Book Reviews

A Voice to be Heard

I stepped into a time machine and went back to the days of 1820-30 when my forebears travelled from England and started new and different lives in Sydney and Melbourne.

How did I do this, you ask?

Well, I read Dell Brand’s historic adventure called ’A Voice to be Heard’. I was there, I heard the voices of my great grandparents and grandparents as they lived the lives retold in Dell’s book.

It left me waiting for and imagining the sequel. Read it!

Where’s the next one, Dell?

Margaret Ford

I really enjoyed it – a great yarn and a real sense of being there!! Congratulations!!

Danina Anderson, Lindfield NSW

Joey and Maddy have risen above everything that could possibly be said of them to make a real name for themselves. As the illegitimate children of a housemaid and a rakish lord who never knew they existed, they had little chance for a happy life. Yet the love and generosity of their mother and the father of their own father has helped them to become more than just good people and beautiful young women – it has brought them to a level of personal freedom and wealth they could never have imagined. That wealth has also enabled them to do more with their lives than they ever thought, not only because of the money but because of the strength of character that is involved. A Voice to be Heard by Dell Brand is an excellent book to show all this and more.

I have to say that I related a little more to Joey than Maddy since I’ve always been a bit of a firebrand myself. Still, these girls are the perfect characters in a story such as this because they are not only capable of overcoming adversity, but their own personal flaws as well. Things do not always go right for them and that’s what makes this story so great because you could see it actually happening to real people. I absolutely loved this book and would love to read even more about these girls and their friends, and of course the men they love. This is a true story, however, of what women can do without needing a man around to help them. This book was very well written. I loved the characters and I thought the plot line was absolutely wonderful.

Rating: 5.0 stars

Samantha Rivera for Readers’ Favorite, USA

Travel back to the 1800s to a time when society was ruled by men, and women were window dressing. A Voice to be Heard starts with a young girl, Florence, who is well educated, something uncommon for that era. Yet she is seduced and becomes pregnant by the lord of the house’s son, only to be held in high regard by the lord, who takes care of her and her twin daughters for the rest of his life. However, the grandfather is killed in a freak carriage accident and the mother dies after a run-in with her seducer. The twins go to their grandfather’s lawyer with a plan. The lawyer is more than happy to help and sets plans into action. Within a month the girls are on a boat to Australia. Despite all society’s conventions, the girls proceed on their own and buy a house, build another, turn the first into a hotel, and thus an empire is created. Along the way, each twin runs into problems with men. Happier times and sadder times follow, just as in life. Dell Brand does a wonderful job of making you feel like you are really living in Melbourne in the 1840s.

A Voice to be Heard is an inspirational read to any woman, allowing them to realize that they can accomplish whatever they want, no matter what society says. It won’t be easy; there will be hurdles and bad times, but good times too – you just have to stay focused. Dell Brand covers a long period of time from the early 1800s when Florence is young, to the 1850s after the death of Thomas, the twins’ father. It’s truly a family saga. Overall, the family saga and historical nature of the story first drew me in, but the characters kept me there until the end. It almost had me wishing I could have been there.

Rating: 4.0 stars

Michelle Randall for Readers’ Favorite, USA

I really enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t want to put it down and I am hoping there will be a follow-up one as you have left me wondering what will happen.

Jenny May, Sydney, NSW

A terrific read.

Judy McCumstie, Minnamurra NSW

I enjoyed the read very much and am now lending the book to my friends.

Carol Daynard, Bolton Point NSW

A Voice to be Heard by Dell Brand is the story of two women who break with convention and live outside the rules set by the Victorian age. They leave their mark in Melbourne, the town where they live. Florence is pregnant with twins after being seduced by Thomas Luxford, her employer’s son. He dumps her and Florence leaves the place to deliver her twins in Bedford. Joey and Maddy’s paternal grandfather takes them in and gives them a home. When the twins turn nineteen, they lose both their mother and grandfather. On the advice of their solicitor, the twins leave the country to get the inheritance left for them by their grandfather. The book takes us through the lives of these two girls and their struggle for survival.

