Copyright © 2008, Margaret
Reviews For SAVAGE UTOPIA by Margaret Tanner
“The opening scene immediately
grabbed my heart: the Reverend Silas Watson is raving about adultery
in the pulpit, the day after her daughter Maryanne had been forced
to watch while he had raped her sister Fiona. When they return home,
Fiona is dead. A fight ensues, in which Silas beats Maryanne senseless.
5 Stars! “Savage Utopia has a fascinating plot. There is a lot of violence and brutality, but that was the life of the prisoners. Margaret Tanner gave each character a distinct voice. Maryanne began as a naïve young woman; by the end of the story, she has matured into a remarkable woman. Denied his birthright, Jake is angry and violent. I enjoyed his character for the way he developed from a womanizing criminal to a loving person. My favorite character was Libby; her character had incredible depth. She was a feisty survivor. Fans of historical romance will enjoy Savage Utopia.” Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for ReviewYourBook.com
5 Books! “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. While Savage Utopiais 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
Sample Chapter For SAVAGE UTOPIA by Margaret Tanner
A number of settlers wandered over to assess the women. Most of them were rough looking men attired in woven smocks and blue trousers. They wore colourful neckerchiefs.
A huge bear of a man strode up to Libby and swept off his hat. “You’ll do me,” he said grinning. “What’s your name?”
“Yes, me darlin’ man.”
“So am I. Name’s O’Rourke. I’m looking for a strong wench to help me run a tavern. I think you might be suitable.”
Libby gave a saucy grin. “I’m good for anything. What about my friend?” She tapped Maryanne’s shoulder. “We’re together.”
“I’m only allowed one assigned servant.” He swung around and bellowed, “Shane.”
“What is it, O’Rourke?” A young Irishman strode forward. “Found yourself a wench, have you?” The youth grinned at Libby, before turning his attention to Maryanne.
His eyes were a real forget-me-not blue colour, his hair a mass of unruly, copper curls.
He gave a deep bow. “Shane O’Brien at your service.”
“How do you do.” Maryanne couldn’t help smiling at him.
“How about getting her assigned to Captain Fitzhugh?” O’Rourke suggested.
“I came to pick up stores not wenches, still…” Shane stared at her so intently Maryanne felt embarrassed heat rush into her cheeks.
“Can you cook?”
“She’s a parson’s daughter,” Libby explained with a grin. “Our Maryanne is educated, quite genteel, too.”
“After being on a convict ship?”
“Yes, she is.”
“And you?” His blue eyes narrowed speculatively as he assessed Libby.
“I do anything to stay alive,” she told him.
A short, fat man with a pock marked
face came up to them. “Ah, me pretty harlot,” he leered
lasciviously. Maryanne backed away from him.
Shane sprang forward and knocked his arm away. “She’s already been assigned to Captain Miles Fitzhugh.” His eyes burned with fury. The man dropped a shocking oath before lumbering over to another group of women.
“Wait here, ladies, there’s some paperwork needs fixing,” O’Rourke went on briskly.
“Thank you for saving me from that vile creature.” She shuddered with revulsion.
“English scum.” He spat contemptuously over one shoulder before striding off.
“Oh, Libby, if that dreadful beast had picked me I think I would have...”
“Don’t say it, we were lucky. See what I mean, at least they’re clean and reasonably presentable. Just look at some of those other animals; must be the dregs of the colony.”
“I know, Libby, the way they stared at us, as if we were stock at a market.”
“We are.” The Irish girl tossed her head. “Do you think O’Rourke only wants me to serve in his tavern?”
“I don’t know.”
“Course not,” Libby scoffed. “He’ll have me bedded before the day is out, like Shane will with you.”
“But I’m being assigned to...”
“It’ll probably be days before we get to where they’re taking us. Do you think Captain whatever his name is will care if Shane had you first?”
“It’s disgusting, Libby. What about Jake?”
“Forget him; he’s as good as dead. You saw him. How long could a man in that condition last on a road gang?”
Jake was a strong man, brave and resilient. She had to believe he might survive or she would go mad. Even if they could never be physically together again, they were spiritually joined for all eternity. Jake did feel something special for her; she had read it in his eyes. If she focused on this she could endure anything
It did not take long for the formalities to be completed then they picked up their meagre bundle of belongings and started after the two men. Maryanne waved to the other women, while Libby called out a bawdy comment to Bridget.
Their conveyance turned out to be a large, heavily laden wagon pulled by bullocks. O’Rourke helped Libby and Maryanne into the back, where they sat amongst numerous barrels and crates.
“Only come to town every few months for stores,” Shane explained.
“I don’t come at all if I can help it,” O’Rourke chipped in. “I heard a ship with women on it was expected, and I didn’t trust the tastes of our young friend here.”
“Well now, O’Rourke,” Libby said, exaggerating her Irish brogue. “Where are you taking us?”
“My tavern is on the Nepean River, Fitzhugh’s place is near the Jamieson valley, another ten miles further on.”
It took them three hours to travel to Parramatta. They passed gentlemen on horseback and rich families in fancy carriages. When Maryanne saw a convict chain gang toiling at the side of the road, she remembered Jake, and her heart constricted.
A number of houses were built of white washed brick, and the hills were dotted with fruit trees. Flocks of sheep moving over unfenced pastures gave the area a picturesque, English village feel. Only the gaudy birds squawking and wheeling about them, and the tall green grey eucalypti, reminded her that this was a strange, inhospitable land, where she would probably spend the rest of her days.
As they plodded on, getting further and further away from civilisation, the countryside became more isolated and untamed. Would the natives attack them in this savage wilderness?
“I’m frightened, Libby.”
“So am I, God forsaken bloody place.”
Once the sun started sinking like a fireball behind the mountains, the air became cold, and Maryanne shivered.
“We’ll camp near the river tonight. Might even get us a kangaroo for supper,” Shane told them. “What do you think, O’Rourke?”
“Good idea, it’ll be dark soon.”
They finally stopped beside a sandy section on the banks of a fast flowing river. “You women get some driftwood for the fire,” Shane ordered. “O’Rourke and I will see about our food.”
Maryanne felt a sudden surge of anger towards the brash young Irishman who put himself in charge of them. O’Rourke she summed up fairly quickly, as an easygoing man of few words.
“Come on.” Libby gave her a gentle shove. “We better obey our young overseer.”