Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Have a sneak-peek between the covers of Marthese Fenech's fabulous book — Ash Fall: a Novel of the Knights of Malta #HistoricalFiction @Fenka33


Ash Fall: a Novel of the Knights of Malta
By Marthese Fenech 

Publication Date: September 8, 2022
Publisher: BDL Publishing
Page Length: 525
Genre: Historical Fiction


Malta stands on the precipice of one of the bloodiest battles in history. An elite Ottoman army, 50,000 strong, prepares to depart Istanbul, the seat of the Empire. Deeply conflicted, Demir must sail alongside the host determined to conquer his mother’s homeland and crush the Order of St John once and for all. Testing his loyalty is the knowledge that Angelica, the half-sister he has never met, dwells on the tiny island.

As the Maltese garrison braces for the incoming storm, knights and civilians stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the walls. Domenicus and Robert volunteer for the ramparts of Fort St Elmo, the most precarious position on Malta. Angelica finds herself locked outside the city gates and scrambles to a hilltop citadel, where she helps establish a makeshift infirmary. Katrina takes up a bow and stands a post, shielding her town as the Ottoman tide crashes against it. 

For several blood-soaked months, Malta is the stage upon which fierce combat rages. Heads are fired from cannons, field hospitals set ablaze, knights crucified, and soldiers melted where they stand. As the land exhales swirling ash, and narrow streets choke on rubble, no one escapes the fiery currents of war unscathed. The body count surges. Hope scatters with the smoke. Outflanked and outnumbered, can the defence hold out until a much-delayed relief force arrives from Sicily?

Katrina sets a lantern on Belli’s workbench in the stable at the edge of the carpenter’s property. She opens the gate to Peppone’s stall and sits on the straw-scattered floor. The brownish-grey donkey gives a contented bray, his ears flat out to the side. Alone and unable to sleep, Kat has come to spend time with the animals. 

The certainty of war keeps her wakeful. Some European spies remain unsure of the objective—at least, according to discussions she’s overheard in the bailey. Malta is presumed, but several observers maintain Spain or Sicily is the target of Suleiman’s spear. With the pace of labour redoubled, most Maltese do not indulge in such dangerous optimism. The Grand Master has ordered all tradesmen to work through the night at the armoury, Robert and Belli among them. Malta may sink under the weight of all its newly fashioned weapons. 

The moon, curved like a white feather, shines through the window, catches floating bits of straw-dust and turns them into silver flakes. Tramonto, her family’s splendid black Arabian, nickers in the stall next to her. To the other side, the offspring of Odin and Freya respond with piercing bleats. 

Kat rests her head back against the wall, closes her eyes, and tries to capture this rare moment of peace. Although she and Robert laboured to restore his mother’s house, all but destroyed by a cyclone years ago, they’ve settled in with Belli the past few months. Best to be closer to family and friends—even four-legged ones—in these precarious times. 

The stable door creaks on its hinges. Katrina’s eyes pop open. Peppone cocks an ear. Kat peeks over the enclosure. Domenicus, his face drawn yet alert. Probably couldn’t sleep either.

“Everything all right?” she asks, pushing open the stall gate. 

The lantern swings in his grip. Shadows move up the walls. “Given the fact that the world is about to end, everything is as good as it can be.” He sets his lantern down beside hers on the bench and gives his horse a nuzzle. “Too long since you’ve had a good gallop, hey?” 

Tramonto stretches his neck over the gate, and Kat gives him some love, too. She strokes the charger between the eyes and glances across her shoulder to her brother. “This is pleasant. I could be seven again.”

“Remember how many times Mama begged me not to sleep in the pen with Peppone?” Domenicus reminisces. 

“And how many times I ignored her?”

“Almost as many times as I did,” Kat replies.

Her brother laughs—a foreign sound these days, and one most welcome. “Or the time you came here and used Belli’s saw to hack off your braid?”

At that, Katrina too bursts into laughter. “The day I decided I no longer wanted to be a girl. Oh, our poor mother.” 

“She’d be proud of you, you know.”

Kat’s throat constricts. “And just as proud of you.” She swallows. “…In over twenty years, I have never thanked you.”

“Thanked me?”

She takes her brother’s hand into both hers. “We were children when Mama fell sick. You tried everything to save her. And when it failed, you tried harder. Thank you for that.” 
Domenicus blinks, eyes watering as they reflect the glow of the lanterns. “Kat, I want you to leave for Sicily tomorrow with the Viceroy’s ships.”

She drops his hand. 

“Please, hear me. Angelica will not go without you.”

Katrina crosses her arms. “You expect me to leave my home in its time of greatest need? Not when I can help. Not when I can teach someone who has never lifted a bow how to defend himself.”

“There are others who can instruct—some even trained by you. The knights are also teaching citizens to handle guns. Marcello has been working with locals for weeks.”

