Monday, March 4, 2013

Brandy Row by Shelagh Mazey


Brandy Row takes place on the Isle of Portland between 1830 and 1851 – when smuggling was rife and the close knit community armed themselves against foreigners or ‘Kimberlins’.

A young fisherman, Matthew, has fallen for Violet, the beautiful daughter of a smuggler. They are childhood sweethearts when the new Customs Riding Officer arrives on the scene. Richard Dryer is handsome and shrewd and a worthy protagonist for the smugglers, but trouble is brewing for everyone when Violet falls in love with him. Knowing that she risks being ostracised by her family and friends Violet has to make a decision that will have repercussions throughout the rest of her life.


Brandy Row is a family saga that encompasses two generations, it puts the flesh and bones on the history of Portland. It begins at a time when the only access to Portland was by rope ferry and leads up to the construction of the breakwater. Brandy Row also fictionalises the arrival of the convicts on their way to the Verne prison prior to transportation and the traditions, celebrations, superstitions and customs of Portland at that time. It features smuggling, sea rescues, attempted rape and murder, blackmail, imprisonment, tragedies and heartache.

Brandy Row is the first of a new regional saga series that follows one family across a generation and takes place chronologically throughout the 19th century.


One of the main reasons historical fiction is so beloved is because readers can journey to an unusual place and time and immerse themselves with fascinating characters who face adversity. In this regard, Brandy Row really delivers!

Portland is a tiny island south of Dorchester and Weymouth in the English channel. There is a unique flavour and strong culture there. In the 19th century, Portland’s tight knit community survived through the smuggling of goods and alcohol. At the heart of the story is a love triangle between a young woman named Violet, her childhood sweetheart, Matthew, and a handsome Customs Officer named Richard Dyer. The plot is further complicated by the hazards of life, sea storms and rescues, and numerous tragedies and injustices.

The author did an outstanding job of bringing to life the uniqueness of the setting and culture of the tiny isle. It is historical accurate and detailed. Written with lovely prose and rich storytelling, this was a totally immersing novel.