All backwards

So, I’m working full time, my very first full time job – don’t make fun of me. If you ‘ve read my blog you’ll know that after I graduated highschool I started modelling in NYC, then moved to Paris. I worked as a model for five years, but I’m not sure if that counts as a full time job. Some weeks I’d work every single day – (on trips Sunday is just another day) – I’d wake up at 5 am and sometimes not get to bed until after 2 am… and some weeks I wouldn’t work at all. When I met my husband, the polo player, we started travelling all over the world, and so I gave up my job and became a jet-setter. Well, a polo groupie. Well, a sometimes groom, an exercise rider, a laundry maid, a (dismal) cook, a travel agent, and a baggage handler. Then the twins were born, and I was a mom, a sometimes groom, an exercise rider, etc., etc… and then my daughter was born, we settled in France, I became a housewife and raised three kids, several dogs, hamsters, goldfish, cats, and some horses. In the meantime, to everyone’s surprise, I learned to cook. When the kids were school age, I started teaching English at home and tutoring. To help out with the bills, I found a job with a neighbor doing translation and office work part time. The kids went to collage, and I got another part time job at an orthodontist’s office. And now the office has grown, and there are two doctors, and suddenly I’m working full time. And my husband told me I did everything backwards. Most people, he said, first started working full time. He was laughing about it though, so I guess it was a joke.

Where Guest Author Tom Williams attempts to research a battlefield and fails spectacularly

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Tom asked me what I wanted him to write about for my blog, and I said “something stupid that you did, so we can laugh about it after.” Well, he sent me this, and I thought it was pretty funny, and when I got to this part, “I had a map from 1809 and maps (and satellite images) from today, but I couldn’t marry the two together”, I was nodding sagely – yes, here is a tale most any author can relate to – research gone wrong. Enjoy!

The first book I ever wrote was The White Rajah which is set in Borneo. It came about because I’d made a visit to Borneo (my mother-in-law was living in Singapore at the time, so it wasn’t that strange a things to do) and I wanted to write about the history of the place.

The White Rajah was followed by Cawnpore, which is set in India, a country that I have never visited.

The next book I wrote was Burke in the Land of Silver, which, again, grew from my love of a particular country and its history – this time, Argentina. That was duly followed by Burke and the Bedouin, which is set in Egypt. Fortunately I had visited the Middle East before, so I had some sense of the country I was writing about, but I didn’t actually visit Egypt itself until well after the book was published. Similarly (and it’s embarrassing to admit this) I only got to Waterloo some time after the publication of Burke at Waterloo (despite the fact that my wife’s family live about half an hour’s drive from there).

In view of my repeated inability to research the countries that I write about ahead of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), it should come as no surprise to learn that when I wrote Burke in the Peninsula, set in Spain and Portugal, I had never been to either of those countries. Actually, I had visited Barcelona, but as Catalans will all tell you, that’s is hardly Spain at all.

After I had finished the book, but while I still had plenty of time to make changes, I decided that it would be a really good idea to visit the place. I met somebody who makes a living out of organising tours to Napoleonic (and other) battlefields and he set up a trip for us. My main interest was to see the site of the battle of Talavera, which is one of the highlights of the novel.

Unfortunately, our guide was taken seriously ill just ahead of a planned holiday. However, he had booked hotels and worked out an itinerary and suggested that, if we wanted, we could make a trip on our own. We had been meaning to do this for years and we thought that if we put it off one more time, it might end up never happening, so we decided that that’s what we would do.

We arrived in Madrid to discover that the car we had booked had been upgraded to something bigger. This, it turned out, was not necessarily a good thing.

Although I’ve driven a lot in France and I’m used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road, this was the first time I had ever actually driven a left-hand drive car – and one that was significantly wider than my own car at home. The result, I very soon found, was that I had no idea where the near side of my car was. As we made our way out of the airport, this meant a fair amount of kerb banging, but it was, I thought, nothing that I couldn’t cope with. In any case, I would surely soon get a feel for the width of the vehicle.

Our first stop was to be the mediaeval town of Toledo. It doesn’t feature in the Napoleonic Wars, but we been assured that it was worth a visit anyway. We made good time down the motorway, with my wife, in the passenger seat repeatedly squeaking that her side of the car was moving out of lane but the road was quiet and the lanes were wide and it really wasn’t an issue. Then we arrived at Toledo.

