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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
When sixteen-year-old Audry's father dies, he leaves her in a difficult situation, as she comes under the protection of her elder sister, Alis, and her husband, John. In Roanoke, by Kathryn Sommerlot, John and Alis have determined to make a new beginning and in 1587 they and around a hundred other colonists set sail for Chesapeake, in the Americas, taking young Audry with them. Audry's dreams of appearing in Queen Elizabeth's court, along with her father, are forever dashed and she must adapt to a brave, new, harsh environment that she'd never wanted in the first place. Instead of being taken to Chesapeake, where the colonists were promised their own land, they are instead left alone on the island of Roanoke, just off the South Carolina coast. Audry and her fellow colonists must cope with the wild environs, the ever present dangers, and the not so friendly native Americans. So began the first real English colony in the Americas - a colony later to become known as the "Lost Colony."
I love reading historical fiction and Roanoke is very special in that regard as it chronicles a pivotal point in the colonisation of the New World. It was in Roanoke that the first English child to be born in the Americas was delivered. The story of Audry Tappan may be fictionalised, but Kathryn Sommerlot has stuck very much to the historical basis that was the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke. One of the greatest tributes I can give an historical fiction author is that his or work prompted me to research the topic and Roanoke certainly did that. I wanted to know what had happened to this first real colony. The author's descriptions of the hardships thrust on these early colonists allows the reader to truly feel they are there with Audry, suffering along with her. The romantic interactions between Audry and Mark, as well as the evil machinations of the pastor, gave some warmth and humanity to what could have been a dry, historical tale. A very good read and full of interesting insights.