Love at Lost Lagoons is the third novella in the linked series Stations of the Heart, set in outback Australia in the 19th century. It can be read as a standalone story or after Lord Muck and Lady Alice and Love and Other Addictions.
This novella tells the story of reclusive bachelor, Walter Jamison, who runs a struggling north Queensland pastoral station he desperately wants to turn into a paying concern. His isolated life is shattered by the arrival of Elizabeth Chesterfield, a young woman determined to escape an arranged marriage being forced on her by her scheming brother. Walter and Elizabeth fall in love while Elizabeth’s brother and her ‘fiancé’ camp on the other side of the flooded river. What will happen when the waters recede?
Read an excerpt:
North Queensland, December 1879
Elizabeth’s rasping breath thundered in the clear night air. Her booted foot snagged a tree root. “Umph.” She hit the ground hard. Dragging air back into her aching lungs, she scrambled to her feet.
Elizabeth stared back along the track, straining to see into the shadows made by the trees in the moonlit night. Did someone move within them? The chill creeping down her spine told her there was something more.
All around her the bush shimmered with the movements of unseen creatures. An owl hooted its haunting sound.
Dread knotted her stomach. Had they discovered she was gone from camp and were following her?
Her heart thundering in her ears, Elizabeth ran on through the dappled darkness along the lonely track. She prayed that by dawn she would be far, far away from them. Surely, if she could follow this path south she would reach the track that led back down the range, back to the coast, back to the port where their long slow journey westward had begun.
There would be a boat to catch. There had to be.
Elizabeth stumbled and fell again. Her long skirt and petticoats hampered every move, but she dared not take them off in case they were found and showed her direction.
She lurched onward. How much further? She must get to the top of the range before sunrise, when they would notice her disappearance.
As dawn’s first blush kissed the eastern sky, Elizabeth leant against the papery trunk of a ti-tree and struggled to silence her heaving breaths.
Ahead, in the clearing where they had camped the previous night, was a four-wheel dray, resting on the grass like an enormous horned beast. Bells hung off the necks of its hobbled bullock team clanged dully amongst the surrounding trees.
The bullock driver lay rolled in a blanket between the dray and a dwindling fire.
Where was he headed?
The vehicle faced towards the track down the range. It must be heading towards the coast. She tried to swallow the lump of fear in her constricted throat.
Could she make it past the man and onto the dray’s load without disturbing him? Her hands prickled with sweat.
Slowly, so slowly, she eased herself across the open ground to the dray. Her heart pounded beneath her chemise.
The man hadn’t stirred. Nor had the huge dog that lay beside him, its paws twitching in its sleep.
Elizabeth held her breath and raised the stiff canvas where its ropes were untied. She hitched her skirt and petticoats to her knees and climbed up the spokes of the wheel onto the close-packed goods underneath. Sacks of something formed a hard layer. She inched forward seeking the centre of the load. She needed to be far from the opening through which she had crawled, when the man awoke.
Her legs ached from the unaccustomed running. Tiredness scratched her eyes. She must stay alert … at least until she knew she was undetected and her transport was on its way to the coast.
The sounds of dawn were louder now. Raucous and chortling birdsong greeted the new day. Surely the man must wake soon.
Within minutes, came the sound of a deep voice and the tell-tale stamp of boots and herding of bullocks through the bush as the bullock driver re-assembled his team, his dog snapping at their heels. The dray rocked and creaked as the beasts were harnessed into their yokes. The job seemed to take forever but eventually the bumping ceased.
The man’s sleep-roughened voice called to the dog. “Stop sniffing around the dray, there’s nothing in that load for you to eat.”
From nearby came the crackle of his renewed camp fire. Soon, a billy can swung through the air with a whoosh. She knew that sound now. Next the stomp and clatter of the camp being broken up. A chink of light showed under the canvas beneath which Elizabeth sheltered as something—probably his bed roll and cooking gear—were restored to the dray’s load.