Toledo is indeed spectacularly beautiful. If you get a chance I really strongly suggest that you go there. But don’t drive. We shouldn’t have driven into the city ourselves, but the hotel we had been booked into was on a very sharp left turn just ahead of the old town. We overshot it by about 20 yards which took us firmly into the town’s one-way system.

Had I had any idea what was going to happen next, I wouldn’t take my chances and just reversed out. As it was we decided to follow the one-way system. We couldn’t get lost – there really was just the one way – so we reckoned we would go round and find the turn on our next attempt.

Here’s a photo of a street in Toledo. This is not a pedestrian street. No, it’s a regular street.

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I’m driving a ridiculously wide car that I’m totally not used to through twisting narrow streets that I have never seen before. Let’s just say that my key priority was not hit any of the pedestrians. The scaffolding that surrounded buildings under repair and some of the big stone corners that have been fending off vehicular attacks for about 500 years were not my priority. I think I can safely say that we did no measurable damage to the mediaeval fabric of the town. That’s a lot less than can be said for the car.

The charming lady who had rented it to me had strongly recommended that we take out the extra insurance on offer. My wife really wasn’t sure, but I went for it and never have we made a more sensible decision. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was shaking. Did we want to drive down the road to another car park or would we like to pay extra for the one on their site? It wasn’t a question that I had to spend any time thinking about. The hotel car park was underground with a ramp down to it the design of which seem to have been copied from the staircases inside turrets designed to enable the city’s defenders to prevent anybody from climbing up. It was only the all-too-visible signs that dozens (maybe hundreds) of previous motorists had had no more success of avoiding walls on the ramp than I had had in Toledo itself that made me feel rather better about myself.

We decided to put that experience firmly behind us and explore the town. Again, I can only say that you really, really should visit. I thought I’d been in a mediaeval towns before (like the Shambles in York) but this is a whole town that seems to have been preserved pretty much as it was in its heyday. It is just utterly, ridiculously beautiful.

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The next day we left Toledo by a relatively wide road that was less exciting, but rather safer, than the roads we explored the day before and set off towards Talavera. 

Talavera is a town celebrated for its ceramic tiles. People in Talavera are proud of their tiles and show it.

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We weren’t there to see the town, though. We were there to see the battlefield. That was, after all, the whole reason for the trip.  

I had rather expected road signs and maybe a museum, but I got the distinct impression that Spain was in no hurry to celebrate Talavera. There is a street named after General Cuesta who, nominally at least, won the battle for Spain, but it’s a small, short one and easily missed.

I had a map from 1809 and maps (and satellite images) from today, but I couldn’t marry the two together. We drove vaguely round the countryside for a while and we did find a ridge that looked to be in about the right position, but I’m not at all sure that we ever did visit the battlefield of Talavera.

It wasn’t a wasted trip. We saw so many beautiful things and our visit to the famous lines of Torres Vedras in Portugal may well be the inspiration for another book in the Burke series. Even our failure to find the Talavera battlefield was far from disastrous. The battlefield has been mucked about with a lot with a road built through the middle of it, so I was more interested to get a feel of the place. What was amazing was how the miles of Spanish plain suddenly turned into really quite steep lines of hills. The idea of trying to attack up slopes like that was quite terrifying. The time we spent driving to and from Talavera also gave the notion of the scale of these campaigns and the days that must have been spent marching across dusty, unshaded plain.

So there we are: my attempt to properly research a battlefield before publishing one of my books. And it was, let’s face it, a more-or-less total failure.

Never mind, judging from what has happened with all the others, it is only a matter of time before I go back and visit Talavera again.

Burke in the Peninsula

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Burke in the Peninsula will be published in paperback and on Kindle at the end of September. For more information, please take a look at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/.

You can also follow Tom on Twitter (@TomCW99) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams).

We celebrate when our children succeed – but sometimes their failures are just as important

When my sons were born, prematurely, the doctors said they would most likely not survive, and if they did survive, they could be severely handicapped. Knowing this, every day was a victory for us and as they grew – and throve – even the things most people take for granted were celebrated like huge accomplishments. Sebi finally walks! (at nearly 20 months). Alex gives us a real smile! (at 7 months of age) – each act consigned to history in my journal – photos of Sebi’s first wobbly steps on his little spaghetti legs – Alex’s first real smile when he finally figured out no one was going to stick needles in him every day.

