Romantic Times 2013 – Here I Come!
When I was growing up we used to play what we called “The Epitaph Game”. As the name suggests, we had to come up with a one-liner we hoped would sum up our lives.
Jokingly, the family – dad, my two sisters and I – all agreed our mother’s should be: “She was a good worker” without realising what a tragic prophecy it would turn out to be. Born and brought up in an affluent suburb of Pretoria, South Africa, in the 1930s mum moved, after marrying dad, to the remote highlands of the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, where I was born. After Lesotho gained independence we emigrated to Australia where she embraced a life that was far more strenuous than her previous, having now three children and no help compared to life as the District Commissioner’s wife when she had no children and a staff of three, not counting the gardeners.
Mum loved Australia and I had an enormously happy childhood full of adventure, one of the biggest being the life-long family project my sisters and I embarked upon with mum and dad: building the family home out of mud bricks we’d made and stockpiled over five years. The house – which we still own as a B&B called Bronte Manor – was two-storey, with cathedral doors and antique sash windows and we used to camp on our 80-acre property in South Australia’s beautiful wine growing district, the Clare Valley, while we wallowed in mud or laid the brick floors in herringbone patterns to set off the baronial fire place. Mum put so much effort into that house.
Three weeks after mum and dad made the big move from the city to live permanently at Bronte Manor following dad’s retirement, mum died unexpectedly. Her heart had been weakened more than any of us realized as a result of experimental breast cancer treatment and her determination to apply a thick polish treatment to the floor was too much for her.
When I think back to the hilarity of The Epitaph Game I wish we’d decided mum’s should be: “She lived a life of Adventure”. It would have been true and it epitomized her spirit. However, that was what I’d chosen as mine all those years ago, and mum was my biggest advocate, pressing me to follow the much more risky but exciting path I ultimately chose, despite the fact I was on track to marry my teenage sweetheart of eight years, now a stockbroker, and I was likely to live just round the corner from her rather than across the globe, as transpired.
For it was on the last day of a working holiday, around a camp fire in Botswana’s beautiful Okavangao Delta, that I met my future husband: a handsome Norwegian bush pilot.
In our eighteen years of marriage Eivind and I have lived in Botswana, Namibia, Solomon Islands, Norway, Japan and Australia. While based in Canada for three years we worked for a geophysical survey company on long contracts in French Guiana and Greenland. My job was operating the survey equipment in the back of low-flying Cessna 404s and CASA212s and it was exciting never knowing where we’d be sent next. I didn’t always fly with Eivind, though, and I found that being cocooned for long periods of time with a lonely pilot was a great apprenticeship for a romance author. In the evenings I often retreated to my room (when I was on a separate contract to Eivind) where I would weave dramatic and romantic plots as an escape from playing cards or drinking beer. It was the beginning of my career as a romance author.
Eivind and I have been settled for nearly five years now in a pretty country town north of Melbourne. Eivind is a long haul pilot and we’re contemplating our next exciting holiday: a motorcycle camping trip through Nevada (whooping it up in Las Vegas) and California before I head off to Kansas City for the Romantic Times Convention 2013 to celebrate the release of my first Ellora’s Cave Erotic Regency Romance, Her Gilded Prison and my first Pan Macmillan release in the Hot Down Under collection, Saving Grace.
The trip will be a bit of a 50th birthday present for Eivind and I know it’ll be a blast!
Hopefully I’ll see some of you in Kansas City. I’ve not been there before but I’ll be in fabulous company which will include my critique partner, Jess Dee, as well as my fellow Hot Down Under author friends, Lexxie Couper and Rhian Cahill.
And as I soar through the canyons on the back of Eivind’s bike I’ll think of mum’s adventurous spirit soaring with me, and of how much she’d have loved to have met the grandchildren who remind me so much of her.
Saving Grace will be released on Jan 01, 2013. To celebrate I’m offering readers an e-copy of The Cavalier, my short novella set during the English Civil War in which a reluctantly-wed Puritan woman finds that the man leading the enemy forces besieging her castle is in fact the Cavalier lover she was forced by her father to relinquish eight years previously. See below for how to enter the giveaway.
In the meantime, here’s the blurb and a brief extract from Saving Grace.
It’s 1878 and London’s most hard-hearted prostitute is preparing for her next client.
Saving Grace is about a beautiful prostitute whose hated life is thrust upon her as a result of safeguarding the secret of the man she once loved and whom she believes betrayed her.
Reclining on the red plush sofa, Grace sipped the sickly sweet orgeat Madame Chambon insisted her girls drink and tried not to think about the night ahead. The others were gathered in companionable groups on the fashionable Egyptian sofas, their heavy scent perfuming the air.
As usual, no one gravitated towards her, though of course later, when their clients came calling, that would no longer be the case. Grace would have preferred the company of a like-minded female rather than the alternative.
An expectant hush fell as the heavy draped and tasselled curtain was drawn aside and Madame Chambon arranged herself theatrically in the opening, ready to address her petites choux.
“Ravissement!” she complimented them in thickly accented English, clapping her hands. Grace suspected the elegantly ravaged Madam came from Lambeth rather than the Left Bank. Not that it mattered. No one in this business was who they said they were.
Least of all, Grace.
The girls, awed and anxious, straightened their rich, colourful gowns nervously. Despite her appearance of bonhomie Madame Chambon could turn on a coin. And it was she who ensured they did not return to where most of them had been plucked – the gutter.
“A great opportunity awaits one of you for tomorrow,” she addressed them, “for I have just been honoured by the visit of a woman of great discernment…”
A couple of the girls tittered. “A woman-?”
They closed their mouths at Madame Chambon’s beady stare, attending as she went on, “who has requested I supply her with one of my loveliest…”
She drew out the pause as several of the brothel’s most popular young ladies preened.
“… most hard-hearted girls.”
All heads turned towards Grace. She blinked. Is that how they regarded her? Hard-hearted?
She simply had nothing left to offer anyone once she’d earned enough to pay her keep and just survive.
Madame Chambon levelled her expectant look upon Grace whose mouth dropped open in protest. “A woman? But-”
“The woman wants to give her son a present to remember for his twenty-first birthday. She is obviously a very fond mother-” Madame Chambon allowed herself to share the girls’ amusement, adding, “with very good sense in choosing our select establishment to provide him with the very best initiation-” Her smile grew cloying as she continued to look at Grace – “without fear of him being lured into a transaction that includes a transfer of affections amidst all the other … ahem … transfers that take place.” Though she made a gesture with her hands to indicate the transfer of money, the girls tittered at the double entendre.
The redhead closest to Grace dug her friend in the ribs. “Grace doesn’t have a heart to lose.” Her whisper resonated.
Nor did Grace have the heart to participate in the banter that followed.
So what if she’d been selected? It was just another job and a good thing she need not worry about eliciting the emotions of a twenty-one-year old virgin. Pleasing, also, was the knowledge that it would inevitably be over in less than five minutes.
Thank you, everyone, for dropping by tonight. I’ve never regretted choosing the adventurous path and marrying a pilot in whose company I’d spent only 2 weeks. However during long periods of separation it’s nice to communicate with other readers and authors during events like this.
Beverley is giving away an ecopy of her novella, THE CAVALIER, to one lucky commenter. Tell us, what one line might sum up your life? Giveaway ends @12am est 11-19-12. Winner announced shortly thereafter. Looking forward to seeing what y’all come up with. 🙂
Bronte Manor, family’s B&B in S.Australia’s Clare Valley