With the crack of a whip the man called, “Walk on, Perseus, Hector, Hercules.” The dray rocked once, twice, but didn’t move forward. “Get them moving,” the man ordered.
His dog responded with high pitched barks. Bellows of outrage answered the snapping of its jaws. The dray jerked. Elizabeth imagined the animal nipping the bullocks’ hocks and the beasts lashing out with their hooves while the dog dodged their intended blows.
Through the combined efforts of man and dog, the dray soon lurched and creaked into motion. It wheeled in a wide arc, then settled into a steady plodding tempo.
Now the dray was moving, Elizabeth permitted her stinging eyes to close. The rough descent down the range later would keep her well and truly awake. Stopping the dray from ending up down one of the steep gullies that lined the rugged track would take all the teamster’s persuasive powers.
It took only moments for her mind to drift into exhausted oblivion.
Elizabeth jolted awake—her heavy eyelids snapped open, her muscles clenched for flight. Canvas stretched above her, rough sacking scratched her arm. She slumped back onto the load. She was on the dray, not in her brother’s roadside camp.
She heard … nothing … well not silence, but no patient deep voice calling upon the bullocks with their classical names or to the cattle dog to keep them moving. The creak and sway of the dray was gone also. Those background noises and movements, which had lulled her into sleep, were gone.
How long had she slept?
The outside sounds were no longer those of dawn. Instead, waves of cicada song pulsed through the bush. The air around her was stuffy. Perspiration dampened her underclothes. A thirst all the rain in England couldn’t quench parched her mouth. Hunger gnawed at her stomach. The bread and apples she had taken when she escaped her brother had been eaten before sunrise. There might be a few crumbs in her pocket.
She would have to wait until nightfall and the bullocky’s sleep until she could move from her hiding place. There must be food on the dray she could eat. Surely?
Her limbs ached from being cramped in the same position.
What was happening?
Where was the man with the steady voice?
Why had she slept so long? The range descent should have woken her.
Distant voices sounded. And came closer. Brisk steps clumped nearby.
Something was happening to the tarp. Its tight form loosened, and light shafted in from the back of the dray.
Elizabeth wriggled further away, easing herself towards the front. Which corner was furthest from the man who was now taking some of the load from the tail of the dray? She crept to that farthest point.
The tarp there was no longer pulled taut by the ropes that had kept it in place.
She eased the canvas open. Could she get down from this height and run for the bush?
More men’s voices reached her ears. And they were approaching!
She had to move soon or she would be found.
Elizabeth lifted the canvas.
No-one in sight. The men congregated at the rear of the dray. She inched her body round on the sacks until her legs were positioned over the edge of the load, then slid clumsily to the ground.
“Umphf.” She landed in an inelegant heap on the dirt and scrambled under the dray on all fours. Sitting cross-legged on the bare earth, she rubbed the spot where she had hit her head on the vehicle.
Several sets of legs showed at the rear of the dray. They were unloading it. Men with sacks on their shoulders walked towards a cluster of buildings. The deep voice of the bullock driver, commanding and cultured, directed them.
Where am I?
A low-slung slab house stood nearby, overlooking a long lagoon. In the opposite direction were a number of timber buildings and yards erected down a long slope running away from the house.
At a pastoral station.
The men walked closer. Scuffed work boots stood within inches of her hiding place under the dray. At any moment one of them would lean down and see her. She shrank back, body rigid. If she could stop her breathing and the loud beat of her heart, she would.
After an eternity, while the goods were hefted from the flat tray above, the men departed. As soon as the last one disappeared down the rise towards the yards and buildings beyond them, Elizabeth crept from her hiding place. She edged alongside the waiting bullocks. They tossed their heads, as she inched past. Don’t bellow, please.
A line of bush stood about a hundred yards away. If she could make it there without being seen, she would have some chance of escape. Had she been delivered to her brother’s property? Surely not? She hadn’t heard him.
