Aussie Historical Romance

By Renee Dahlia

The world has been watching Australia burn over the past couple of months, as the current bush fire season becomes the worst in history. Bush fire has always been part of the Australian landscape. Our eucalypts are designed to burn, they have oil in their leaves and their seeds won’t germinate without fire. Typically, the Australian bush has many small fires happening all the time to assist with this process, and these burns have always been well managed by the Indigenous people.

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Brush fire smoke fills the sky over Sydney in this view from the Anzac Bridge.

The problem with the current fire season is that Australia has been in a severe drought for the last five years. This has meant that the back-burning which is typically done to reduce the fire load (and assist the trees by germinating their seeds) hasn’t been able to happen on the same scale as in normal rainfall years. And now we are living the consequence of the combination of factors – and yes, the drought is due to climate change. Australia has had drought in 37 of the last 100 years, and 15 of those have been in the last 20 years. Lots of small fires have joined into several gigantic fires. As I write this in Sydney, the city is surrounded by fire and has been covered in smoke for months.

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Screenshot from NSW RFS Fires Fear Me App

Here is a selection of Australian authors who write Australian historical romance. While I’d love to say I’ve read them all, I haven’t managed to get to all of them just yet.

I’m going to open with Darry Fraser, who lives on Kangaroo Island which has been decimated by fire and has been busy looking after her fellow Islanders who’ve been evacuated to her town.

What piece of Australian history did you discover while researching your book?

In the light of what’s happened recently, that bushfires along the river were deadly to those travelling on the water – the embers would rain down and the paddlesteamers would blow up, killing or maiming those on board. Often drowning was a better option for those who survived the horrific burns.

Why did you pick that time and region?

It’s a favourite era for me – the 1890s, just prior to Federation; no motor cars, no digital technology, women emerging as a force to be reckoned with. The region is mostly the river itself as it winds its way past two states (or colonies as they were then) and into a third, and this book closes my three book Murray series. However, I somehow think there might be more river adventures still to come. It seems we’re still fighting over the same issues we were 120 years ago.

Darry Fraser’s latest book is THE GOOD WOMAN OF RENMARK set in 1895 in South Australia.

Cheryl Adnams’ latest book is THE GIRL FROM EUREKA which is set in 1854 because that’s when the Eureka Stockade happened.

What piece of Australian history did you discover while researching your book?

I discovered the roles of women in Ballarat on the goldfields which have largely been ignored in history books.

Cheryl’s website is

Anne Marie Brear’s BENEATH A STORMY SKY is set in Albany Western Australia in 1880s.

Why did you pick that time and region?

I picked that area as I need a place for a ship wreck to happen and ships from England sailed to Fremantle and then went down and around the bottom of Western Australia.

What piece of Australian history did you discover while researching your book?

I discovered that Albany was a former whaling station and in the First World War, ANZAC naval ships stopped in the bay at Albany before they sailed to the front.

Tea Cooper’s THE GIRL IN THE PAINTING is a dual time line spanning the second half of the nineteenth century. The setting ranges from the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, the bucolic English countryside to the charm of Maitland Town.

What piece (s) of Australian history did you discover while researching your book?

The attempted assassination of Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred at Clontarf, on Sydney Harbour on 12th March, 1868, the history of Hill End—the discovery in 1945 of the Holtermann Collection of glass plated negatives in a garden shed in North Sydney, illustrating life in Hill End in the 1870s, and Child Immigration Schemes.

THE GIRL IN THE PAINTING is available in print, ebook and audio.

Sonya Heaney’s debut novel THE LANDOWNER’S SECRET is set in NSW in 1885.

When is your book set and why did you pick that era of Australian history?

Australian history is pretty messy. In the end I chose the 1880s for my books because my fictional town is based on a real place: Queanbeyan, just over the New South Wales border from where I am in Canberra. I wanted to set the books at a time of change, and this was the point where the bushrangers disappeared and the railway and telegraph arrived.

My second book (out soon) features an Indigenous Australian hero, and I’ve learnt a lot about the traditional history of the area because of this.

What piece of Australian history did you discover while researching your book?

Wheat farmer William Farrer, who lived in the region in the 19th century, was featured on the Australian $2 note until it went out of circulation. I’ve given my fictional family the surname “Farrer” in honour of the real Farrers’ achievements.

Alison Stuart’s THE POSTMISTRESS (and the second Maiden’s Creek book THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER) are set in the goldfields of Gippsland in the 1870s because I was looking for more of a small town feel than the better known goldfields of central Victoria.

What piece of Australian history did you discover while researching your book?

I based the fictional Maiden’s Creek on the little town of Walhalla. In its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, Walhalla was the richest goldfield in Australia. I also learned more than I needed to know about hard rock gold mining!

THE POSTMISTRESS is available in bookstores around the country and in ebook at and the good news is THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER is already on preorder…

Renee Dahlia writes historical and contemporary fiction. To date, her contemporary romances have been set in Australia, while her historical romances have been set in Europe. She does have plans for an Australian historical series that would be pitched as Peaky Blinders meets The Man From Snowy River.

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