The scene is set in the 1800s when the Victorian era was dominant. The author throws light on the scenario in Melbourne during that period. It takes readers through the labor problems, the aborigines, and the economic crisis that prevails in Melbourne during that time. The transformation of Melbourne to an important town also unfolds along with the theme of the story. The portrayal of Joey and Maddy is very powerful and strong and how they bring about a lasting change in traditional Australian society is very interesting to read. The author has packed a lot of information into this historical fiction. Many powerful plots and characters are woven together, making it a compelling story.

Rating: 5.0 stars

Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite, USA

This was one of those books where the concept was just a little too big to fit into one book. The author has a great skill for writing, which is the only reason my rating is three stars, but the details, thoughts and other points the author attempts to weave in to this story. We follow not one, but three different female characters in this book, among the huge group of supporting characters. In “A Voice To Be Heard” by Dell Brand, the reader first meets Florence, who has been seduced by the wealthy son of her boss. We learn about the historical aspects of this situation and yet I was amazed at just how naive the girl was for being educated. He was clearly playing her, and she continued to let him, with no promises, no engagement, nothing. I know that without her mistake we wouldn’t have a story, but I just wasn’t convinced she would do that.

This story spans about 40 years, I personally thought it was just too much detail to fit together and expect the reader to sit through. I was pulled out of the story countless times, trying to weigh the historical details, with the thoughts of the characters, and then the story arch. I really think the choice to include thoughts in this novel is a tough one, because it’s a hit or miss technique. In this cause, they were just too simplistic at times, characters stating obviously feelings, and thoughts without helping move the story along, and it really pulled my attention away and made me struggle to relate to the characters.

Overall, I really thought that this novel should be broken into two stories at least, if not three, focusing on the mom, then each of the daughter’s stories. I appreciate that this story was well written, I just think the idea got too broad for the book. The author lists a cast of characters in the beginning and city maps, and I think if the reader needs a list of all the characters, the story might be better off being condensed.

Things I enjoyed about this story included the historical detail, I thought in the later portion of the book the author really pulled some great historical details into the story and really gave me a perspective that I didn’t have before. I thought it was unique and fresh and really enjoyable. The writing is very good. I didn’t notice any technical issues in the book, so I was able to read through without being hindered by those issues. I think this has the potential to be a really interesting book.

I thoroughly think that this book would be enhanced by some trimming, editing and maybe splitting it into a few different stories. I think then I’d be able to really enjoy the story the author is trying to tell, without being hampered down by all the excess details, characters, and plot lines. I felt the beginning was rushed, as Florence’s only point was to have the children for the later part of the story, but I didn’t like meeting her and seeing her be seduced so quickly. It really flew in the face of the character that was being built. I think as a reader, I need to take more time with each character and their story and let it stand on its own.

Cianna Reider for Rebecca’s Reads, USA

I just loved ‘A Voice to be Heard’ and can’t wait for the sequel.

Jill Norris, Mt Warrigal NSW

A Voice to be Heard by Dell Brand chronicles the lives of two young Australian pioneer women, twins Josephine and Madeline Gower, who settle in the burgeoning city of Melbourne and begin a profitable hotel business. After suffering from a double tragedy as the twins lose both their mother and grandfather, the girls decide to break with the Victorian tradition of marriage and babies and head out into the wild frontier. The history of Melbourne serves as a rich backdrop as the lives and dramas of the two women unfold. A well-developed historical drama, A Voice to be Heard is filled with strength, integrity, and the pioneer spirit.

Being American, my knowledge of pioneer days is mostly limited to the American West, cowboys and Indians, so it was interesting to read another country’s version of the pioneer drama, this time peppered with sheepherders and background Aboriginals. The backbone of A Voice to be Heard is Josephine, or Joey to her friends. She’s the most outspoken and unconventional of the duo, putting most of their hotel plans into action and continually shocking what was considered polite Victorian society. She’s very much the mainstream feminist and refuses to let her gender get in the way of buying and developing the land, as well as creating business opportunities for the influx of European settlers. With an ending that seems to promise a sequel, A Voice to be Heard is a novel that should enthrall mainstream feminists and Aussie history buffs alike.

