Tag Archive | Australian author

Review of The Tea Gardens by Fiona McIntosh

This is a beautifully written book. The descriptive passages of life in India in the early 1930’s and the beauty of the Himalayan mountains are mesmerising. Sometimes I felt that the beauty of the writing was more stirring than the story.

Isla Fenwick is an English woman doctor reaching an age where her father is becoming insistent that she make up her mind which of her suitors, of which there is no shortage, she wishes to marry.

He brings home an old friend, Jovian Mandeville, who is a little older than Isla. When Jovian proposes marriage she accepts him, realising that the crush on him in her childhood days is now love. However she wants to spend a year practising medicine in India, as her mother had done before her death. Jovian agrees, providing she promises to return and marry him a year later.

At the hospital in India she meets the unfathomable Professor Saxon Vickery, and travels with him to a tea plantation in Darjeeling. Drawn to him in a manner she has never before experienced, she must make a difficult decision.

 

http://www.kateloveday.com

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An excerpt from ‘the Trophy Wife”

Chapter One

Erin McDonald inhaled the incense that hung heavy in the air, trapped by the green velvet curtains that shrouded the windows. Was it the smoky atmosphere of the room making her light-headed, or the words of the black-clad woman opposite?
‘I see great changes ahead for you. Your life will undergo a complete change.’ The psychic’s eyes narrowed as she studied the watch in her hand. ‘I see your heart is aching. It is not a man who causes this sadness. No. You have lost someone very dear to you. Not long ago.’ She lifted her gaze. Her black eyes bored into Erin’s.
Erin’s throat tightened. ‘I lost my mother recently.’
‘I see three. Was it three weeks…or perhaps three months?’
Goose bumps prickled Erin’s arms. ‘Three months.’
Grace stroked the watch. ‘I see the Sydney Harbour Bridge.’ She paused. ‘You will go to Sydney, and live in a fine house. You will be buying clothes. Beautiful clothes. And shoes. I see you trying on a shoe – a wonderful shoe. It has high heels and is covered with crystals.’
Her fingers caressed the watch again. ‘Your mother wants you to stop feeling sadness for her. She has no pain now. She wants you to know she is happy. Yes. She wants you to get on with your life.’
Erin’s blood chilled. ‘You mean you can talk to her?’
‘No. I have a message. I see a D, a big yellow D. Did her name have a D?’
‘Yes.’
‘What is it?’
‘Deirdre,’ Erin whispered.
‘Yes. The message is from her. She wants you to know that you have a big future ahead of you. You will have troubles, but Fate will guide you, and you will find happiness.’
Grace sat back in her chair. ‘That is all I have for you today. I hope it is a help to you.’
She handed Erin her watch.

Erin’s head buzzed as she left. Part of her said it was all a load of crap. Very theatrical. But how could she know she’d lost someone dear to her? And that her mother’s name started with a D. And the bit about seeing her trying on a shoe. Why shoes? How could she know she had a thing about shoes?
Could she see into the future? Could she get messages from the spirits? And would she really move to Sydney? How? Why?

As she let herself into the little flat she and Deirdre had shared Grace’s words tumbled around in Erin’s head. She’d said Deirdre was happy now – that she had no pain. She hoped with all her heart it was true. Her mother had been so brave, trying to hide the pain of the cancer from her only child. But Erin knew. She wouldn’t bring her back again even if she could. Not to go on suffering like that. But how she missed her!
Grief filled her chest until she felt it must burst as great, wracking sobs came, tearing her soul. Grace said she’d find happiness, but right now it felt the furthest thing in the world from her.