I watched the twins grow with trepidation but immense pride and thankfulness that they had survived and turned out just fine. I was so very thankful for their health, I never really thought about anything else. Asking my children for achievements like being first in the class or the best at sports never occured to me – I was just happy to have them in school and running around. Alex was diligent, loved to please, and a hard worker. Sebi was probably the best at getting into trouble and making us laugh – but Alex managed to be head of his class, and Sebi was definitely the teacher’s pet. However, I had been so utterly traumatized by their birth and struggles to survive their first year of life, that it never occured to me to make a fuss over this. What counted for me was that they were happy and healthy – the rest was just window-dressing. What I was prepared for were their failures. Failing a grade in highschool and having to redo the year. Not getting into the program they wished for. Not being able to play certain sports or do certain things because of asthma – and the inevitable break-ups and fights, the car crashes, the broken bones… Each of these were technically failures, but I wanted them to be, in their way, seen as part of the steps to success.

Some people might say I simply set the bar low. But my children were never short-sighted. They had goals in life, and I simply made them see that each of their failures was important too. When Sebi failed his first entrance exam to the police academy and took a job as an online callsperson for Peogeot, he would get up early to put on a suit and tie – even if he was just going into a cubicle where he called people all day to talk about their cars. When he quit his lawschool studies in the middle of the year he became a volonteer fireman and ended up working as a fireman for seven years while he changed his major to psychology, finished his studies, and became a policeman – his dream job. His love life & break-ups were epic – but he finally found the woman of his dreams as well (also in the police!) Alex was more complicated – he wanted to live in the US, but it was too expensive to study there, so he went to community college, lived with my sister and brother-in-law, learned how to work in a restaurant, was accepted into a SUNY college in Potsdam, spent too much time partying and failed his first semester. He got a full time job, intending to pay his own way – after a year he gave up and came back to France. But he’d learned valuable lessons. How to manage money, how to get a job and a car – how to navigate insurance, banks – and he learned the real cost of studies in the US vs studies in France. He came back to Europe and got his Masters degree in microbiology and chemistry, then a degree in bio-technology and now works in a hospital His failures were never really failures – they were stepping stones to his future – without them, he never would have met his wonderful girlfriend, had the opporunities he’s had, and even though he struggled for a few years – he is where he wants to be now.

So what have I learned of all this? Failures are part of ife – what really counts is brushing them off, taking what can be learned from them, and ploughing on. My daughter (who is severely dyslexic and had huge problems in grade school learning to read) once told me that what she remembers most about her childhood was the one time she got a failing grade on her work – a huge red F on her paper. She was in tears as she showed it to me. I looked at it, and said, “It’s not what you think. It’s not for Fail – it means Forward – because from here, you can move ahead. I’ll always be proud of you, because you try so hard.” I don’t remember saying that to her – I honestly don’t. But she says it was the best thing I could have ever told her, and it made her realize that there was always a next time, and that she wouldn’t give up.

That, to me, is worth celebrating.

Auguste the Amazing survivor dog

Two weeks ago, we woke up to find Auguste in a coma. He was unresponsive, didn’t raise his head or wag his tail when we called him, pet him, rattled a bowl of dog food under his nose. We took him to the vet’s office in a panic. He is, after all, a very old dog. The vets saved him – he spent ten days in the vet clinic – he had a massive infection and his gall bladder nearly burst – it was a close call. Now he’s home, and trotting around, bossing me around as usual. This morning he barked at me when I didn’t feed him fast enough – he’s definetely feeling better.

The vet bill was pretty high, but worth it, as he’s doing well, back to being his confident, silly self. I don’t regret the money spent, and for once, we were actually able to pay without it making too huge a hole in our budget.

After all, my twins cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems that, (for me anyway) life, health, and money and very closely related. I am lucky to live in a country (France) where healthcare is affordable. We can even afford to pay for private health insurance plus what the government offers (basic primary healthcare for all, which covers everything, really) – the private insurance costs about 20€ a month & is required by law now, but for years I never had it and never needed it. Auguste was a reminder that healthcare is essential. It was so scary when he was sick, and we were so relieved when he got better, that I can’t Imagine what it must be like for the parents of a child – or any loved one – when that child gets sick and they can’t pay for medical expenses. How unbearable. This is a true story – close friends of our lost their first son because they couldn’t afford healthcare when they lived in Texas. This was back in the 1950’s. I like to think that today, something like that would never happen again.