Rating: 4.0 stars

Readers’ Favourite, USA

Dell Brand’s A Voice to be Heard is set in 19th century England and Australia. First it follows the story of Florence, a servant girl in Standford Hall, who, despite her humble beginnings, develops a love for reading and learning. Seduced by Thomas Luxford, son of her employer, Sir Robert Luxford, the young girl gets pregnant. She escapes to Bedford and delivers twin girls, Joey and Maddy. Seemingly doomed to a life of poverty, Florence and the girls are saved by Sir Robert and they enjoy a quiet life, which will be abruptly interrupted by circumstances beyond their control. Deciding to leave for Australia, the now motherless twins go on a journey to a foreign land, not only to secure their inheritance, but also to find their places under the sun.

A Voice to be Heard is a story about determined women who live during the Victorian Age, outside the fringes of society. Dell Brand’s heroines are extraordinary women who always manage, against all odds, to retain their dignity and to follow their dreams. The novel gives us a picture of English and Australian society during the 19th century. This is surely a time when women were not expected to assert themselves. This is also a period in Australia when there were a lot of exciting possibilities for pioneering endeavours. It is interesting to note that what is now the modern city of Melbourne used to be a struggling town, where floods and constant mud slides were normal occurrences. The author’s excellent descriptive style lets us experience their tragedies and successes, as these two women fulfill their dreams and, at the same time, make a mark in Australia’s colonial society. This book is an exciting read!

Rating: 5.0 stars

Readers’ Favourites, USA

Really enjoyed your book and can see you must have put in a lot of research to get such a meaningful picture of early Melbourne and its pioneers. Well done Dell, Rosalind Maxfield

Rosalind Maxfield

I loved your book Dell. I couldn’t put it down. You have a great talent for this genre and I look forward to seeing further books from you. Also, I’ll see if I can interest my kids in your history series!!

Congrats on a fine achievement.

Dr Duncan Stanford, Kiama NSW

I really enjoyed your book. It was my kind of story and kept me wanting to continue reading when I should have been doing other things. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Isabel Scott, Shalvey NSW

A wonderful work of fiction, widely encompassing the social history of the times and enthralling the reader from the first page to the last.

K Pomery, Albion Park NSW

Firstly I must say CONGRATULATIONS! Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and you are to be highly commended. It was very well written and I thought you captured the era particularly well, especially your phrasing and the use of English of that period. I loved your character development of the various personalities and could well appreciate the time you must have put into your research in order to bring the book to life. My only criticism really was the overload of the very minor characters along with their names. I did find myself, near the end of the book, on more than one occasion, having to go back to your list of characters in the preface to remind me who they were. Maybe I’m just getting old and forgetful.

The only other thing that I might add is purely a personal one. I did not like the cover of your book. I like to draw my mental imagery of characters myself from the author’s words and if the cover conflicts with those images, I find it quite off-putting every time I go to open the book. I would have preferred a more neutral cover. But, as I said, that is quite personal from my viewpoint. I look forward to reading “A Brummy’s Backyard.” I trust it will be available in soft cover eventually. I am not all that enamoured with e-books and so most of what I read comes from the library.

I have a friend with whom I share books and I have already passed your book on to her and I’m sure she will enjoy it as much as I did.