Erin’s friend Laura sat opposite her at the table in the staff room during their lunch break.
‘So how did it go? What did the psychic tell you? Are you going to meet someone tall, dark and handsome?’Laura asked.
‘Huh, no such luck. That’s obviously not in my future. But she is pretty amazing, isn’t she?’
‘I told you! Come on – what did she say?’
‘She knew about Mum. She saw a bit of stuff about that. And she said I’m going to Sydney.’
‘A trip to Sydney. Lucky you. But what about your love life? What did she see about that?’
Erin gave a wry smile. ‘Nada. Nothing.’
Oh, rats! Well, we’ll just have to make sure you meet some new people. You’ve been so busy with looking after your Mum these last couple of years…’ She broke off and leant across to touch Erin’s arm. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. I know you’re still hurting. But you must get out and about a bit. You’ve got to get on with your life.’
Erin’s heart twisted. ‘I know you’re right. But I still feel so sad.’
‘Of course you do. I know how close you and Deirdre were, it’s only natural you miss her. But you dropped out of everything while she was sick and now you need to get out and meet people again.’
Laura was right. She couldn’t keep sitting home forever. And she couldn’t deny she was lonely.
‘What you need is a romance. Something to cheer you up.’
‘I don’t know I’m quite ready for that yet.’
‘Maybe not just yet, but you do need to get out. Look, I’m meeting Ben after work, and we’re going for a drink and a meal. Just us, but you never know who we might bump into. Come with us.’
‘Thank you, but two’s company, three’s a crowd. Besides, I’m not ready yet…’
‘If you don’t want to come to dinner, at least come for a drink.’
‘I don’t think…’
‘Come on. Please. I really want you to.’
Erin took a deep breath. ‘All right. And thanks.’

Erin hesitated as they entered the crowded and noisy pub, but Laura took her arm to lead her through the crowd. Suddenly Laura stopped, and her hand flew to her mouth.
‘Oh rats! There’s Troy…and Belinda. I didn’t know they’d be here.’ Laura cast an anxious look at Erin. ‘Um. I don’t know if you knew that Troy’s seeing Belinda now?’
Erin’s heart gave a little thump, but she kept her voice steady. ‘I didn’t, but it’s okay. I didn’t expect him to wait around for me after I let him down so often when Mum was sick.’
‘Agh! I’m sorry… I should have thought…after all, you were more than just friends…’
‘It’s okay. Truly. Don’t worry about it.’ She nudged Laura forward. ‘Come on.’
Ben turned with a smile on his face as Laura touched his arm.
‘Hi lovey,’ he said, squeezing Laura’s hand and dropping a kiss on her cheek. ‘And Erin. Good to see you. It’s been too long.’
Erin returned his hug, conscious of Troy standing with his arm around Belinda’s waist. ‘Good to see you too.’
Troy and Belinda had been standing back but now Troy, who could have been on a poster for surfing gear with his bleached blonde hair, tanned face and blue eyes, stepped away from Belinda and touched Erin on the arm.
‘Hello Erin.’
He’d once called her his ‘pocket Venus with bouncy red hair’.
He dropped a kiss on her cheek. ‘I was sorry to hear about your Mum.’
‘Thank you.’ Erin swallowed.
Belinda slipped her hand through Troy’s arm ‘Yes, me too,’ Belinda said. ‘Really sorry.’
‘Thank you.’
Ben put his arm around Erin’s shoulder. ‘What’ll you have, Erin? Do you still drink cider?
‘Yes.’
Within a minute he pressed a drink into her hand. She sipped it gratefully.
‘I haven’t seen you around for a while,’ Troy offered.
‘No. I’ve been busy lately. I haven’t been out much.’
‘Well, you know what they say – all work and no play makes for a dull day.’
She managed a smile. ‘So Laura keeps telling me.’
‘Well, I’m glad she brought you along tonight.’
‘I’m glad I came.’ The polite lie slipped easily from her lips.
‘Why don’t you join us for dinner? For old time’s sake.’
Belinda tightened her grip on Troy’s arm.
‘Thanks for the offer, but I have something arranged. I just popped in to catch up for a drink.’
Erin stayed for another drink as they all started discussing the big game tomorrow, when the local Newcastle Jets were playing Melbourne City. Then she said her goodbye’s and made her way home. The flat was very empty when she let herself in.

