A fellow author, Isobel Blackthorn, posted this review on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m chuffed.
Filled with charming characters and well-crafted descriptions, this story flows at a good clip. Above all, O’Connell provides a rich historical overview of the early settlement of Australia, prefacing her chapters with snippets of factual information which add important insights into the plight of the convicts and renders No Room for Regret both entertaining and educational.
The perennial challenge for historical and especially family history novels is grabbing readers from the outset and keeping them absorbed. O’Connell manages both with aplomb, the narration taut and gripping and laced with uncompromising realism. The result is a compelling read that is impossible to put down. No Room for Regret is a fictionalised family history novel of the highest calibre.
No Room For Regret
By Janeen Ann O’Connell
326 pp. Publisher : Creativia
With No Room For Regret, author Janeen Ann O’Connell has crafted a personal take on the trials and tribulations of James Tedder and his mate James Blay – two young men who are exiled from London, England in 1811 and sentenced to work in Van Diemen’s Land – an unforgiving penal colony located in what is now present day Tasmania. Separated from their families and ostracised from their friends, the men try to navigate the complex politics and new way of life presented to them once they land on Tasmania’s shores.
Though the story is centered on the two James’, the women in their lives also take center stage. No Room For Regret is the first book in the Cullen-Bartlett Dynasty series, and fans of historical fiction should find plenty to sink their teeth into. Though O’Connell takes some liberties in order to construct a compelling tale around the lives of the people involved, it’s clear that she’s done her homework and the historical details pop through the page. Indeed, you will find family trees and photographs of locations within the book to reference when needed.
The world in which James Tedder and James Blay find themselves inhabiting is at once full of hope and naive gumption but is also full of routine violence, unfettered avarice, and keen desire – and all the best and worst traits of the human species as a whole. O’Connell breathes life into these two characters and their supporting cast and leaves you wondering about them long after the book has been read, while at the same time setting up an introduction to book two in the series – Love, Lies, And Legacies.
From Reviewer and author Joe Carro
“I would like to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your novel. It’s quite amazing that I’ve lived here for 36 years and never quite knew the history of convicts in Australia. The story of the different families is quite amazing, I just wished that Toothless had found his karma… Congratulations on a book very well written.”
“5 out of 5 stars. Excellent and Beautiful Historical Fiction
May 9, 2019
This book is wonderfully written, well researched, and the characters are realistic.
I love historical fiction, and this delivers on all the points of historical fiction I love, the immersive descriptions of conditions and places that transports me there, period accurate references and verbiage, and attitudes that start at what was common then but dynamically change when the truth of the matter emerge. In addition I loved the character growth and dynamics.
I’m not going to put in spoilers, but the relationships between the two male characters is a good example of how people who start in hardship grow together. The actions of ones wife are extremely brave, and the struggle she goes through is dangerous and terrifying at points but in the end she is stronger and wiser.
That being said there are some things that may be triggering to some, namely abusive behavior from authorities, life threatening illness, attempted child trafficking, attempted murder, racist views towards indigenous people from some of the minor characters, death of loved ones and a marriage of convenience. The author handles all of these well, and compassionately, even resolving these issues in a manner that subverts the problematic views and calls out their ignorance.
All in all this book is excellent, I recommend it highly.”
“***** This marvellous book has been my first experience with this very fine Australian lady author, and I have to say, what an amazing voyage this life-story has been to me.
At the beginning of the book you’ll be presented with a very informative Author’s Note, telling you about her book, the records consulted and how it all came about, with also a heartfelt quote: To Nowhere, With No-One, With Nothing, and not to forget the author’s Family Tree, and that Tree will play the significant part in this fantastic historical story, while at the end of the book you’ll find also some important Notes.
Storytelling is of a superb quality, all (real) characters come vividly to life in this tremendous historical life-story, and the storyline is very entertaining from start to finish.
The book starts with a chilling description about the brutal and horrific conditions on the hulk “Retribution” in 1811, where the convicts were confined, before being transported in 1812 on the vessel “Indefatigable” to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), on which these helpless convicts must somehow seem to survive if they were to reach their new destination.
This book sets off in February, 1811, and it will end in 1823, and in this period the live-stories of James Tedder and James Blay, and also later on very importantly James Bryan Cullen, start to unfold into a most remarkable, beautiful but also very brutal human historical life adventure, during the reigns of the British Kings, the insane George III and George IV.
From the hulk “Retribution”, under devastating circumstances where Tedder and Blay are treated like animals, and after that the transportation on “Indefatigable” to Van Diemen’s Land, where they are both used as convict slaves, they will eventually overcome their ordeal and horrors and start a (Tedder) family or reunite (Blay) as a family.
And so what will follow is a compelling and enthralling family history in which both James Bryan Cullen, who’s married to Elizabeth Bartlett, and James Tedder, who’s married to Cullen’s middle daughter Catherine, will have to deal with hard work, happiness, sadness, debts and life threats, before they finally die and will become the roots of a Family Tree, of which their offspring will become their future branches with families of their own, and with lives with all its ups and downs.
