Book Review: The Governor's House by J.H. Fletcher

J.H. Fletcher is an author I've not read before and I looked forward to reading The Governor's House a dual time frame narrative set in the present day and mid-19th century Australia.

Joanne Fletcher is Dean of Historical Studies at a Tasmanian university where she has been assigned the task of locating a precious artefact that went missing over 100 years ago and is somehow linked to her convict ancestor, Cat Haggard. Armed with a journal and a code book written by Cat, Joanne seeks clues within their pages to the artefact's whereabouts and once the Prime Minister takes an interest, pressure from her boss to find it doesn't make her task any easier. However, others are also searching for the same artefact and will resort to violence to get their hands on it.

Cat Haggard, falsely accused of theft, is transported to Tasmania for the term of fourteen years. She endures the four-month voyage and a stay in the Cascades Female Factory before finally being assigned to Doctor Morgan and his wife. Under the tutelage of the doctor, Cat is transformed from "fisherman's brat to lady".

A new house for the Governor, being built on land adjacent to the Morgan's property, becomes a symbol of Cat's new life in the colony. As she watches the walls go up, Cat dreams of one day being invited to the Governor's House.

Cat's adventurous spirit, determination and business acumen bring her romance, wealth and social standing, but when a person from her past arrives in Hobart all that she's worked towards is threatened. Presented with an opportunity to help the colony and a chance for revenge, she becomes part of a daring plan, the consequences of which bring mystery and danger into Joanne's life.

J.H. Fletcher has a style of writing that makes The Governor's House a quick and easy read. The two story lines complement one another beautifully. Cat's is a "rags to riches" story filled with historical detail and moves at a gentler pace than Joanne's present day narrative. Although Cat's story flags a little when the focus is on her later years, the drama and excitement of what is happening to Joanne makes up for it.

I enjoyed this novel and its characters. The setting of colonial Tasmania made a pleasant change from the more popular colony of New South Wales and highlighted how little I knew about the colonization of Tasmania. I found the Author's Notes interesting reading too, helping to separate fact from fiction, and explaining how significant moments in history inspired certain aspects of Cat's life.

For fans of dual time narratives or for those looking for an entertaining read that combines Australian history, romance, mystery and suspense, I can recommend The Governor's House.

Note: I received a copy of this book from Harlequin Australia as a winner of a Goodreads' First Reads Giveaway.

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