Elizabeth drew in line with the leading beast. It stamped a hoof and tossed its broad head, sending her heart galloping. She clutched a hand to her chest and sucked in a steadying breath. The wide gap to the trees had to be faced and conquered now. Oh, god. Elizabeth gathered her skirts in her hands, swallowed drily past her constricted throat, and ran.
One step, two…
“Oi!” A shout exploded the late afternoon quiet.
She sprinted even faster. The bushes were closer now, but the heavy steps behind her were getting louder. She had almost made the tree-line. Please, please, let me reach safety. Her heart pounded, threatening to burst from her chest.
A heavy hand slammed onto her right shoulder like an axe thumping down on kindling. Elizabeth’s knees buckled. A strangled scream burst from her mouth as she crumbled to the ground.
His long, hard fingers, roughened with callouses, bit into her shoulder.
She struggled with all her might.
He didn’t let go.
Fear, dark and menacing, seized her body, sending her heart thumping wildly.
He hauled her to her feet. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
She gulped air like a drowning sailor swallowing water. She couldn’t have answered him if she had wanted to.
She could only stare into his eyes, the colour of the tawny port her mother had allowed her to sip when ill. They looked fierce in his tanned face. Bushy auburn mutton chop sidelevers, of the kind that had been popular a decade ago but had fallen out of fashion, framed his face. A shaggy moustache straggled across his upper lip, half hiding the grim line of his mouth.
“Where have you come from?” His frowning face was just inches from hers.
She shrank back. “I … can’t … tell … you.” The words puffed out on short breaths.
“Who are you?”
She would never tell him. He would take her straight back to her brother.
“Are you running away from your employer?
“No!” The word burst out of her mouth, as she rocked forward.
Never. “I’m not married.” And I won’t be if I can do anything to stop it. “I want to go back to Cardwell. Are we close?”
“No, we’re several days’ journey away.”
Despair, bleak and heavy, hugged her. “Can you take me there?”
“No, I’ve just come back from there. The rains are due. Look at the clouds.” He pointed up at the threatening sky to the east where steel grey clouds rolled towards them. “All the creeks and rivers between here and the coast will be over their banks once that rain falls.”
He pulled her, unwilling and resistant, for a couple of steps. With a growl of annoyance, he grasped her about the waist and lifted her from the ground. Elizabeth yelped. She squirmed and kicked him with her heels, and tore at his hands, but it made no difference. His muscular body braced against her back like a wall, as his huge strides consumed the distance to the buildings.
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910AD, a convent in Mercia in 'England'
Someone pounded on her cell door. “Wake up, Lady Eadlin! Wake up!”
Eadlin shook her head to clear her sleep-befuddled mind. “Cenric! What’s wrong?” Dread balled in her stomach.
She tugged her habit over her shift and wrenched the door open.
Cenric burst in. He held a sword and small knife. His face was grim, set into harsh furrows.
“Raiders, Lady Eadlin. You must flee at once. They’re in the village and heading this way.”
Now Eadlin could hear distant screams and shouting. The acrid smell of smoke floated on the night air.
Fingers of fear crept amongst her guts like ice spreading across a pond in winter. “I can’t leave the sisters. Can we defend ourselves?”
His jaw dropped. “Not against armed raiders.”
“Are they Vikings?” Her words were high-pitched and breathless.
“Probably.” His voice was severe.
Her heart pounded in terror. Oh God, not that! Eadlin pulled on her veil and boots then upended her reed mattress and took an ancient engraved dagger from beneath it.
The old warrior gestured at her with his sword. “You would prefer to die defending them?”
He grimaced in distaste. “Then get them into the chapel. It’s the strongest building.”
Eadlin ran out to beat on the doors of the nuns’ rooms yelling, “Vikings! Go to the chapel!”
The abbess, veil askew, joined her in shepherding the sisters into the stone building adjacent to their sleeping quarters. A few squat candles burnt on the altar, casting ghoulish shadows across the walls.
Fear haunted the abbess’ eyes, but her voice held its usual calm and commanding tone.
