blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The War Girls – Rosie Jones*

Can their friendship survive the darkest days of war?

When Abigail arrives for a new start in Bristol in the late 1930s, she knows life won’t be easy – particularly as she is the unmarried mother of three-year-old Emily Grace.

But as the war starts to take over the city and threaten their very existence, will Abigail’s new friends, Carrie and Eileen, be enough to keep herself and her daughter safe?

My thoughts:

I’m not a huge fan of war fiction but I do love a story about friendship and this is definitely one of those. My favourite bond in the book is little Emily’s with ‘Mrs Gladys’, Eileen’s mother, it’s so sweet and delightful.

The three young women have a wonderful friendship which sees them through the bombing of Bristol, working in a munitions factory, finding love, and beyond.

A heartwarming and cosy book, curl up under a warm blanket on a freezing evening and enjoy.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Through the Waters and the Wild – Greg Fields*

“I was hungry, seeing myself starving for want of something I could not define. I sought it constantly, sought it at every turn, searched every face I met for hints of it, looked everywhere I could conceive. I lost time trying to slake this unquenchable thirst, trying to satisfy an endlessly burning hunger. But in the end I knew precisely what I had been after all along. It is the folly of the young, part of their particular curse, to be so unaware, to be blind as well as hungry. To be in exile from themselves and not know they are away.”

Haunted by lost loves and limping through a lifeless career, Conor Finnegan’s discontent mirrors the restlessness of his grandfather Liam, caught as a young man in the crossfire of the Irish Civil War. Drawing from Liam’s wisdom and courage, Conor seeks to reinvent his character and reclaim passions made numb by neglect and loss.

Through the Waters and the Wild addresses the timeless questions, “Where shall I go now? What shall I do?”

Q&A with Greg Fields

Author of Through the Waters and the Wild

Question: Congratulations on your new novel, Through the Waters and the Wild! Tell us what the book is about.

Greg Fields: Coursing through several decades, Through the Waters and the Wild spans the farmlands of Ireland, the Irish Civil War, the corridors of power in Washington, DC, and the interior landscapes against which we all seek to craft identity and meaning. With well-drawn, complex characters, a strong narrative arc, and a poetic sense of place, Through the Waters and the Wild not only takes readers on an epic journey, but addresses the timeless questions, “Where shall I go now? What shall I do?”

Q: Through the Waters and the Wild picks up where your last book, Arc of the Comet, left off but can also work as a stand-alone. Why did you decide to return to Conor’s story and what will fans of your first novel be most excited by?

Fields: Conor’s story was nowhere near closure at the end of Arc of the Comet. That was, in fact, the point of it, that there are no final, neat, tidy resolutions and that we all need to continue defining who and what we are. It made sense to carry Conor’s journey forward and to explore how he reacted to the losses he experienced. He’s a different person now – bruised, more cautious, less given to the passions and spontaneity that marked his earlier years. He’s become more like the rest of us.

Q: What made you decide to feature the Irish culture and Ireland prominently in your books?

Fields: I believe that there’s no such thing as complete fiction. Much of Conor Finnegan’s career as described in the book reflects my own experiences, especially his experiences overseas in international development. My grandfather emigrated from Ireland, as did Liam Finnegan, but Liam’s story is not my grandfather’s. Still, I was inspired by the courage of leaving everything behind, the conscious choice to abandon the only world one has ever known.

Q: Exile and redemption are some of the recurring themes in the novel. But what do you hope readers take away most from your writing?

Fields: Most of my writing revolves around the central questions that I believe each of us must constantly ask ourselves. I would hope readers would come away with at least a recognition of those questions in their own context. But what matters, and what’s subtly stressed throughout both novels, is that the answers to these questions are not nearly as important as the asking of them. When we fail to ask ourselves those questions, we cease to be truly alive.

Q: You once had a memorable and fateful encounter with a big literary inspiration of yours, Pat Conroy, who quickly became a fan of your words after you recited a few lines for him. What was it about the meeting that inspired you to become a writer yourself?