Anyway – back to more cheerful things – Auguste, the mighty dog, is a true survivor. He survived cancer, and now he survived a coma and massive infection. He even survived me having to give him a shot every day for a week (I’d never given a shot and got a crash course from my husband who Hates giving shots so he showed Me how to do it, figuring the sadist part of me would probably like it. I got so good at it, I’d give the shot to Auguste when he was eating, and he Never even noticed when I did it!!

I swear

Swear words – most of the time they pop out without thought – you drop a can of beans on your foot, and it’s magical. Kids learn them faster than they learn aything else. Say “shit” just once in front of your toddler, and he’ll repeat it perfectly first time, unlike the words you’d been trying desperately to teach him: “Grandma is nice. Repeat after me, Junior. Grandma is nice! Ow, shit, that can of beans hurt!” (You know what junior is going to say, right?)

What’s more – you can tell where people are from by their swear words. For example:

If it sounds like part of a kid’s nursery rhyme, it’s English: The English swear words are adorable. Someone yells at you, “You utter wally wanker blighter numpty plonker!” You beam and say “So Cute!!”

If it sounds like something you’d order in a restaurant, it’s Italian: “Yes, I’d like a Leccare il culo, with a side order of Andare a puttane, followed by a mi rompete i coglioni. And for dessert, some Vaffanculo.”

If it’s kind of sexy and has the word merde in it, then it’s French: “Merde, c’est de la merde, putain de con de merde, je n’ai ras le cul de ce merdier!”

If you want to put it in a song and sing it, it’s Spanish: Tonto del culo, hijo de puta! Qué Cabrón! Qué Cabrón!

If it sounds like the person had a few too many beers, it’s German: Arschloch! Du blöde Kuh! Verpiss dich! Fick dich!

If it sounds Chinese… it’s Chinese: Ta ma de, shǎ bi, bèn dàn, wang ba, wo cao!

If it sounds like the person can’t decide what word to choose so they just mash them all together, it’s American: You stupidassmuthafucker, fuckinmotherfucking, goddamnasshole!

So, why this post about swearing? Because people swear all the time, Expletives are creative & descriptive. Shakespeare invented many of them, they spice up films and songs, and kids love them (much to our embarrassement when they cheerfully call out “Hey motherfucker!” from their stroller). And in my next book, “A Remedy in Time“, my heroine, Robin, swears fluently. In the future, Chinese and French swear words are used liberally, so brush up on your wo cao merde, you plonkers! Language is fun!

A Remedy in Time – coming January 2021 from Hachette Headline (cover reveal coming soon!)

Guest Author ~ Tom Williams on blogs and writing

When Jennifer invited me on to her blog, I had no idea what I should write about. I wasn’t even sure if I should take up her invitation. I’d just been reading that blogs don’t help authors sell books and we should all be careful about spending much time on them. As I blog on my own blog (http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/) more than once a week on average, this was alarming advice.

The thing is that all writers nowadays spend an enormous amount of their time blogging or on Facebook or Twitter or (for reasons I’ve never understood given that they are selling books and not photographs) Instagram. And we all agonise about the hours that we are wasting.

But what’s the alternative? At the moment I am republishing the first three of my books in my series about James Burke, a spy in the Napoleonic era. I’m doing this because I have two new books in the series coming out and I want people to remember who James Burke is and to remind them that they want to read the next books. There’s been a long gap because of worries about rights issues (and if you want to hear something that authors worry about even more than their social media presence, it’s how they deal with the awfulness of a situation where they lose the rights of their own books). Republishing, for me, has meant having very pretty new covers and trying to raise the profile of the books on social media. So it’s not terribly good time to tell me that I shouldn’t even be writing this.

Burke In the Land of Silver

But what else is an author to do? People say that the answer is newsletters but, though I don’t try particularly hard to play the numbers game, I have over 400 people following my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams/) and over 1,500 on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TomCW99). I put most of my effort into the blog on my website that gets well over 4,000 hits a month. By contrast I have fewer than 20 signed up to read my newsletter. (You can join them at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/newsletter/.) I think I’ll be blogging and on Facebook and Twitter for a while yet.

What I am not doing while I write this is, of course, writing my next novel. I’m incredibly impressed by people like Jennifer who, before everyone cut back on everything because of covid, could turn out beautifully written blog pieces on an almost daily basis and has written more books than me. Even Jennifer, though, would presumably have produced yet another wonderful series like ‘Time for Alexander’ if she had concentrated on that rather than chatting to us on her blog.