Very much recommended, for this book has touched my heart immensely, and I look very much forward to read the next instalment, but to come back to this story I like to call it: “A Truly Amazing Heart-Rending Opening Read”!
*****5 out of 5 stars BEAUTIFULLY RESEARCHED SAGA
21 April 2019
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
“The research is deep and meticulous as the reader follows strands of a family saga from terrible beginnings in London and Dublin through the hulks to transportation to Tasmania and life thereafter. Far from the usual story of horrors in Australia, this is a book of hope and family, although there is a great deal of grief as well, and bitter revenge. Watch out for Toothless: he is a bad man! The contrast between prospects in Australia and poverty in England and Ireland is well made, with a new beginning for those who work and opportunities that would not be possible if people had not been transported. A book of family and social injustice, it stands out from any other I have read about this subject.”
*****Historical Fiction at its best
I had no expectations upon reading this book. I have to say the author has done her research for the time period and stayed with in the actual era of the book. I found myself totally involved when I sat down to read it, reading most of the book in one day. I love the characters and the story line. I would highly recommend to anyone how is a historical fiction fan. This book was absolutely amazing!
From Amazon.com (Lisa Roberts)
Hi Janeen, finally with some peace and quiet after Christmas, I’m sooo enjoying your 1st book such a wonderful read of the incredibly hard times of the convicts on Van Diemen’s land. A great insight
Hi Janeen, I just want to say how much I enjoyed the book “No room for regret”. So easy to read, I, couldn’t put it down. Looking forward to the next one. My son Klate gave me the 3 books. I am interested in family history and we have our own convict.
Janeen, I finished reading at about midnight last night. Double congratulations. It’s an amazingly well researched and well written book. I’d recommend all our UTAS cohort read it. (not to mention anyone else who is interested in history, adventure and romance). You’ve graphically shown the conditions that convicts lived in on the hulks, transport ships, and the early days of Tasmania, The facts have been so entwined into the fictional story that I felt every sentence spoken and every smallest action actually happened (as it well might have). I was enthralled through every page and couldn’t put the book down till finished. Congratulations again.
I loved the book, Janeen. Can’t wait to read the next one.
Just finished the book. Hurry up and write the next one.
I just finished the book. Really loved it. Poor Teddy.
Finished your book. Feel very privileged to have been part of your journey. Loved the accurate references in the novel. So well put together can’t wait for the next instalment
Excellent courses in family history are now being provided at many levels and it is good to see how these are bringing forth some wonderful creativity in those who have made the effort to use their newly-won academic qualifications to breathe life into their research.
No Room for Regret is a just-published novel about the life and times of First Fleeter James Bryan Cullen, his wife Elizabeth Bartlett and their children. The author, Janeen Ann O’Connell, is a Cullen descendant who has used her studies to produce a lively tale of the early days of settlement along the Derwent.
The focus of this work, the first in a planned trilogy on the ‘Cullen-Bartlett Dynasty’, is predominantly on the two men who arrived together on the Indefatigable to Hobart Town in 1812.
James Blay and James Tedder are very different characters and yet their time in Newgate, on the prison hulk Retribution and on Indefatigable en route to Hobart Town in May 1812 drew them and later their children together in ways that would never have been foreseen. And overseeing them, as their employer during their convict time is another James, the benevolent patriarch Cullen himself, whose own story holds the family together.
The author gives her characters permission to recount their own convict beginnings, the details of each adding depth to their actions and relationships so significant to the plot lines that gradually unfold.
One masterful sub-plot explains the background to the death of James Tedder, Catherine’s first husband. We family researchers have only ever had the cold hard fact of his passing as gleaned from the records. Now we can read how it may have all come about, the writing in of some introduced and rather unsavoury characters making it all so believable.
In Van Diemen’s Land, the setting is not only early Hobart but its upriver outcentre, New Norfolk, where the ageing James Cullen is endeavouring to finish building his stately mansion for his beloved Elizabeth.
Being a novel about a family the children are naturally painted large. We really get to know the three young sons of Sarah Blay who closes down her life in Spitalfields to embark on HMS Kangaroo and follow her convict husband to the other side of the world. Her boys, we feel sure will loom large as the story proceeds, and their own personalities are artfully drawn in ways that captivate the reader.
No Room for Regret is a book for all interested in our early history to read and enjoy, whether Cullen descendants or not. It was launched on 28 April 2018 in the very mansion that features so much in its pages, Glen Derwent, at New Norfolk.
[Note: Your reviewer is also a descendant of FF James B Cullen through the latter’s third daughter, Betsy, so his task to read and review was very pleasant indeed. The book is available in bookstores in Victoria and Tasmania and can also be obtained as an eBook from Amazon.com.au]
The author is a member of the First Fleet Fellowship Victoria.]