Fields: I had written fiction for years, but the demands of a career always pushed that pursuit to the corner. A chance meeting with Pat Conroy as I was developing Arc of the Comet changed all that. Pat saw something in my writing that I did not know was there, and from that point I committed myself to giving every chance to prove the possibility that I might actually be a writer.

My wife, knowing how I loved Conroy’s work, surprised me with tickets to one of his talks and the VIP reception afterward. Knowing absolutely no one at the reception, I headed to the hors d’oeuvres table. Pat approached me from behind, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “We’ve not met. I’m Pat Conroy.” Something intuitive there, and we ended up talking one-on-one for nearly 20 minutes while the other guests circled around and glared at me. Pat was gracious, and we learned that we shared the same birthday, the same literary influences, and the same jump shot on the basketball court. He asked me to recite some of my work, and I was able to do so, after which he got quite serious and said that he wanted to read what I had. We corresponded, and Pat Conroy made me a writer. I’ve told this story many times, in greater detail, as an homage to my generation’s brightest literary life, and a man I came to love.

Q: What’s next for you? Will you be writing another book around Conor’s story?

Fields: I’m working on the next novel. I can’t completely abandon Finnegan, but I think his story has run his course. He’ll make a few cameo appearances in a narrative centering on fresh characters. But the questions, the themes, will be similar to what’s come before, even though they’ll be pursued through different eyes.

Greg Fields is the author of Arc of the Comet, a lyrical, evocative examination of promise, potential and loss, published by Koehler Books in October 2017. Arc of the Comet explores universal themes in a precise, lyrical style inspired by the work of Niall Williams, Colm Toibin and the best of Pat Conroy, who had offered a jacket quote for the book shortly before his death. The book has been nominated for the Cabell First Novelist Award, the Sue Kaufman First Fiction Prize and the Kindle Book of the Year in Literary Fiction. He is also the co-author with Maya Ajmera of Invisible Children: Reimagining International Development from the Grassroots. He has won recognition for his written work in presenting the plight of marginalized young people through his tenure at the Global Fund for Children, and has had articles published in the Harvard International Review, as well as numerous periodicals, including The Washington Post and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. His short nonfiction has appeared in The Door Is A Jar and Gettysburg Review literary reviews. Greg holds degrees from Rutgers College and the University of Notre Dame. He lives with his wife Lynn and their son Michael in Manassas, Virginia. For more information, please visit www.gregfields.net or connect with him on Instagram and Facebook.

Giveaway: Win a copy of the book over on Twitter

My thoughts:

This is a lyrical, thoughtful book, stepping from the slightly adrift in his own life Conor back into the past and the life of his grandfather, Liam, as a young man in rural Ireland during the 1920s, a time of uprisings and conflict.

Drawn into the fight for independence, Liam loses the woman he loves and then has to head out West, across the Atlantic to Chicago, where he remains.

His life story inspires Conor to make some changes in his own and pursue a different way of thinking and search for the things he really wants in his career and in his love life.

This is a powerful and moving book, the Liam section especially, and encourages the reader to think about their own life and happiness. Beautifully written and tenderly constructed, it lingers in your mind long after the final page.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Art of Dying – Ambrose Parry*

Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels.

Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with

Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels.

Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with The Way of All Flesh, is based.
The Way of All Flesh was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

My thoughts:

This was a cracking historical thriller, as Dr Raven and the super smart Sarah (I hope she gets to medical school, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson graduated from Middlesex in 1865, so there’s hope!) try to solve a series of apparently natural deaths with no obvious symptoms.

They also pursue the truth around an accusation of professional misconduct made against their employer, Dr Simpson, and seek out the thief stealing from the Simpson household. As well as doing their actual jobs!

I really enjoyed this book, and am going to go back and read it’s predecessor, The Way of All Flesh too.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Sparrow Alone – Mim Eichmann*


1890s. Colorado. Following her mother’s sudden death, thirteen-year-old Hannah Owens is hired as domestic help by a wealthy doctor’s family in Colorado Springs. When the doctor declares bankruptcy and abandons his family to finance his mistress Pearl DeVere’s brothel,

Hannah is thrown into a world of gold mining bonanzas and busts, rampant prostitution and the economic, political and cultural upheavals of the era.