Cenric secured the door and stood ready with his sword. As he waited he pleaded, “Flee, Lady Eadlin, flee! There’s still time! It’s what your father would want you to do. Go while you can!”
Blood pounded loud in her ears. He was asking her to abandon these gentle women who took her in, to leave them defenceless. “I can’t, Cenric. There’s nowhere to go. This is my home, and this is my family now.”
Sounds of timber splintering and pottery breaking shattered the air. A dozen nuns huddled on their knees before the altar.
The abbess led them in prayer, “Domine, libera nos a furore normannorum….” Lord, save us from the fury of the northmen, but most, Eadlin saw, were distracted by the screaming and shouting coming from the village across the river and the noise outside the chapel door.
Some sobbed, and Sister Ælthgifu held a trembling novice in her arms.
The door to the chapel reverberated with the force of a shoulder or foot against it.
“Open the door or die!” yelled the attacker in English, his voice harsh and authoritative.
Surprised, Eadlin exchanged a glance with Cenric across the doorway.
Who were these attackers who spoke their language?
Were they the king’s men, come for her, or were they Vikings as Cenric had thought?
Neither she nor Cenric moved. Either way, danger stood beyond the door and would be in the chapel soon enough without their aiding it.
In seconds the cleaved door hung tattered from its hinges, and their attacker towered before them.
He was tall. Very tall.
His form filled the doorway.
Smoke and the sweet tang of blood clung to him. An iron helmet with nosepiece and a ragged blond beard hid all but his cold blue eyes, harsh cheeks, and bitter mouth.
Eadlin knew then-
#romance, #historicalromance, #Viking, #HistoricalFiction, #historical
A couple of years ago I strayed into the English Civil Wars era to write this novella. It's set it in The New Forest -my favourite place in the UK.
Here's the blurb:
“In a nation divided, two enemies are united.”
Widowed during the Battle of Worcester, Puritan woman Charity Goodwyn, dares to dream of an independent life, living with her aunt, unbeholden to men. Sir Edward Lovelace, a Royalist, gravely wounded in the same battle, wants to live to serve his king again. Charity’s only way to safely reach her aunt is to take the Cavalier with her, disguised as her husband, and helping him escape the Parliamentarian forces. What happens when Sir Edward unexpectedly recovers, surprises and endangers them both.
Charity's Cavalier is available now for pre-order prior to its release on 29 July.
Here's an excerpt from the third short story in Forbidden Valentines - 'George'.
I've posted excerpts from the first two stories on Facebook already see; https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaHargreavesBooks/.
“Stop tidying, George, and get to bed.”
“Oui, my lord.”
“Don’t ‘my lord me’. Come here.”
George banged around in the dressing room a little longer, closing wardrobe doors, before exiting to respond to James’s order. “Yes, my lord? Is there something more I can do for you this evening?” George raised an eyebrow.
James’s heart beat strongly in his chest. “Come here, I said.”
George stepped to him and waited with a look of enquiry.
“There is something you can do for me.” James tugged on the black stock at George’s neck. It fell open on the shirt.
George glanced down at the material then raised dark eyes to James with a questioning look and a half smile.
James pushed the black coat from George’s narrow shoulders. It fell unhindered to the floor. “Not going to pick that up, George?” he taunted.
“Non.” George watched him intently.
In the spotlight today is Queensland-based author Susanne Bellamy whose latest novel Engaging the Enemy was released yesterday.
Tell us about yourself, Susanne.
I love travel—new places, new faces, different cultures and endless possibilities. I’ve cruised from Australia to Britain and back through the Suez Canal when I was a child, trekked in Nepal and Vietnam, lived briefly in Noumea, visited western Europe and west coast America among other places. Let me repeat—I love travel! And history.
People’s stories fascinate me. Past and present lives and relationships and the mysterious ways Fate works. Even how I met my husband—Fate. Wonderful and mysterious.