Chapter Two

It was a few weeks later and the psychic’s words had faded to the back of Erin’s mind when the manager’s PA gave her a message.
‘Erin, the boss wants to see you in his office.’
‘Do you know what it’s about?’
‘No.’
‘Okay, thanks Sal.’
Erin gnawed her bottom lip. The firm was undertaking restructuring, as they called it, and one of the younger girls was given notice last week. Was this why the boss wanted to see her – to tell her she was no longer needed? He’d always seemed happy with her work, but a little knob of worry inside her whispered she’d been less than cheerful around the office recently, mired down in grief as she’d been. Perhaps he’d noticed, and felt it was bad for morale?
She took out her mirror and quickly checked her face, then smoothed her hands over her hair in case her unruly locks had escaped. She headed to his office and knocked on the door.
‘Ah, come in Erin. Take a seat.’
Erin sat opposite Mr Hill, her hands in her lap, butterflies in her belly, and waited for him to speak. He took off his glasses and polished them before beginning.
‘I understand why you’ve seemed unhappy lately, Erin. It’s a terrible thing for a young girl like you to lose her mother, especially as you have no other family. I want you to know I feel for you, very much.’
The butterflies became a knot of tension. He was about to fire her. She sucked in a breath and forced words out. ‘Thank you.’
‘As you know, we’ve been restructuring things in the firm, both here and at Head Office in Sydney. Times are hard, and even an old established firm like ours is feeling the pinch, and we need to downsize.’
Erin clenched her hands together so tightly the nails dug into the flesh. It was her turn to go. Where would she find another job in these hard times?
The boss pulled a file towards him and opened it. ‘I see you’ve been with us for four years now, since you were sixteen, and you’ve always performed very well. I’d be sorry to have to let you go, so I have a proposition for you.’ He paused. ‘I’m right in thinking you have no particular attachments here in Newcastle, aren’t I?’
‘Yes.’
‘It so happens that our Sydney office is about to lose their receptionist, and I believe you would be ideal for the position. You’re bright and outgoing, and I’m sure you’d fit in well. I think a change of scene might be good for you. If you like the idea, I’ll recommend you, and arrange an interview with Mr Thomas.’ He leant back in his chair. ‘Now, how do you feel about it? It’s a long way to commute, but perhaps you could move down there, if you wanted. Do you think you’d like to live in Sydney?’
Erin’s hands unclenched as a surge of relief flooded through her. ‘Yes, I’ve always loved Sydney. It would be wonderful.’
‘Right. Then I’ll go ahead and arrange an interview.’

Erin chose her clothes carefully for the interview, knowing a receptionist needs to look smart as well as capable. Finally she chose one of her favourite outfits, a plain white linen dress with a black belt and a short black jacket.
She caught the early train to Sydney to make sure she was in plenty of time, and she approached the interview with Mr Thomas, head of the firm, with twin measures of excitement and anxiety. What if he didn’t like her? Would he think her capable of filling such an important position – the client’s first contact with his business?
But if she got the job, working in the sophisticated metropolis of Sydney, how exciting that would be!

Shivers ran up and down her spine as she sat waiting in the outer office until Mr Thomas was ready to see her. What was he like? What sort of as boss would he be – if she got the job? When she was finally ushered into his office she found he was slim, middle-aged, with a pleasant face and a brisk, business-like manner.
He looked up from a letter he was reading. ‘Ah, Erin McDonald,’ he greeted her. ‘Please take a seat.’ He gestured to the chair in front of his desk.
Erin was aware he scrutinised her as she crossed the room to sit opposite him. He took in her looks – slender figure, deep green eyes with black eyelashes, and dark auburn hair.
‘I’ve been reading your reference from our Newcastle office. John Hill speaks highly of you.
‘That’s very kind of him.’
‘Do you think you’d like to work here, Erin?’
‘Yes. I’d love to work here.’
‘Do you enjoy meeting people?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘I see that you took on the receptionist job in the Newcastle office when their regular girl was on leave. How did you find that?’
‘It was stimulating.’ She smiled. ‘Meeting all the clients face to face. I enjoyed that. I’d love to do it permanently.’
‘Then I would like to offer you the same position here.’ He smiled at her. ‘Will you accept it?’
The blood rushed to Erin’s head. She gulped before she had breath to answer. ‘Yes. Thank you. Thank you very much.’

When she walked out into the street a little later she felt as if she was floating. Receptionist at Atkins and Thomas, Chartered Accountants, of Pitt Street, Sydney. How good was that!
She bought a paper and carried it into a coffee shop. As she sipped her coffee she made a list of flats available for rent that were open for inspection today. The first four she viewed were dark and pokey, and she crossed them off her list.
The next one was a bed-sitter on the second floor of a building in Macleay Street in Kings Cross. When she climbed the steps to the door of 2A the agent was waiting to show prospective tenants through, and he invited her in.
The first thing that struck her was the sun streaming in through the double windows. She crossed the room and looked out. Opposite was the El Alamein fountain and the Fitzroy Gardens. She turned away from the view. The flat was bright and cheerful, and she fell in love with it. She went through the motions of inspecting the tiny bathroom and kitchen area, but she had made up her mind. She could be happy living here. She signed a lease right away.
She moved her belongings in the next weekend, and settled to life in Sydney. Just as the psychic had predicted.