Wendy McGrath, Calgary, Canada

“A Voice to be Heard” by Dell Brand is a wonderful story about two women who, against all odds, prosper and flourish in a “man’s world” during the Victorian Age amid the formative years in Melbourne, Australia. The story begins with Florence, the housemaid of Sir Robert Luxford of Leicestershire, England. Florence is seduced by Thomas, Sir Robert’s son, who later rebuffs her and denies all responsibilities for their unborn child. Florence flees to Bedford, England, where her twin girls Maddy and Joey are born. Sir Robert finds the family and takes care of all their needs, setting them up comfortably for life. The twins lose both their mother and grandfather shortly after they turn 19 and their estranged father forces them to leave England. The story goes on to follow Maddy and Joey to Australia, where the twins create their own destiny, forever leaving their footprints on the newly formed town of Melbourne.
I really enjoyed this book. I was a little skeptical when I opened it up to find the first four pages to be a list of the cast of characters but found I was easily able to follow along without losing track of who-was-who. The story started out quite fast – by page 30 or so the twins were already 18 years old and that’s when the characters started to gain some depth and personalities. Actually, the whole booked moved at a rather quick pace, which was surprising as it is over 400 pages long.
The author has a very easy-to-read descriptive writing style. Her portrayals of events and places were full of vivid and sometimes scandalous details, and her characters were realistic and likeable. I was able to feel the experiences of the twins as they went through the trials and tribulations of their lives. Maddy and Joey were well read and educated by their mother and grandfather, and they rarely agreed with the dictates of society. Joey pushed the limits of society quite often, with Maddy happy to follow in her shadows. I delighted in reading about the roles of men and women in the Victorian Age and often laughed out loud, though I know it probably wasn’t very easy for the women living in that era.
“A Voice to be Heard” by Dell Brand will appeal to fans of historical fiction during the Victorian Age and to anyone that likes entertaining story telling with strong female leads. Great book!

Sheri Bebee for ‘Reader Views’ USA

I have just finished reading ‘A Voice to be Heard’. I loved it, especially the ending. You really brought home how awful the towns were before paved streets and sidewalks! Fancy hotels, mansions but no municipal services. We take so much for granted now. Hope this book is a success for you.

Merrymaven, Potsdam, Upper New York, USA

Just finished your novel and could not put it down. Congratulations you have a great talent so keep it up. I bought ‘Cry to the Wind’ online so off I go with this one.
Congratulations again.

Islay Lee

I just wanted to write and let you know I finished, “A Voice to be Heard” last night! I very much enjoyed it. I loved the story of Joey and Maddy as well as the history all throughout. Now when I go to Queen Street for work, and walk in the city, I will think of all the things I learned as well as the great story. Thanks so much for putting your stories into print! That ending still has me thinking!

Ellie Roberts



Other Adult Books by Dell that you may like…

A Brummy's Backyard
As the lumbering jet swoops low over the grey, legoland housing rows that surround Heathrow Airport, the story of the author’s year of living in England begins. Recipients of a teaching exchange, Australians Dell and John are bound for schools in the West Midlands, and find that things are quite different in Brummyland.
An epic story of life and death amid the turbulent years of the Victorian gold rush, narrated by the three main characters, Adam, Joey and Tom.
Penny Taylor, from London’s East End, finds herself part of the struggling Hapless family, living in a caravan park in the Illawarra on the south coast of New South Wales. She is kept busy with three young children, two of whom belong to Dudley Hapless, her present partner and a professional basketball player with the Hawks.
The Weif is a sweeping story of servitude and the struggle for freedom, of the law and its cruel inequities, of the privations and harshness of a rugged new land and of a brother and sister’s fragile home on life during the tumultuous early years of settlement in Australia.
Kit Markham’s world turns upside down when Jack, the boy she always believed she would marry, turns out to be her half-brother. At sixteen, feisty and headstrong, she leaves her home in Melbourne and flees to England. The year is 1855.
Stina caught the excitement spreading like wildfire amongst the passengers. The Friedeburg had anchored in Moreton Bay and the long and uneventful voyage was finally over.
A group of mates from the Sydney suburb of Botany answer the call from king and country and go away to fight in the first world war. Far from the adventure they imagined, the five years of the conflict bring challenge, fear and loss but also lighter moments and some unexpected romance.
The Northern Territory was a harsh and demanding place in 1920 when Charles Dalton becomes the new boss-man on a remote cattle station. He must work with blacks, half-castes and coloureds to get things done and his colonial attitudes risk him losing everything.