**Dangerous Women was sent to me in exchange for an honest review by Michael Joseph Books. Thank you.**
London, 1841. One hundred eighty Englishwomen file aboard the Rajah, embarking on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world. They’re daughters, sisters, mothers–and convicts. Transported for petty crimes. Except one of them has a deadly secret, and will do anything to flee justice.
As the Rajah sails farther from land, the women forge a tenuous kinship. Until, in the middle of the cold and unforgiving sea, a young mother is mortally wounded, and the hunt is on for the assailant before he or she strikes again.
Each woman called in for question has something to fear: Will she be attacked next? Will she be believed? Because far from land, there is nowhere to flee, and how can you prove innocence when you’ve already been found guilty?
Oh my – where do I even begin to review the marvellous Dangerous Women? I must admit it’s been quite some time since I’ve had my mind blown by plot twists. If there’s one thing I can say about this book it’s that the plot twists are seemingly as endless as the sea they’re sailing upon.
The camaraderie between the women was heart-warming even if their relationships started off a little rocky. Their deep bond forms the longer they’re on the voyage to Australia destined for new lives. Each one who works on the coverlet with Kezia, the ship’s matron, has a truly tragic story to share about how they ended up in prison. The tales riddled with sexism, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, poverty, and pain were deeply disturbing and brought the human element to every character. It made me realise that it’s so easy to judge people for small misdemeanors without seeing the bigger picture. Dangerous Women encapsulated the need we must have to stand together against adversity.
There are three points of view in this novel: Kezia, Clara, and Hattie. Kezia from the start is always supportive of the women. She has the ability to see the best in people regardless of the crime they’d committed. Her feminist values are refreshing considering they are shown during a time (1800s) when it was unheard of for a woman to think differently from a man. When men and women were certainly not seen as equals in any way. I wanted nothing more than to see her succeed – it’s the least she deserved.
Clara is reserved, and her initial story has you on tenterhooks wondering what really happened to her. Even though she came across as ‘edgy’, I truly felt for her. Reading as her story unfolded was enthralling and I found her character to be quite exciting. I ended up hoping she got the ending she so wished for.
Hattie has a heart of gold. She made bad choices, as did all the women, but she did it to give her son a better life. Her son, Bertie, is her entire universe and there is nothing she won’t do to protect him. That bond between mother and son brought out the best in her. She has the destiny to make a better life for both of them in Australia. Those prayers she makes, she deserves to have answered.
Dangerous Women ran so much deeper than being a simple historical fiction/murder mystery. It also felt much like women’s fiction as, more often than not, it was empowering and inspiring. Everything was so beautifully pieced together from start to finish. It took me 260 pages before I worked out one thing that was going on. But I never even had an inkling of who the murderer was. The plot is wonderful. The fact it’s based on the real-life story of The Rajah Quilt proved how much the author poured into the creation of this book. Frankly, I had no idea of the historical accuracy of this book until I finished reading it and did a bit of research. This has convinced me that I need to see the Rajah Quilt in-person. A girl can dream!
There is no reason I wouldn’t give this wonderful debut novel a rating of 5/5. It is well worth a read and I’d recommend it to anyone. I didn’t want to put it down even when I had no choice but to! Prepare to be inspired.