Erin had been in her new job three weeks when she met Giles Brightman. A long-time client of the firm, he’d come in for a meeting with Mr Thomas. A striking figure, tall, dark and solid looking, without an ounce of fat on him. He exuded self-confidence and power.
‘You’re new here, aren’t you?’ he asked her, his eyes assessing her as he spoke.
‘Yes, Mr Brightman,’ she replied, smiling as she did at all the clients.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Erin McDonald.’
That’s Irish, isn’t it?’
‘Yes. My parents came here from Ireland.’
He nodded, but said no more as he went through to the offices. When he came out from his meeting he stopped by her desk.
‘I’d like to take you to dinner if you’re free tonight, Erin. Are you?’
Erin’s tummy fluttered. Fancy this imposing man wanting to take her out.
‘I…well, yes Mr Brightman, I am.’
‘Good. Call me Giles, and write down your address for me. I’ll pick you up at seven thirty. And leave your hair down,’ he added as he left, nodding at the barrettes she used to keep her hair tidy at work.

Erin looked Giles up on the internet later. He was forty one years of age. Divorced from model Megan Andrews three years ago. No children, and…Wow! He was one of the richest men in Australia. He owned a huge conglomerate with interests in hotels, real estate and property developments all over the world.
Why would he ask her out, when he could probably have his pick of the society beauties around town?

As Erin prepared for their night out she looked at her wardrobe. Giles was probably used to escorting lavishly dressed women when he went out. She owned nothing glamorous enough to compete. But her mother always managed to look stylish on her secretary’s pay. ‘You can look good without spending heaps,’ she’d told her. ‘Buy quality over quantity. Make sure you always have a little black dress and one really good pair of shoes. Then you can go anywhere.’
So she wore her little black dress, and her best shoes. And she left her hair down.

http://www.kateloveday.com/trophy.html

The Trophy Wife

Why would I write a story about domestic violence?trophy final

Because it’s a subject that’s pertinent to all women worldwide, and I care about what’s happening. Domestic violence is a dark blot on humanity.

No country, culture or social level is free from violence against women. It can take the form of physical violence, sexual violence, or verbal violence. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence.

The statistics are shocking.

According to the World Health organisation about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.

Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner.
On average, in Australia, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, according to the most recent analysis of homicide statistics in this country.

These are just the physical statistics. What can’t be accurately assessed is the emotional trauma experienced by the victims. Many women never fully recover – certainly none can ever forget their experiences. The realisation that they are in an abusive relationship causes women to experience emotional and psychological feelings akin to bereavement – and indeed it is a bereavement in a way, for it’s the death of a relationship. They struggle to come to terms with shock and grief at the loss of a partnership they  entered into with such love and high hopes, and they experience a loss of confidence and self esteem.

Some women keep silent about the abuse, for many reasons. Shame is high on the list, for what woman would wish to reveal her partner has hit her? So they cover up the bruises and make excuses. Almost all women want to leave such a relationship, but it’s not always easy, or possible, to walk away.

However, research and my own personal observations make me believe it is possible for a woman to have a life after experiencing domestic violence. For women who are strong enough to make the break and leave there can be a way forward. It is possible to learn to love and trust again.

In past generations abuse was often hidden, swept under the carpet.

But what about the women of today?

It was with this thought in mind that I first contemplated writing the story of a young woman who marries the man she loves, and then becomes a victim of his abuse. How would she handle the situation? How would she feel? Would she try to make the best of the marriage, or would she leave? Could she leave? If she did, how would she cope with the practical reality, both financially and emotionally?

In my mind was born Erin McDonald, a young woman of today. I got to know her very well. I learnt how she thought – how she felt – how she reacted to new situations. We were friends for a long time before I wove her story. But hers is not a story of gloom and doom. It’s a story about reinventing yourself, and the intrigues of Fate. It contains violence, but it’s a story of love, friendship, disillusion, and retribution, as Erin strives to change her life.

Meet The Trophy Wife…

It seemed as if it would be a fairy tale existence…

Erin McDonald is young, attractive, and unworldly.

Giles Brightman is wealthy, successful, and looking for a pretty wife.

Aden Marlowe is a lawyer, hard-working, compassionate, and unhappy.

Giles charms Erin, sweeps her off her feet and makes her feel like a princess. But slowly Giles’ dark side emerges. As the fairytale fades Erin knows she must get away. But he won’t let her go easily.
With little money of her own, and a platinum Amex card, she develops an audacious plan to give her a second chance – at Giles’ expense!