Two of Cripple Creek’s most colorful historic characters, Winfield Scott Stratton, eccentric owner of the richest gold mine in Cripple Creek, and Pearl DeVere, the beautiful madam of The Old Homestead come to life as this old-fashioned, coming-of-age saga unfolds, a tribute to the women who set the stage for women’s rights.

My thoughts:

This was really interesting, I’m always fascinated by stories of women’s lives through history and to be honest, the Colorado gold rush isn’t something I know much about, being British. My cousin and her family now live there though, so this added a little extra interest for me.

Hannah Owens is a brave and resourceful woman, she doesn’t expect much from her hard scrabble life on the fringes of the mining community of Cripple Creek. She’s willing to work hard and fight.

She finds herself raising a child, the daughter of her friend Abigail, and singing at events hosted in the fanciest brothel in town. None of this is easy, and despite her youth she is level headed and wise beyond her years.

The story was fascinating and I cheered Hannah on as she fought to live her life on her own terms and survived some truly horrible things. The ending made me cross, just as everything was finally working out and I can only hope that in the sequel Hannah doesn’t have to suffer too much.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Runes of Destiny – Christina Courtenay*

Separated by time. Brought together by fate.
Linnea felt a shiver travel the length of her spine.

It hadn’t been a joke – the runes really had shown her destiny.

Indulging her fascination for the Viking language and losing herself in an archaeological dig is just what
Linnea Berger needs after her recent trauma. Uncovering an exquisite brooch, she blacks out reading
the runic inscription, only to come to, surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-
enactment very seriously.

Lost and confused, Linnea finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his
thrall and takes her on a treacherous journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the ninth century.

Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn.
Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …

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Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings.

Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014).

The Runes of Destiny (time travel published by Headline 10th December 2020) is her latest novel.

Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

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Giveaway to Win a signed copy of The Runes of Destiny and Plushy Raven (Open INT)

My thoughts:

This was a really enjoyable take on the time travelling romance, with Vikings not Highlanders.

When Lianna digs up an old brooch on a dig her uncle is running, she’s thrown back in to the 9th century – and promptly taken by a local tharl as a slave, luckily his much nicer brother claims her and although he’s planning to sell her, he treats her kindly and protects her from the threat of rape from his deeply unpleasant brother.

They undertake an epic trip across the continent and sea to what is now Istanbul, the better to sell their furs, amber and thralls. On the way Lianna learns a lot about the world in the 800s, from the food to the gender politics and slowly begins to fall in love with the taciturn man who “owns” her.

It was a really interesting, fun, entertaining read and I’ve already ordered another of the author’s books as I liked this so much.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random
Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Cornish Promise – Terri Nixon*

1929, Cornwall. Fiona Fox, youngest child of the celebrated Fox family, is a devoted volunteer at the local lifeboat station, giving all her free time and her energy to the selfless crew. But when she seizes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do more, she sets in motion a chain of events that sparks danger and intrigue at Fox Bay Hotel.

The stranger she brings into her family home provides an unsettling presence over Christmas, and when visiting ‘Hollywood Royalty’ is drawn into the web, Fiona has to decide how much her promises are worth after all.
But the glamorous visitors have their own secrets, and their own reasons for hiding out at Fox Bay. As those reasons become apparent, Fiona must choose between betraying a close friend, and keeping her word… And lives are at stake whichever way she turns.
Set against the dramatic Cornish coastline, this tale of secrets and strangers will delight fans of Rosie Goodwin and Evie Grace.

Amazon

Terri was born in Plymouth. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to the village featured in Jamaica Inn — North Hill — where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one’s ever offered to pay her for doing those.
Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press.
As a Hybrid author, her first commercially published novel was Maid of Oaklands Manor, published by Piatkus Entice.
Terri’s self-published Mythic Fiction series set in Cornwall, The Lynher Mill Chronicles, is now complete and available in paperback and e-book.
Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon. She is represented by the Kate Nash Literary Agency.