“With little success,” Katrina counters. 

Domenicus sighs.

Kat softens. “Angelica is your wife. She will never leave without you. No more than I would leave without Robert. Why don’t you take her and go? Attend the apothecary school in Messina.”

“Attend school while my home is reduced to ashes? Don’t be absurd.”

“I’m not. After the war, Malta will need educated men to help restore…” Kat stops—her brother is right.

“How could I abandon you here?” he says. “Abandon Robert and Belli and Anton? How could I dishonour Pa so?”

“Oh? And you think it would be so easy for me?”

“No. That’s why I’m begging you. If something happened to you or Angelica, it would kill me. And you think after everything Robert endured to be with you, it wouldn’t destroy him if you…” He never finishes. “You want to thank me for trying to save Mama? Do so by staying alive.”

Kat turns her face away, unable to meet her brother’s eyes. “That isn’t fair.”

“Fair? Nothing about any of this is fair. Reports claim a force upwards of fifty thousand men is preparing to depart Istanbul for our shores. They outnumber us ten to one.”

“You tell me how terribly the odds are stacked against us yet in the same breath, tell me to leave?”


The stable door scrapes open a second time. Angelica walks in, steps tentative, a candle in hand, eyes narrowed. She wears a wool stole tight around her shoulders, her hair in a messy pile atop her head. Beautiful, as always, but ever since her unspeakable ordeal in the Inquisitor’s dungeon, her eyes have lost much of their sparkle, her smile, its spontaneity. The sight of her causes a shift within Kat.  

“Angelica,” Domenicus says, voice throaty. 

She lowers the candle. “I woke because you were not beside me. I came to Belli’s house and found it empty. Saw the light in the stable.”

“Found my sister here,” he replies, gesturing in Katrina’s direction.

Angelica squints beyond Domenicus. “Kat, you all right?” 

“Yes.” She shakes her head. “No… I think we… Angelica, I think we should accept the gift of safety and leave with the Viceroy’s ships tomorrow.”

Domenicus looks over his shoulder. “I thought—”

“Malta does not stand a chance,” Katrina interrupts. “Had the Viceroy offered men, perhaps. But we stand alone in this fight—a boulder in a sandy vale.”

“I’m not leaving,” Angelica says. Her tone is final and somehow, prepared.

Domenicus exhales. “My love, please—”

“You want to send me away because you think I’m weak? Some fragile flower easily crushed underfoot?” She stands taller, raises her chin. 

“Never,” Domenicus replies. “But you are my weakness, and I need to know you are somewhere safe.”

“Safe is together.”

“Angelica,” Kat cuts in, “I want to go. Robert has lost so much. His father. His brother. His mother. Dr Callus… He’ll put himself at risk to protect me.”

Angelica presses her lips, shoulders rigid. She sucks in a breath, holds the air inside her. Shifts her gaze to Domenicus. Exhales. “You would do the same.”

He nods. “So, you see, I need you to protect me.”

Angelica tips her face to his but glances to Kat almost imperceptibly from the corner of her eye. “I will pack a few things.”

Marthese Fenech
is the author of bestselling historical novels, Eight Pointed Cross and Falcon’s Shadow, set in sixteenth-century Europe. Ash Fall is her third novel. She has also written an award-winning pilot episode of a television series based on her Siege of Malta trilogy.
Research has taken her to the ancient streets her characters roamed, the fortresses they defended, the seas they sailed, and the dungeons they escaped. Obstinate curiosity has led her to sixty-five countries across six continents. She does her best plot-weaving while hiking mountain trails, wandering local markets, paddle boarding cliff-sheltered bays, and sitting at home with her Siberian husky curled at her feet.
The youngest of five, Marthese was born in Toronto to Maltese parents. At twelve, she moved to Malta for six months and was enrolled in an all-girls private school run by nuns; she lasted three days before getting kicked out for talking too much. 

A former kickboxing instructor, Marthese snowboards, surfs, scuba-dives, climbs, skydives, throws axes, and practices yoga—which may sometimes include goats. She lives north of Toronto with her brilliant, mathematically-inclined husband and brilliant, musically-inclined dog, known to lead family howl sessions on occasion. 

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Monday, 16 May 2022

If you enjoy #WesternHistoricalFiction then you are going to love Mary Armstrong's fabulous novel – The Mesilla (The Two Valleys Saga, Book 1) #BlogTour @authornotarthur

The Mesilla
(The Two Valleys Saga, Book 1)
By Mary Armstrong

Publication Date: 22nd April 2021
Publisher: Enchanted Writing Company
Page Length: 391 Pages
Genre: Western Historical Fiction

At 14 years old, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Perez Contreras Verazzi Messi is too small and frail to work the land on the family farm near the Rio Bravo in Mexico. The local padre’s tutoring reveals Jesus’s unending curiosity and fertile mind. Noted Las Cruces, New Mexico attorney, and politician Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain, agrees to take his nephew under his wing. Jesus ‘reads law’ with his uncle and shares adventures and adversity with the Fountain family and other historic Mesilla and Tularosa Valley citizens. His coming-of-age story will take you into the wild southwest, a brewing range war, a territory struggling toward statehood, courtroom dramas, and the adventures and adversities of a boy’s quest for manhood. 

