Among the Grey Gums by Paula J. Beavan

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

Among the Grey Gums is the second book by Australian writer Paula J. Beavan who grew up on the banks of the Hunter River where her love of reading and a good yarn inspired a desire to write. Her love of the land and its history especially as it embraced the pioneering women of the 1800s shines through in her historical romance stories. In a note at the conclusion of this story, she tells the reader that many of the scenes in Among the Grey Gums are based on snippets of history that she has unearthed. The Smokey Gang were inspired by events that took place in the Merriwa area in the 1840s.

From this story it is easy to become immersed in the rainy weather, bush tracks, solitude, and male chauvinism of that time in Australia’s history. Lucy Stewart’s life became harder and more dangerous when she had to take to the roads with her bullock team in the delivery business. Her husband had been laid low with a leg injury and someone had to earn a living so they could pay the mortgage on their farm.

Her helper is her intellectually challenged brother-in-law, Joe. What he lacks in astuteness he makes up for with brawn and a caring personality; however, when Lucy returned to where she had left the team, after delivering a parcel for the broken-down mail coach driver, both her team and Joe were missing. When she eventually found them, it was to discover that Joe had been charged with murder. Although she knows that Joe does not have the temperament to perform such an act, she has no one to turn to and the local police are anything but helpful.  Her only alternative is to try to find the murderer herself to save Joe from the hangman’s noose.

Riding into this scenario on his sometimes-cantankerous horse, Ramses, is Constable Samuel Donovan, an officer of the mounted police, who has been sent to the area to discover why the investigation into the Smokey Gang’s exploits doesn’t seem to be progressing. There is an obvious attraction between Sam and Lucy which grows as they try to prove Joe’s innocence. However, their stations in life are different and Lucy is a married woman. From her previous experiences with men, she is determined to keep her life simple and look after Joe.

This is a story dominated by bushrangers, convicts, corruption and coverups, bullying, and the role of women and how they are treated. The author tells the reader that in the mid-1800s there were three known women bullock drivers in Australia, an occupation that would be extremely hard and dangerous.

The chapters in the book are brief often just nine pages long. The first page of each chapter is accompanied with the sketch of a horse’s head or whip as are some breaks within the chapters. It is an easy book to read and shows the hardships and personal dangers in times gone by. However, what becomes obvious to the reader early in the story takes a long time to be revealed to those within the story who are investigating the situation.

Among the Grey Gums


By Paula J. Beavan


ISBN:978-1-8672-8637- 0

$32.99; 400pp

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