She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Plymouth University, where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don’t possess pens.

Twitter Website

My thoughts:

I do love a book set in Cornwall, one of my favourite places to go, and this one is set near Bude, where my uncle lives and a place I’ve visited a few times.

This is a wonderful, charming book, warm and cosy, comforting like a mug of hot chocolate, perfect for a winter’s reading.

The Fox family run a beautiful hotel, and the book revolves around them over one winter, particularly around the two daughters – Fiona and Bertie.

Fiona volunteers with the lifeboat crew and in involved in the rescue of a young woman with no memory, or so she claims. Fiona befriends her an promises to offer assistance in recovering her memories.

Bertie, recovering from a horrific motorbike accident, where she lost a leg, is trying to move on with her life. She plans to train as a pilot, and rekindles a romance with the handsome farmer Jowan.

Meanwhile Hollywood comes to Kernow, as movie stars decamp to the hotel to prepare for a new film.

Secrets and schemes are revealed, love blooms and a terrible accident almost ends several young lives.

Thoroughly charming, enjoyable and deeply soothing a read, I curled up under my reading blanket with this, and so should you!


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Time For Swords – Matthew Harffy*

When the Vikings attack, a novice monk’s life is changed forever in Matthew Harffy’s new historical adventure.

Lindisfarne, AD793.There had been portents – famine, whirlwinds, lightning from clear skies, serpents seen flying through the air. But when the raiders came, no one was prepared.
They came from the North, their dragon-prowed longships gliding out of the dawn mist as they descended on the kingdom’s most sacred site.
It is 8th June AD793, and with the pillage of the monastery on Lindisfarne, the Viking Age has begun.
While his fellow monks flee before the Norse onslaught, one young novice stands his ground. He has been taught to turn the other cheek, but faced with the slaughter of his
brothers and the pagan desecration of his church, forgiveness is impossible.
Hunlaf soon learns that there is a time for faith and prayer . . . and there is a time for swords.

Amazon UK

Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him. He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Twitter Website

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this slice of history brought to life. I remember learning about Lindisfarne as a child, and being fascinated as to why the Vikings targeted a small religious community, before learning about the extreme wealth of the Church. And then I got it.

Halfur is a great protagonist – a warrior monk in a time before warrior monks (see the Crusades, William the Conqueror’s axe wielding brother, Bishop Odo). He believes God wants him to take up a sword and defend people against invaders who would kill them and steal from them.

His band of fighters, literally drawn from every corner of Britain (and Ireland) are a rag tag bunch but incredibly brave and determined. Each has their own reasons for joining and their own weapons and fighting style. I liked the urbane Welsh swordsman and the female archer Wulfwaru (my tiny Grandma, from Devon, was an award winning archer in her time), the best, although Cormac the Irishman, out for revenge was actually rather sweet.

This was an action packed book, roaming the bleak Northumberland landscape (where part of my family hailed from) and protecting the coastline from the Scandinavian raiders.

Fascinating, entertaining and vividly written, a treat for historical fiction fans, fingers crossed for more of Halfur’s adventures, the things hinted at throughout the text, his memoirs, suggest tremendous adventures await.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields*

With a new foreword by Margaret Atwood.

Widely regarded as a modern classic, The Stone Diaries is the story of one woman’s life; that of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a seemingly ordinary woman born in Canada in 1905. Beautifully written and deeply compassionate, it follows Daisy’s life through marriage, widowhood, motherhood, and old age, as she charts her own path alongside that of an unsettled century.

A subtle but affective portrait of an everywoman reflecting on an unconventional life, this multi-award-winning story deals with everyday issues of existence with an extraordinary vibrancy and irresistible flair.

Beautifully written and deeply compassionate, it follows Daisy’s life through marriage, widowhood, motherhood, and old age, as she charts her own path alongside that of an unsettled century.

A subtle but affective portrait of an everywoman reflecting on an unconventional life, this multi-award-winning story deals with everyday issues of existence with an extraordinary vibrancy and irresistible flair.

