Never Look Back by Lesley Pearse
Published: 2000 by Penguin
Pages: 737 (paperback)
Genre/s: Historical Fiction
Source: Own library
Moving from the slums of Victorian London to the plains of the Wild West, the darkest edges of New York and the gold rush of San Francisco, NEVER LOOK BACK is the story of beautiful and intelligent Matilda, who rises out of poverty to forge a new life for herself in the land of the free.
Escaping the deprivation she was born into, Matilda travels to America with Giles, a Church of England minister, his wife Lily, and their young daughter Tabitha. There she finds passion and heartbreak, but it’s not until she meets Captain James Russell that she finds true love. A love that must withstand separation, war, and the constraints of their society.
Matty has a hard road to travel, but eventually she discovers that life must go on, no matter how painful, and that she must never look back ...
Never Look Back is my fourth Lesley Pearse book - whenever I'm in the mood for historical romance, hers are the first books that I check out. They are rather formulaic - underpriviledged girl with balls of steel and a big heart set out to make their way in the world and end up in an epic romance, which sometimes ends happily and other times not. The endings are pretty much the only variation in terms of the plots generally, but that's also a part of the appeal to me - I never know exactly how the story will end.
In Never Look Back, Pearse takes a girl from the slums of London and through a series of fortunate and not so fortunate events, transplants her to America.
There are a lot of strong female characters in Pearse's books, which is great in that I respect them as characters and don't want to punch them for being sissy-girls, but in Never Look Back it leads to character inconsistencies. One example being Matty's best friend, who after taking Matty into her home and having Matty keep the family together in the midst of tragedy, then refuses to go through with a deal that Matty had made with her and her husband and pretty much wants to keep her in her home as a slave. Pearse tries to explain this away by using the friends' ignorance of the value of money as an excuse, but I really didn't buy that a woman who had overcome so much in her life wouldn't at least ASK her best friend to explain the situation before acting like a complete bitch towards her.
However, those inconsistencies aside, I very much liked Matty - she was selfless, strong and very independent, although at times it did make her seem a little heartless when something terrible happened, later on I could really see the impact those events had on how she chose to live her life.
I wasn't surprised at the length of Never Look Back as Pearse consistently writes chunksters, but I found this one really slow going. It took me nine days to read, and the last book I read with 700 pages took me two days. I'm having a tough time putting my finger on why, but I think it is because Pearse took so much time setting up romances (even though the outcomes were blatantly obvious) that I got a little bored and frustrated. And the parts I was really interested in, such as Matty's nursing experience during the civil war, were over far too quickly.
Although I didn't love Never Look Back, I will continue to read more of Lesley Pearse's books - they are a little bit hit and miss for me, but sometimes it's fun starting with lower expectations and then falling in love unexpectedly.