It’s a quandary. The fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of books produced every year (amazon.co.uk offers over 100,000 books in historical fiction alone) and, however brilliant your book is, nobody is going to read it unless they’ve heard about it, and they won’t hear about it unless you tell them. (Your mother might tell them too, but mothers are notoriously unreliable sales agents.) Hence all the blogs. And Facebook posts. And tweets.

Generally I really enjoy blogging. My blog features a lot of historical material as well as random stuff loosely associated with writing (there seems to be a lot about cover design at the moment) and the occasional thing on tango, because I like tango and people seem to enjoy reading about it. I get a lot of satisfaction writing about history. As I mainly write historical novels, this is a good thing as my life would otherwise be very sad indeed.

On the other hand, I am a firm believer that my blog should be positive and upbeat and that can be a bit wearing. Jennifer’s blog is also a joy. But sometimes I just want to point out to people that continually producing free stuff online takes a very great deal of time. I suspect I am not alone in occasionally feeling that there is, perhaps, a touch of ingratitude from those who regularly read what I write for free but who have yet to shell out £2.99 for one of my books. (I know they don’t, because if everybody who read my blog in a month bought just one copy of any of my books, they would be in the bestseller charts and they aren’t.) I’m going to carry on blogging anyway. It’s writing and writing is what writers do. And, after a brief hiatus, I’m sure Jennifer will be back as well. It would be nice, though, if after you’ve read her blog, you bought some of her books. They really are very good.

Religion

Religion: Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you. Do not kill. Do not steal. And that’s about it for all the world’s religions.

Politics: No abortion, no gay marriage, no women’s rights, non believers should be eliminated.

Why? Because rulers use religion to control women’s bodies, for example, or to control people. Non believers are harder to control, so they are the first to go. Women are weaker than men, but easier to control through religion – just make them believe that it’s all about love and children. Men are easy to control through religion – just make them believe they are the ‘chosen’ ones. Children are easily brainwashed into believing anything, just use stories and make sure they feel like they’re part of an exclusive group.

If people would just separate religion and politics completely, I’d have nothing against religion. As it is, it’s just ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL.

Chants to Persephone

Chants to PersephoneTime For Alexander Book 5

In the fifth book in the Time For Alexander series, the Oracle of Amon
tells Alexander he must go to the Land of Ice and Snow, so they leave
their home in Alexandria and head north, to Gaul.But the Thief of Souls not only captured Alexander’s soul. He also
wants Paul, and the druids have raised an army to capture him. In the
heart of winter, in ancient Gaul, a terrible sacrifice is made to
Persephone, goddess of the Underworld – and Ashley finds herself
taking part in a deadly ceremony.

The snow was nearly all trampled away by the night’s festivities. Most people had left, but a few remained. They were now packing their belongings and getting ready to leave. Spirals of smoke from campfires looked like blue tissue-paper streamers reaching for the sky. The snow had been turned to muddy slush on the paths. I walked down to the river’s edge and stripped off my dirty cloak. I looked at the blood caked on it, then I tossed it into the river and watched as the swift water took it away. I shivered.

‘That was a strange thing to do.’ Alexander looked at me from across the river, where he’d been standing beneath the trees.

‘I don’t want it any more. It was covered in blood.’

‘So was Paul, but I washed it off.’

I didn’t smile. There was nothing to smile about. I was tired and unhappy. My stomach hurt, my head ached, and I didn’t know what I felt any more. Alexander walked over the bridge and took my hand.

‘I’ll help you bathe,’ he said softly. I just nodded.

There was a crude bathhouse near the stream. In it stood a tub of hot water. Alexander had anticipated my every move. I climbed in. When I’d washed my skin and hair, I took a small birch twig and brushed my teeth. Then I dressed in the clean clothes he’d brought for me.

Alexander had been silent, sitting in the corner, but now he spoke in an odd voice. ‘What did you do last night in the cave?’

My hands, I saw, were steady now. I held them out in front of me and frowned. Then I let them fall to my sides, and said, ‘what do you think happened?’

‘I would prefer you to tell me.’ He spoke evenly. There was nothing in his voice to hint at what he felt.

I started to laugh. It was a low laugh that shook me. An embarrassed laugh, because I was not proud of myself. ‘I’ll tell you what happened,’ I said, wiping tears out of my eyes. The laughter had turned sour suddenly. ‘I got drunk on the ceremonial wine, and I made love with the Roman’s wife. I didn’t want anyone to die, and a man was killed in front of me while looking straight at me with a smile on his face. And then they ate him.’

