The Hussar’s Passion opens only a few years after the Crimean War. As Tennyson penned his immortal eulogy to The Charge of the Light Brigade, and as Ireland continued to suffer the ravages of the Potato Famine, emigration to the colonies grew in popularity as the ordinary man attempted to seek his fortune.
Gold fever was epidemic among both the lower and middle classes, and men abandoned their families daily to board ships for Australia in search of respite from their daily struggle. As Hannah Hampshire steps aboard her own emigrant ship to the Australian colonies, she joins hundreds of would-be prospectors travelling to frontier towns such as Ballarat, Ophir and Mount McKenzie. Sadly, only few would succeed, but many would fall victim to bushrangers, disease, murder or suicide.
As Hannah steps ashore in colonial Melbourne, she enters a city destined to become more grand than most European capitals. Efficient railways, wide thoroughfares and tall edifices funded by the profits of gold and wool are at odds with open sewers, poverty and destitute miners leaving the diggings. While the crinoline dominates the ladies fashion pages, canvas towns dominate the skyline of Melbourne’s near suburbs, and the crime rate soars as desperate men do what they can to survive poor life choices.
In the frontier gold town of Ballarat, Chinese, Hungarian, German, English, Irish, Welsh and Scots work alongside each other to live the golden dream. Tragically, very few will succeed.