Aden is captivated from the start, but Aden has a secret.

Can Erin forge a new life? Could a new life also lead to a new love?

Links to purchase your copy:
http://www.kateloveday.com/trophy.html

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/805050

Black Mountain

A few years ago my husband Peter I took an extended caravan holiday. We began by exploring the east coast of Australia, working our way up from the south to the north. When we reached far north Queensland we fell in love with the area, and spent much time there.

Picture 364

We based ourselves at a little place called Flying Fish Point, a few kilometres east of Innisfail, bounded by the mouth of the Johnstone River on one side and the ocean on the other. A glorious place, where the forest is lush and deep green, the beach is long, and the azure sea and the sky seem almost to merge.

From here we visited the unique Daintree rainforest, beautiful in its wildness, hot and humid, criss-crossed with trails made by the many (usually!) unseen wildlife, and home to many primitive plants found nowhere else.

Daintree 2Q beach

We visited the huge plateau of the Tablelands, went up to Cairns, Port Douglas and as far north as Cooktown.  It was while we were returning from a visit to Cooktown via the Bloomfield track that we stumbled across Black Mountain. We planned to stop at the Lion’s Den, an old Australian pub, for lunch.

Lions den

But before we reached it we were startled by the appearance of a colossal, blackened mountain, strewn around with a jumble of enormous boulders that looked more like something that was dumped there by a giant, rather than a natural formation. Rising up from the wilderness, it was an eerie sight and stands in stark contrast to the green sea of forest around it.

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We left the vehicle and walked gingerly over the smaller boulders that fringe the side of the road.  It is a spooky place, and I felt sinister vibes all around as I stood gazing in awe.

I saw it would be a marvelous setting for a story.

My research has  revealed many tales of people who have ventured into its depths and never been seen again. Even a herd of cattle once strayed into its awesome depths and disappeared!  I knew then it was where Elly and Mitchell would be forced to go in their search for the rare plant they needed for Elly to fulfil her late father’s dream to produce the ‘fountain of youth’, the skin care every woman wants.

As they search together in the tropical heat of the rainforest, an attraction grows between them. But Elly is pining for her missing friend, Jackson – isn’t she? And Mitchell still loves his schooldays  sweetheart – doesn’t he?

BlackMountain_Round1_V2

Breast cancer – no death sentence

A week ago I attended a reunion dinner—not for authors, but for women, young and old, from all walks of life. And as I looked around at the sixty or so women in the room, I felt inspired, and I had an upsurge of hope and gratitude, for we were all breast cancer survivors… and all still ALIVE.
We were part of the Encore group, run by the YWCA for those who have breast cancer, where I had participated in their wonderful hydrotherapy program.
I was a ‘newbie’ among the group, only in my first year of survival. The lovely lady alongside me told me she had been diagnosed fifteen years ago and had been back each year for her check, with no recurrence of the disease.

And as I felt the lifting of the dread that affects all of us who are diagnosed with that scourge of womanhood, I thought that if I can give hope to only one woman, then it is worth writing about my experience.

When my GP told me she thought the thickening in my breast was cancer, I found it hard to accept. It couldn’t be! Not me! But a mammogram confirmed the deadly suspicion.

At my first consultation with the specialist he spelt it all out. There was no doubt about the diagnosis, and he explained all the possibilities, and I was left in no doubt that I must have a mastectomy.
Yes, I was going to lose a breast. That takes a bit of coming to terms with.

I went through a range of tests – MRI scan, PET scan, blood tests etc. …you name it, I probably had it.

    I was grateful for the loving support of my husband, who was with me every step of the way.

Then back to the next consultation. The cancer had not spread…yet…but I must have surgery as soon as possible, and we were given the next available date; in two weeks time.
Then a consultation with a breast nurse. These dedicated nurses are there to answer all the questions you have about the process. We discussed breast reconstruction, and prostheses, or breast forms as they are called, and she had examples there for us to see. Amazingly these are so realistic now they even feel like the real thing, and absorb the body temperature when you wear them.

The day of surgery arrived, and I admit I was scared. When I woke up in recovery I remember my first words were, ‘I’m still alive’. I had little pain, then or at any time while in hospital, and, while recovering at home, simple panadol was enough to ease any discomfort.
The next morning my specialist called in early to tell me the surgery had been successful, and the cancer had been all removed. A little later in the morning the whole breast cancer team visited, and we discussed all relevant issues.