Carol Shields (19352003) was born in the United States, and emigrated to Canada when she was 22. She is acclaimed for her empathetic and witty, yet penetrating insights into human nature. Her most famous novel

Her most famous novel The Stone Diaries was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, along with the Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Happenstance was praised as her tour de force, masterly combining two novels in one. The international bestseller Mary Swann was awarded with the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian mystery, while The Republic of Love was chosen as the first runner-up for the Guardian Fiction Prize.

In 2020, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, a North American literary award dedicated to writing by women, was set up in her honor.

Her work has been published in over 30 languages.

My thoughts:

I hadn’t heard of Carol Shields before, and from the foreword it seems she’s not hugely well known in the UK.

I found The Stone Diaries really interesting, although I was a little confused as to who the narrative voice was at times – it seems to be Daisy but uses the third person, an interesting stylistic choice.

Charting Daisy’s life from birth to death, from Canada to the US and back again, the writing draws you into the family saga with Daisy at the heart. From daughter to wife to mother to grandmother, Daisy’s passage through life seems both easy and at times very complicated.

Mixing letters, family members’ recollections and Daisy’s own thoughts, this is a thought provoking look at women in the 20th Century, with Daisy as a sort of everywoman.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Beneath a Starless Sky – Tessa Harris*

The smoke tingled in her nostrils. Acrid. Harsh. Lilli Sternberg’s quickening heart sounded an alarm as she rounded the corner of the street. Lifting her gaze to the rooftops, she saw a roaring blaze of thick flames engulf the side of the building and join the stars to fill the black sky. Her father’s shop was no more.

Munich 1930

Lilli Sternberg longs to be a ballet dancer. But outside the sanctuary of the theatre, her beloved city is in chaos and Munich is no longer a place for dreams.

The Nazi party are gaining in popularity and the threats to those who deviate from the party line are increasing. Jewish families are being targeted and their businesses raided, even her father’s shop was torched.

When Lilli meets Captain Marco Zeiller during a chance encounter, her heart soars. He is the perfect gentleman and her love for him feels like a bright hope under a bleak sky.

But battle lines are being drawn, and Marco has been spotted by the Reich as an officer with great potential. A relationship with Lilli would compromise them both.

Will Lilli be able to escape the threats facing her family, and how much is she willing to risk for the man she loves?

My thoughts:

This is a beautiful and moving love story, full of danger and intrigue, as Lilli risks everything to become a star and then to save her family.

Lilli is a Jew in a Germany that is rapidly changing as a new political power takes shape, but her ballet talent whisks her all the way to Hollywood and into high society, including the circle of the Prince of Wales and a certain Wallis Simpson.

But her family are still in Munich and as Hitler’s grip tightens and war looms, Lilli must risk everything to save them and herself.

This was at times very sad, as indeed anything set during WWII often is, terrible things were done and the horrors contrast starkly with the glamorous whirl of London society and parties that Lilli becomes a part of.

The ending was fairly uplifting and redemptive, thankfully, as before that there was a shocking moment that I thought might turn out very differently.

The romance between Lilli and Marco was touching and tragic but again ultimately redemptive.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Portrait of a Man – Vicky Adin

PortraitofaMan

We’re celebrating the release of Vicky Adin’s latest historical fiction, Portrait of a Man! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a print copy of the book!

518bD0tN5FLPortrait of a Man

Publication Date: October 23rd, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Will the secrets of the past destroy an artist’s legacy?

Matteo Borgoni is a desperate man. He must succeed if he is to free his beloved wife, held captive by her father in Melbourne. His picture framing skills establish him with the artists of Dunedin in 1863, but he has many doubts, and many more obstacles to overcome.

Fifty years on, Luciano, a rakish Italian portrait artist on the run from his past, turns up at the Invercargill branch of Borgoni Picture Framers seeking refuge. As the ravages of World War One escalate, fear is constant, but compassion brings unexpected consequences. A terrifying pandemic is the last thing they need.