‘What?’ Alexander sounded shocked. I didn’t know what he was ‘what-ing’ about. The fact I made love to a woman, the fact Anoramix smiled at me, or that he’d been eaten.

‘What “what”?’ I asked crossly.

‘They ate him?’

B&N , Amazon, Fnac

Hinterland

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in Sammi’s Comment Section

She loves the rain.

Playing in the garden, making paths and jumps for her imaginary horses –

Wading in the creek,

Forest walks,

Meadow gathers.

When we moved to the city the crowds depressed her.

Even Christmas lights and July fireworks were shunned – too many people!

But she fell in love, she became a teacher, and now she’s moved to a blue and white hinterland house.

Our apartment is empty, the sound of city traffic mocks me.

In my daughter’s house, you can hear the birds sing.

Annie’s Choices by Tricia McGill

 Annie’s Choices

by Tricia McGill

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GENRE: Historical Romance

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BLURB:

In book 4 of the Settlers Series, we catch up with most members of the extended family from the previous three books. Annie at 18 is the eldest Carstairs girl. She has lived out at Bathurst west of the Blue Mountains, where she was born just after her Mama, Bella and Papa, Tiger settled there back in 1824. After visiting her brother Tim and his wife Jo just before Christmas 1843, Annie decides to stay in Port Philip, seeking adventure much as her brother did when he set out with Jo the previous year. Annie has inherited her mother’s independent streak, a character trait that sometimes leads her to make the wrong choices.

Jacob O’Quinn works for her brother, and the likeable young carpenter catches Annie’s eye. Jacob is quiet and reserved in his manner, having spent his life with his widowed mother. When handsome Zachary McDowell, the complete opposite to steady Jacob comes along, he sweeps Annie off her feet. Heedless of advice given by others, Annie makes a choice that turns out to be the worst she could ever make.

Restless, Annie decides to return to her home, and Jacob makes the decision to escort her. The journey back across the mountains proves to be a lot more eventful than she assumed it could ever be. The road itself may have seen improvements through the years but there will always be unexpected incidents to turn life around on its axis. A suspected murder brings the might of the law down on the shoulders of the young couple.

http://www.triciamcgill.com

http://triciamg.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/authorTriciaMcGill

Buy Link: https://books2read.com/Annies-Choices

Author page: https://bookswelove.net/mcgill-tricia/

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Frontier life in Australia was made up of back-breaking hard work. The author says in her dedication; “gallant women and brave men”, and it’s true. This is the story of Annie, a girl who has come to spend Christmas season with her brother Tim and his wife Jo. The year is 1843, and after Christmas, Annie decides to stay in Port Philip, where life is far more exciting than in the mountains where she grew up. Young and frivolous Annie sets her sights on Jacob, who works for her family. Jacob is serious and hardworking. Annie manages to get him to take her for a drive, but a violent storm hits and they find an injured girl in a ditch at the side of the road. The girl suffers from amnesia and can only remember her name – Sally. Annie’s brother and sister-in-law agree to take her in until she can recover, and Sally and Annie, being the same age, soon become friends.

Then Zachary enters the picture, and Annie finds herself attracted to the dashing, mercurial man who takes her to parties and compliments her extravagantly. Soon Annie is driving out with him on Sundays, and going to his house where his family hold large gambling parties. Knowing her brother would not like that, Annie keeps that a secret. While at Zachary’s house, she also meets a servant girl who looks disturbingly like her friend Sally, who still claims she remembers nothing of her past life, and who has now started working in the Annie’s brother’s house.

This story is like a winding brook, carrying you with it as it goes, bubbling with life and laughter, joy and tears. It’s not only a coming of age story and romance; there is adventure, a murder, a journey, and a cast of well-rounded, believable characters. It’s also beautifully written and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop until I found out what happened to Annie, Jacob, Zachary, and Sally. Ms McGill’s writing is like a tapestry with the woven threads of the story leading you further into the design – a design that shows Australia in the eighteen hundreds in all its complexity. The author also includes the massacres inflicted on the Aborigines and their consequences. I love historical romance, and this one is a wonderful addition to my collection.

“Annie’s Choice” is book 4 in the Settlers’ Series, but it can easily be read as a standalone. Warning – reading this one will make you want to read the entire series! Highly recommended.