No Room for Regret is the interwoven story of four convicts who were transported from England to New South Wales between 1788 and 1812. James Bryan Cullen, transported on the Scarborough with the First Fleet in 1788, Elizabeth Bartlett transported on the Marquis Cornwallis in 1796, James Tedder and James Blay transported in 1812 to Van Diemen’s Land on the ship Indefatigable.
Their stories speak of the horrors, inhumanity, and terrible deprivation they suffered on their dangerous journey across the world from England to the new colony.
The remarkable transformation of their lives in Van Diemen’s Land from convicts to free settlers, respectable members of the community who owned land and property and who, with their families forged a life which they could never have achieved in England, is utterly amazing.
Included in this novel is the story of Sarah Blay, James Blay’s wife. Sarah’s courageous determination to follow her convict husband to VDL 12 months after he was transported – having to pay for herself and their 3 young sons – was incredible.
Sarah and her three boys embarked on HMS Kangaroo venturing forth on a perilous journey to unknown VDL, a journey which would last fourteen months at sea and on land. Sarah’s is a story of remarkable courage and unbreakable spirit and a determination to overcome situations against almost unassailable odds. No room for regret is an excellent story which will keep the reader enthralled until the end.
Finished your book at 8:30 AM this morning. I am no literary critic, however, I found the story kept me fully engaged throughout. That’s saying something as I have been researching several of my 9 convicts forebears since 1998. Long before Ancestry arrived and many records went online.
My skin crawled when Toothless appeared and I wished for a suitably ghoulish demise for him – not Teddy! I fell in love with James Bryan Cullen – (he reminded me of my James Jordan – one of my heroes) – and I loved your portrayal of the stoic endurance of the Norfolk Island convicts.
Janeen, I’ve just finished reading your book after putting it aside until I’d completed FAW. (Families at War unit in the Diploma of Family History.) Congratulations on a wonderful story! You have really brought your family story to life, and in giving your characters a voice and personality you have ensured that their story is not forgotten. Thank you!
I really enjoyed the book. It was great. I was cut when the scumbag ******* murdered *****though.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story in your book Janeen. Having visited Port Arthur, Norfolk Island and England’s dock where the first fleet sailed from, it ignited my imagination. The personalities and vision of each of the characters came to life, as did the locations of everything that occurred. I also appreciated that the story moved along nicely, drawing this reader into each phase, keen to know what was going to occur next. Well done! Or should I say “written”.
I finished your book; I loved it. I thought it was a wonderfully written and powerful account of your ancestor’s lives. I found that I was able to visualise with your description of the environments that the characters were in, all the time. That, for me, is key. If I can imagine where they were and what they were going through, the book has me. It was highly enjoyable and kept me very engaged right to the end.
Thank you again for allowing me the privilege of reading your novel. I cannot wait for the next one.
I feel like I’ve made new friends, been on a ship, been forced to the other side of the world and much much more!!
I love the characters, love how it moves between their stories and is written so eloquently. I especially love the smells!!!
If I had more time on my hands I would’ve finished it in one weekend.. it’s amazing!!
Explains so much about the English/ Irish culture and stratification of society at that time too and feels so authentic that it leads organically into an explanation of the formulation of Australian culture.
The touches of history, distances, images, newspaper cuttings really bring the story to life and make you invest even more.
“I just finished reading your masterpiece. I thought it was so well written, I cried and laughed with the characters. I hated **** and was sure **** would be saved. I was on the edge of my seat as he made his way to the *******. A really great read, and would make an excellent movie”.
Firstly, thank you for trusting me with reading your first novel; I’m honoured.The general flow of the story was well structured – the initial imprisoning of Blay and Tedder in England, to their transportation to Van Diemen’s Land and then their assignment when they got to Australia.
The story of Blay’s family making the journey to Australia was enthralling and really made you feel the emotion of the journey.
It was very easy to read the story, in fact, at times I had trouble putting it down.
When I finished reading No Room for Regret, I felt grateful but wanted revenge for the characters. I lived right next to them throughout their journeys and wanted to reach out to them to give them to give hope. I relished in their glimmer of happy grateful times, but felt the burden of their hardship on my shoulders. I got to know them well. The author has presented a book extremely well written but so easy to read. I want the next chapter to right the wrongs to know all is well. The author makes no apologies on the explicit descriptions of their unjust treatment. I look forward to the next book to transport me back in history and back into the lives that brought me to this day. Well worth the read.
Janeen I have just finished reading ‘No Room For Regret.’ I couldn’t put the book down. I felt their pain and relished in their victories. When will the next book be released? I cannot wait to read how the next part of their lives go.
Thank you so much for writing this book.
The book was certainly an enjoyable read and the story line was well-plotted and flowed well. I liked the way Janeen focused on a later time frame in Tasmania and brought her First Fleeter in as an ‘example’ or role model for his convict employee and convict son-in-law to follow, although I wasn’t so keen on the continuing convict stereotype of the chains and the lash. Well done, Janeen.