking at times. From the very first sentence, tension grips the reader. From beatings and traumatic experiences at home, to the asylum, to prison, then to the hulk that takes Maryanne halfway around the world, the reader has a vivid picture of how this young woman's life deteriorates to an unrelenting torment.
But, where there is life there is hope. When she boards the hulk for transport, the spark of love that ignites in her heart when she sees the fire of desire in Jake Smith’s eyes kindles a love that sustains them both through unspeakable cruelty and degradation.
While Savage Utopia is a fictional story, much of it is based on historical facts. It is a spellbinding story of the disenfranchised people of England and Ireland who were transported to Australia to serve prison sentences in the dehumanizing penal system there. Many of the prisoners, after serving their time, chose to make a life in this new land.
Margaret Tanner’s characters come alive as they struggle to survive in the wilds of Australia, a harsh land but one of magnificent beauty totally different from England and Ireland.
As Maryanne, the parson’s daughter; Jake, whose birthright was stolen; and their ever-faithful friend Libby, the unapologetic prostitute triumph over all the horrors of their imprisonment and seek to make a life in this land, the reader gets to enjoy an extraordinary love story as well as a story of friendship that is most memorable.
Savage Utopia is a prequel to Stolen Birthright and I’m hoping to see a sequel in the no-to-distant future. Good reading!