Lady Bird and the Fox by Kim Kelly is one of the best historical fiction titles I’ve read in a long time, a claim boosted by the familiarity I felt with the setting (not far from where I grew up).
This is the blurb:
It’s 1868 and the gold rush is spreading across the wild west of New South Wales, bringing with it a new breed of colonial rogue – bushrangers. A world far removed from hardworking farm girl, Annie Bird, and her sleepy village on the outskirts of Sydney.
But when a cruel stroke of fortune sees Annie orphaned and outcast, she is forced to head for the goldfields in search of her grandfather, a legendary tracker. Determined and dangerously naive, she sets off with little but a swag full of hope – and is promptly robbed of it on the road.
Her cries for help attract another sort of rogue: Jem Fox, the waster son of a wealthy silversmith, who’s already in trouble with the law – up to his neatly trimmed eyebrows in gambling debts. And now he does something much worse. He ‘borrows’ a horse and rides after the thieves, throwing Annie over the saddle as he goes.
What follows is a breakneck gallop through the Australian bush, a tale of mistaken identity and blind bigotry, of two headstrong opposites tossed together by fate, their lives entwined by a quest to get back home – and the irresistible forces of love.
It’s rich in description, passionate in the telling, and immersive as a reading experience. Annie and Jem are terrific characters with a sassy spark that had me willing them to get their acts together as the story moved on. I laughed, I wiped away a tear or two, but most of all, Kelly got me thinking about the backstory of Australia’s settlement and advance westward from Sydney, the story we weren’t told in school.
I can’t wait to read more titles by this talented author – do yourself a favour and look her up.