James Bryan Cullen, exiled in the First Fleet, then exiled by Governor Phillip to Norfolk Island in 1790, and then again by the British Government to Van Diemen’s Land in 1807. He succeeds despite the power the government on the other side of the world holds over him. In 1796 Cullen takes in Elizabeth Bartlett, a pregnant Irish convict girl from Dublin. With a new family and status, a dynasty begins.
Twenty-four years later, two convicts, exiled on the same vessel – Indefatigable – disembark in Hobart Town: twenty-one-year-old, naïve, James Tedder, transported for standing up to a 70-year-old diamond merchant who molested him, and forty-two-year-old James Blay, a London shoemaker, transported for stealing three pairs of leather boots. The determination to break the stigma attached to convicts leads these two strong willed men to become respected settlers. Land grants are obtained, government contracts to supply meat and wheat are secured and James Bryan Cullen’s influence permeates family and livelihood.
Meanwhile, Sarah Blay, left in England alone to raise and educate three boys, follows her husband James to Van Diemen’s Land. She embarks on a journey that takes her and her children fourteen months to complete. Sarah’s story is one of amazing strength, wisdom and courage. The three boys grow up in a convict colony, marry into convict families, and through their wives, continue the Cullen legacy.
A lovely review from Amazon US:
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story of Australia’s convict pioneers
Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2020
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was an exciting historical book about the lives of Australia’s convicts transported for minor crimes. This book was well researched and fast paced, and I could hardly put this book down.
A fellow author, Isobel Blackthorn, posted this review on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m chuffed.
Jul 02, 2019
Opening No Room for Regret the reader is grabbed by the collar and thrust into the worlds of twin protagonists James Tedder and James Blay as they are both arrested, charged and transported as convicts to Hobart Town, Tasmania, Australia. Tedder leaves behind his family of origin; Blay leaves his wife, Sarah, and their three sons. After a terrible voyage lasting many months, the men arrive and face some early tribulations, but then both find good fortune in securing positions away from the chain gangs. Tedder works in the stores and Blay for a former convict, James Cullen, on his farm in New Norfolk. What unfolds as these two men serve their sentences is a heartwarming and heartbreaking tale of families intertwining, of convicts gaining their freedom and adjusting to life in a new and strange world filled with curious animals and birds. It is a tale of resilience, survival and common humanity. There are a few antagonists along the way to keep up the tension and the drama, including the despicable Toothless, a convict guard out on a lifelong vendetta to harm Tedder.
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 : NEXT CHAPTER
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
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.”