After a short stay in hospital, it was home, and then a few months of visits to the hospital for treatment. I was fortunate in not needing Chemo or radiotherapy, and after I returned for my first annual mammogram and visit to the specialist, I was able to dispense with the drug I had been taking, and I was told my prognosis was good.
To celebrate, my husband and I went on a cruise, and returned just in time for Christmas, which we spent with family, including our two young grand-daughters.

So now, after a year and more since diagnosis, I am looking forward to a long and healthy future. Along with all my fellow-survivors at the Encore reunion dinner.

So don’t lose hope—remember…
BREAST CANCER IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.

SUMMERTIME

It is hot. Blisteringly, scorchingly hot, with the mercury hovering just below the forty degree Celsius mark. The sun blazes in a clear, blue sky, and all I can think of is the ocean nearby. That wonderful cool, clear water.

I don my swimsuit, a tee, sandals. Splosh on sunscreen, pick up a hat, sunnies, towel, bottle of water, and toss it all into the beach bag.  Drive five minutes to the beach and find a park close by.

The water beckons enticingly. Aqua blue, calm, with just a gentle ripple. The sand at the edge of the water glistens in the sun as a wavelet surges gently up onto the shore, before receding lazily to recoup its spent energy. I am amazed to see so few people on the beach and in the water. Plenty of room for many more.

I tumble from the car and cross the hot pavement onto the sand. Trudge through the soft sand. The red-hot sand infiltrates my sandals and my feet burn. Now I know what it’s like to walk over hot coals.

Reaching the strip of hard, wet sand above the water line I shed the sandals and the damp sand cools my feet. I drop the bag. Off with the tee, I head into the water and wade in.

The cool water caresses my legs. Little fish swim only feet from the shore, where ridges in the sandy bottom dig into my feet. Ouch!  But they are soon left behind for the smooth, sandy ocean floor.

I’m in waist deep and the water feels cold. There’s only one thing to do. Dive under and swim. After the heat, the cold water is sheer bliss! I come up with a gasp, shake my head and push the hair back from my face.

I look around. There are a few other souls in the water nearby. Teenagers splashing, diving, and horsing around. A few children on paddle boards. A group of three women a little way off, chest deep, hats on, bobbing down deeper now and then as they hold an animated conversation.

A couple of serious swimmers further out are practising their strokes.

I look down. The water is so clear I can see the shape of my toenails, and the occasional pebble on the sandy bottom. A lone strand of seaweed drifts by. But mainly it’s just clear, rejuvenating water. I swim a bit, do a few stretches and kicks, float lazily. The heat is forgotten.

Ah! This is what I missed so much when I lived in other places – South Australia’s long stretches of sheltered, white, sandy beach. Not crowded. Usually calm enough to actually swim in.

What! No surf? you say. No, if you want surf, go further down the coast. For me, I like to swim, float, cool off. Forget the heat.

This is Adelaide in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration comes first

I always enjoy learning the history of places I visit, and while living on the beautiful mid-north coast of New South Wales, I researched the past of Bulahdelah, a picturesque village about 200kms north of Sydney on the Myall River.

 Bulahdelah Mountain  Looking out from Bulahdelah Mountain

 In the early days of colonisation  Bulahdelah was well-known as a timber-cutting area, home to magnificent cedar trees. The local Historical Society is active, and they made their information freely available to me, and I searched records and pored over photos. Then an artist friend loaned me a book of ‘Rachel Henning’s Letters’- letters that had been written by the English wife of a Bulahdelah timber-mill manager in the mid-nineteenth century to her various family members. In them she described her daily life, which she found very agreeable.

 This made me curious about the lifestyle and conditions for all women in the nineteenth century

What my research found was that women then had few rights and were dominated by the men of the time, and not all women led the pleasant life enjoyed by Rachel Henning.

The law in that era stated that when a woman married, all her assets became her husband’s property, and the law gave him the right to force her to obey him in every area of her life.  This meant she was totally dependent on him for everything, both financially and emotionally. If he turned out to be heartless, violent or miserly, she had little or no recourse.

So, under the laws of the day a woman had few rights; prior to her marriage, she must obey her father, and when she married all her property became her husband’s on the day of their marriage. She became virtually his chattel, to treat as he wished. No matter how badly he chose to treat her, she had to bear it.

