In the fourth of Riley’s Seven Sisters series, another of the D’Aplièse daughters discovers her true heritage.
After her sister Star finds herself, Celaeno, aka CeCe, whose career as a painter has stalled, is free to follow the directive left by her late adoptive father, Pa Salt. (Series readers will recall that Pa Salt, a shipping magnate, adopted seven girls as infants, naming them after stars in the Pleiades constellation.) CeCe is instructed to research Kitty Mercer, who lived in Broome, a northwestern Australian town renowned for its pearl fishing industry. After a romantic interlude with an eccentric Bangkok billionaire, CeCe arrives in Australia, where additional clues lead her to the town of Alice Springs and its surrounding desert, the Never Never. There, while discovering her artistic heritage through aboriginal paintings, she learns of a mixed-race man who may be her grandfather. CeCe’s story meshes with sections devoted to Kitty, beginning in 1906. The daughter of a philandering minister, she journeys from Scotland to Australia, where she marries into a German-Australian pearling family, the Mercers, setting up household in Broome with husband Andrew. She gives birth to son Charlie after providing shelter to an aboriginal girl, Camira, and her infant, called Alkina (Moon) but nicknamed Cat for her large amber eyes. Cat and Charlie grow up together and become inseparable. When Charlie reaches adulthood, his determination to wed Cat once more upends Kitty’s destiny. Kitty’s tangled history and its equally snarled connections to CeCe’s origins unravel at a leisurely pace, with much lore about pearl fishing, aboriginal culture, and Australian race relations adding interest.
Riley’s exhaustive, and occasionally exhausting, research is on full display here.