Over a century later, a man recognises a portrait in an Auckland gallery, and demands it back. Amid another global pandemic, a marriage on the brink of failure, and a life and death struggle, the portrait exposes generations of family secrets and deceptions with life-changing results.

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Excerpt

January 1863

The Arrival

Matteo Borgoni walked off the ship like a man reprieved. He closed his eyes and inhaled the early morning air, detecting the usual animal dung and the grease and tar of a busy harbour, but also something fresher, more life- giving. Seagulls squawked overhead, searching for tiny fish among the seaweed rippling against the wharf piles for their breakfast. “This,” he sighed with a lighter heart than he’d had in a long time, “this is where life begins again.”

At first glance, Port Chalmers was more makeshift and primitive than he’d expected after Melbourne. Wooden buildings stood haphazardly along the main street and scattered over the hillside. The port hummed with activity, which pleased him. A busy port was good for business, but he hoped the city of Dunedin – some eight miles south-west – would be more prosperous. He heaved his bag onto his shoulder and, dodging horses, carts, trolleys and people laden with goods and baggage, he followed the steady stream moving along the wharf to where the authorities were waiting.

He’d seen the likes of many of his fellow passengers before. Poor miners and prospectors coming from the gold rushes of Victoria hoping for better luck. Most would move on again, empty-handed and defeated. A few had families, dragging them from one rough-and- ready tent town to another in the hope of striking the big one. He’d met a handful of Italians among them. Crazy people, in his opinion.

A voice from behind announced the presence of a toffee-nosed Englishman.

“This way, my dears, follow me.” He pushed his way forward as he escorted his wife and daughters to wherever they were going. “Make way, I say. Make way for the ladies. Coming through.”

Eventually, the queue moved along, and Matteo’s turn came.

“Name!” barked the official, who ticked him off the passenger list and waved him on.

At thirty-five, Matteo had seen a lot of living. He was barely twenty-one when he left his home near Lake Garda in Northern Italy – a tiny hamlet surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the Dolomites, where life was measured from one festival to another filling the square with customs and chatter. On the odd occasion, he’d returned when money allowed. When he didn’t have the funds, he wrote to his sister, Gabriella, who understood him; understood why he needed to leave the traditions and shackles of the small village behind and find a new life; why he had no freedom in their tiny three-storey brick home living the peasant lifestyle. His dreams were too ambitious to be confined.

As he walked towards the village, the sun pleasantly warm on his back, he let his dreams fly free again.

“Hey, Matteo,” a fellow Italian called in heavily accented English. “You come?”

“Si, I come.”

Over the years living in Melbourne, Matteo had learnt to speak English. Now it was his everyday language, even with other Italians. There were too many regional differences to speak his mother tongue to passing strangers.

The younger man clapped him on the back and together they made their way along the dirt road. Trees covered the hillside, and the lush, green countryside appealed to Matteo.

He’d arranged for his packing crates to be transferred directly to Dunedin, but the new paddle steamer, designed for the shallow waters of Otago Harbour, wouldn’t be leaving for a while yet – and he needed a drink.

“Let’s go.”

With a beer in hand, they sat in a crowded barroom of the Royal Hotel, taking in their new surroundings.

“So, tell me, what brings you here?” asked Stefano, his accent far stronger than Matteo’s.

“A new adventure.” Matteo shrugged away thoughts of his past failures.

“Gold. You look for gold. I go look.” The young man’s eyes gleamed at the thought of making his fortune, as many others had yearned to do in the goldfields of Australia and New Zealand.

“No, I’m a businessman; a craftsman. I set up shop here.”

Matteo had soon learnt that life was a case of ‘each man for himself’ when the madness of gold took hold. He’d seen too many fools work themselves to death for a few ounces of the shiny metal hidden in veins in the rock, and had far bigger plans than living the filthy, harsh life of a miner.

“What, no gold? Then why you leave if you have business?”

“Leave where? Home, or Melbourne?” He didn’t want to talk about why he’d left Melbourne. No one here needed to know.