Women were considered to be physically, emotionally and intellectually inferior to men, and the entrenched and patronising attitudes of the time meant that the judiciary, all male, took the view that whatever the man did was right and a woman was meant to be an obedient homemaker and bedwarmer for her husband, while not expecting sexual pleasure herself!

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Throughout history there have been many influential women

 But on investigation it becomes obvious that they were either rulers, like Elizabeth 1, in England, or Catherine of Russia, or else they were wives, mistresses or concubines of influential men. Many of them had great power.

Strong, powerful women. 1237405994_top-10-hottest-historical-women_flash

But what of the ordinary, everyday women…

Women who had the spirit to rebel against this injustice – women who refused to be browbeaten by the men?  And if they defied custom – could they face the results of going against the conventions of the day?

Happiness – and love – could not have been easy!

It was these findings that incensed me and provoked me into writing the Redwoods  series.

AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN  is the first novel in the series. This book focuses on life in Australia in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and to make the story authentic meant researching many details in Sydney in that era. Which hotels, pubs, churches etc had been built by then? Where would Kitty and her mother have shopped? How far had the suburbs spread by then? What transport was available?  It also looks at the attitudes that caused Kitty much unhappiness in her marriage.

Independant Woman final

 After I finished ‘An Independent Woman’ I started to think seriously of my  next book ,which  continues Kitty’s story and begin that of her young daughter Joy. However, I found that writing in a series throws up a whole new set of problems for an author. I have covered this topic in  my blog on writing a series  (Sept 7)

 A Liberated Woman finalBy the time I came to write ‘A LIBERATED WOMAN’ I had already done a lot of research into Sydney in the late 1800’s for ‘An Independent Woman’. However by 1893, the starting date of this book, the political climate had changed. There was hot debate over the looming prospect of Federation.  Some colonies were for Federation, some against, and I needed to research the political figures of the day and their opinions. Also, Australia was in the grip of an economic depression – did this affect my characters?

Then there was a whole new world to portray when Joy went to England, to meet her English family, to be presented to Queen Victoria, and to have a London Season. The relatively free and easy lifestyle of Australia gave way to the strict social codes of Victorian England, where life was highly regulated.

My research for this included learning the protocol of presentation at Court, and what activities happened where and when during the Season – from garden parties and coming-out balls…

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 to a week at Royal Ascot for the thoroughbred racing….

 Ascot,-Royal-Enclosur[1]  Royal enclosure at Ascot, 1800’s

‘AN AMBITIOUS WOMAN’, the last book in the trilogy, begins with the commencement of the new century, a time of hope and new beginnings, and focuses on Joy’s life now she has becomes a woman – on her relationships, and on her burning ambition to make Redwoods into a successful thoroughbred horse stud, an ambition that was born back in England when she visited Royal Ascot with her grandfather.

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 As I had already done a great deal of research into women’s roles in those early years for the previous two books I had no need to delve further there, but I knew little of horse breeding.  So my research focused on that. I investigated some of the ailments that can afflict horses, watched the birth of a foal on ‘You Tube’ video and ‘picked the brains’ of a horse breeder. All very interesting.

 For the racetrack scenes I drew on my own experiences, having been a lover of thoroughbred racing and a frequent visitor to the races for many years. I have always loved the thrill of watching those magnificent animals stretching towards the winning post, every fibre in their bodies striving to win, and then to see how they relish the cheers of the crowd when they beat the rest of the field!                       

                                           !How they love to race!      371128-race-horses

 Having once been the part-owner of a racehorse I understand the nervous excitement  Joy felt  before and during each race, and the euphoria when her horse came first past the post – a feeling that’s hard to beat! And I understand too the affection and attachment you feel for your horse, win or lose!

As for the relationships and emotions of the characters, in all the books– well, allowing for the difference in the conventions of the time they’re not all that different from those of people today. Times change, but people don’t.

Over the centuries we have all had similar needs and desires – for a good life, security, a loving partner. A wish for romance is strong in many of us. And we all experience similar emotions at times. Love, hate, fear, anger, frustration. We all have different ways of dealing with them, and so it is for the people of Redwoods.

I had a lot fun doing this research, and putting the characters into the situations in these books. I hope you will enjoy reading about them as much as I have enjoyed telling their stories.

‘AN AMBITIOUS  WOMAN’ is now available on Amazon and  on SmashwordsApple iBooks, Barnes &Noble , and Kobo

 

 www.kateloveday.com