And so my stories explore people engaging with the mate that Fate created for them. And the wonderful and mysterious ways in which they meet. I should probably thank the flat-mate who locked me out of my new house years ago which led directly to
meeting my husband. But that’s another story!
Check out my story boards on Pinterest for White Ginger, One Night in Sorrento and Engaging the Enemy as well as works in progress, including the Emerald Quest for Entangled Publishing. See what else you can find!
What's your latest book Engaging the Enemy about?
Andie and Matt both need the same building in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.
Matt wants it to atone for his past and Andie’s future is tied up with the fate of the old pink granite home. Their differences should keep them apart but the building brings them together in ways neither could have foreseen.
What do you think reader will enjoy most about it?
It’s a Romeo and Juliet story but with a happy ending. Bright passion wars with conflicting needs and serious chemistry. I hope readers enjoy the tension and the sizzle!
Who/what was the inspiration for this book?
An abandoned red-brick building I spotted during my first tram ride in Melbourne. It looked like it needed some TLC and what better than to have not one, but two people itching to renovate it! Perhaps there was also a touch of the ugly swan story in the building. My protagonists were able to look beneath the city grime surface to discover the beauty within. I love that idea of what’s on the inside counting for more than the façade we present to the world.
What qualities do you instil in your heroes and heroines?
I adore heroes and heroines with sense of humour, intelligence, passion and a sense of social justice. Engaging the Enemy’s hero Matt is Irish with ideas about justice shaped by his Irish background. Family is paramount to him; he would do
anything for those he loves, as would Andie. These qualities are responsible for their choices and contribute to the central
Our personal histories shape who we are but our choices determine who we become. Willingness to change and grow as a person is essential, as is accepting challenges in life and forging our own path. We have the luxury of a peaceful country that allows us scope to set our own challenges. Within this broader context, Andie and Matt do learn to love and to live.
What was the hardest part about writing this novel?
Funnily enough, it was not getting caught up in a secondary character’s love life! Lexie Hamilton-Smythe is Andie’s best friend and has two men interested in her. There were times when I wanted to explore her story, even while loving writing Andie and Matt’s story.
Where to next?
A Season to Remember is a Christmas anthology of four short stories written by four south-east Queensland authors. We write in a variety of genres and this free gift collection will reflect our diversity. There is a sea theme running through each story but I can’t give too much away just yet. However, it will be available in late November. Check out my Facebook page and website then to receive your gift!
And 2015 will see the release of the Emerald Quest series through Entangled Publishing. Five authors and a two hundred year search for a fabulous emerald and diamond necklace. Mine is the fourth book in the series. Set in Hawaii in 1960, it is the story of Evangeline Abbott, English heiress, and Lucien Martineau, an Island plantation owner. It’s a delicious story. After White Ginger, my debut novel, I absolutely loved revisiting Hawaii for this one.
Congratulations on your latest book Susanne! Thank you for joining me to talk about it.
Thanks for hosting me, Isabella. I’ve enjoyed my visit so much.
One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.
Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart.
She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.
But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.
But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer?
You can find Susanne at the following sites:
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=9780857991768
Excerpt From Engaging the Enemy:
Andrea de Villiers couldn’t have orchestrated the accident better if she’d planned for a year instead of just one night.
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were almost finished as she edged closer to the group of Melbourne’s wealthy charity patrons and supporters and lined up her tray of drinks with Matt Mahoney’s chest.
One second to launch.
She took a deep, steadying breath and stepped forward.
His blonde companion’s arms drew a giant circle in the air, collided with the edge of her tray and Mr. Mahoney, corporate developer and all round jerk, was instantly wearing expensive champagne as an accessory to his Armani dinner jacket.
Round one to Andie.
Served him right for refusing to meet her. He brushed futilely at his shiny lapels and a thrill raced through her.
I did it.
Andie-never-puts-a-foot-wrong-de Villiers had done the unthinkable. If only she could tell him who she was, her triumph would have been complete.
Thanks for joining me Susanne to talk about Engaging the Enemy. I can't wait to read it!