Stefano pulled a face. “I think I know why you left home. My papa say things not the same since Risorgimento. Si? Unification. Phht! He asks how can the north be like the south when our food and our words are different? People fight to keep what is theirs of right; they don’t want change. They don’t need one nation. They want to be Trentino men like you, or Tuscan like me. Friends, but not the same.”

“Si, infatti,” Matteo agreed, wondering how much Stefano had experienced first-hand, given his youth, and how much was his father’s opinion. Nothing was as simple as he made it out to be. “I left during the ’48 revolution – it was that, or fight, and I did not want to fight. Detesto politica. Generation after generation, many revolutions. One side say this; the other that. I don’t want to know.” But if what his cousin Alessandro had written was true, there was much infighting and disagreement still going on. “But it is better to be one people – Italian people – than be ruled by foreigners, si?” He sipped his beer and curled his lip at the bitter taste.

The men continued to chat about the strife still going on at home as the states fought to become a kingdom, or not – depending on which reports came from where – resolving nothing, and agreeing life was better away from it all.

 “Which way you go to Dunedin?” asked Stefano. “By paddle steamer, why?”
“I’m told there’s a new road now, over the hills.” “So I heard, but by all accounts it’s no more than

a bridle path and not suitable for wagons. And I need to transport some goods – belongings I brought from Melbourne. Do you have a horse?”

Stefano shook his head. “No. I use all my money on the ship here and on a licence and tools for mining. I walk.”

“There are many seagoing craft between here and Dunedin; perhaps you could work your way …” Matteo paused before he came to a decision. “But come with me. I could do with some company on our first night. I buy a ticket.”

“Truly? You let me travel with you?”

Matteo nodded, glad to have someone to talk to for a while until he got settled.

They ordered some food and more beer while they waited for the ship’s whistle to alert them to its departure. Within the hour, they were boarding The Golden Age.

“A good omen for me, si?” laughed Stefano on seeing the name.

“Maybe it is,” agreed Matteo as they made their way up the gangplank.

“Welcome aboard this magnificent vessel during her first week of operation in this wonderful harbour,” said the captain. “It is my pleasure to transport you to Dunedin, and I personally guarantee your safety.”

Matteo leant against the rail admiring the new paintwork and studying the intricate construction of the paddle wheels and saloon facilities.

“I hope he’s right,” he said to Stefano in a soft voice. “From what I hear, all is not well. They left one of their owners behind. He was supposed to captain it on its maiden voyage over here. And then they struck a big storm and the ship was damaged.” Matteo wondered how unusual a rough crossing was, given his own less- than-comfortable passage. “They left the cook behind, too. Locked up, they say, for stealing the engineer’s watch. Not a good start.”

“How you know all this?”

Matteo lifted his shoulder. “I ask questions.” He looked around to make sure no one could overhear him. “I heard another story. About a Signor Alexander Leys, the engineer, who disappeared overboard a few days ago. I wonder how the captain can say everyone is safe when he lose someone.”

“Incredible!” said Stefano, agog at Matteo’s words.

“Not so much. Pays to be careful, that’s all,” said Matteo in warning. “But I’ve got better things to worry about. First task, find good vino – if such a thing is possible. I cannot survive on that beer.”

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About the Author

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Award winning historical fiction author, Vicky Adin is a genealogist in love with history and words.

After decades of research Vicky has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together in a way that makes the past come alive.

Fascinated by the 19th Century women who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life, Vicky draws her characters from real life stories – characters such as Brigid The Girl from County Clare and Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner, or Megan who discovers much about herself when she traces her family tree in The Cornish Knot.

Her 2019 release, The Costumier’s Gift, is the dual-timeline sequel to the family sagas of Brigid The Girl from County Clare and Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner.

In 2020, Vicky released Portrait of a Man, the soul-searching and heart-warming conclusion to The Cornish Knot.

Vicky Adin holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education. When not writing you will find her reading – she is an avid reader of historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories; travelling – especially caravanning, and cruising with her husband and biggest fan; and spending time with her family.

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