Mary Johnston sets Audrey in Virginia in the years when the colony proudly regarded itself as an English land.
Feigning a sprained ankle, Marmaduke Hawarth deserts the 1716 expedition to find a route over the Blue Ridge. Before he can get back to the pretty frontier lass he saw on the way west, Indians massacre all her family except her young sister.
Hawarth places the child, Audrey, with a minister and his wife and goes off to England for 12 years with never a thought to the child.
When he returns, Audrey is 18, beautiful but barefoot, starved for affection, accustomed to physical and mental abuse, and terrified of the half-breed who is the minister’s drinking and gaming partner.
Hawarth accepts the barefoot girl’s adoration without thinking that his attentions ruin her reputation. He’s busy making plans to marry the lovely Evelyn Byrd,Virginia society’s leading lady.
Johnston tries to position Hawarth as a hero, he comes off as a conceited jerk. Even Evelyn Byrd, who would have married Hawarth, seems glad that she did not.
Audrey isn’t much account as a heroine either. She may be beautiful, but she’s about as personable as a tree stump.
The interest in the novel is primarily in the historical details about colonial life. Johnston shows the stark contrast between the affluent Virginians with royal land grants and poor ones with branded arms and indentured years of indentured servitude. At least by twenty-first century reckoning, colonial Virginia had as much reason for shame as for pride.Audrey Mary Johnston Illus. F. C. Yohn Houghton, Mifflin 1902 400+ pages Project Gutenberg EBook #14513