*A fictional memoir by Jesus about the ten years leading to the notorious and unsolved Fountain murders.

Grab the series:

Mary lives in the heart of one of the ‘Two Valleys’ in Las Cruces New Mexico, with her husband Norman ‘Skip’ Bailey, Jr. and their Cavachon child-dog, Java. In 2017 she wrote the one-act play, “It is Blood,” which was selected for a performance by the Las Cruces Community Theatre. Whereas the Two Valleys series is a prequel to the notorious and unsolved murders of Albert J. Fountain and his eight-year-old son, “It is Blood,” is a sequel to those events. 

After winning an award for her debut historic fiction novel “The Mesilla,” Mary has decided to focus on that genre — at least for the foreseeable future. Her writing is fast-moving, thought-provoking and with just enough wordsmithing to satisfy your artistic hankerings. While her writing has literary merit, she strives to capture the moment — the time and the place — and help you live in that moment.

Before releasing her debut novel, Mary dabbled in creative writing, including a weekly column in the Las Cruces Sun News. Since retiring from a diverse career in various planning and design fields, she has devoted herself more fully to her writing, being a good spouse, serving her dog Java, and slipping away to the golf course when left unchained to the desk. 

Social Media Links:

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Have a sneak-peek between the covers of N.L. Holmes' fabulous novel - Bird in a Snare (The Lord Hani Mysteries, Book 1) #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalMystery #BlogTour @nlholmesbooks


Bird in a Snare 
(The Lord Hani Mysteries, Book 1)
By N.L. Holmes

Publication Date: 21st March 2020
Publisher: WayBack Press
Page Length: 425 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery

When Hani, an Egyptian diplomat under Akhenaten, is sent to investigate the murder of a useful bandit leader in Syria, he encounters corruption, tangled relationships, and yet more murder. His investigation is complicated by the new king’s religious reforms, which have struck Hani’s own family to the core. Hani’s mission is to amass enough evidence for his superiors to prosecute the wrongdoers despite the king’s protection—but not just every superior can be trusted. And maybe not even the king! Winner of the 2020 Geoffrey Chaucer Award for historical fiction before 1750.

Trigger Warnings:
Sexual abuse of children

A servant led Hani through the garden court planted with trees, their fronds rustling dryly in the breeze. This time, instead of proceeding straight into the vestibule of the private audience hall, they turned right and approached the great entryway of the House of Rejoicing. The king would receive him in the throne room. More soldiers were stationed before every door.
The formal parts of the Per-hay were designed to glorify the living Haru and crush visitors to the ground with pangs of inferiority. The vestibule was like a jewel box—or perhaps a jewel. Every surface was covered with painted decorations, a riot of intense colors and luscious patterns. On the walls, images of foreign dignitaries offered the Lord of the Two Lands tribute and abased themselves before him. Flowers and birds swagged the cornices. Walking across the painted gypsum floor was like stepping into the primal marsh, rich with vegetation and wildlife and polished to a shimmer that rivaled 
real water. The column capitals were inlaid with faience and precious stones, forming sumptuous water lilies and lifelike palm fronds outlined with gold—the flora of some magical kingdom of unimaginable beauty, the garden of the gods. 
But when the porters heaved open the immensely tall gilded doors and Hani stepped into his sovereign's throne room, even the beauty of the vestibule paled in comparison. Hani had presented himself in many an audience hall throughout the world, from small Urusalim to mighty Naharin, and he could honestly say that there was nothing anywhere remotely like the splendor of his own homeland. The ceiling was so high that although it was lit by clerestories, no eye could make out all the detailed paintings that ornamented it. Streaks of pale sunlight filtered through the golden haze left by smoking braziers of incense. At one point, a real swallow flittered past and disappeared, disoriented by this artificial heaven. Overhead, the columns rose as tall as natural trees but more gorgeous. A path of tapestry led from the doors to the foot of the dais, where the king and queen sat enthroned in towering chairs of electrum, their feet resting on stools with images of the Nine Bows, Kemet’s enemies, lying bound and trampled. 
Hani knew himself to be very small before such power. Indeed, the luxury and enormity of the palace was designed to make visitors like him feel that way. He flattened his thick body facedown upon the ground in a full formal prostration and remained unmoving and nearly unbreathing until the major-domo signaled him to rise.

Around the foot of the royal dais stood scores of courtiers, a cloud of white against the brilliance of the decoration, several of them holding the golden-handled ostrich plumes that marked them as the king’s special friends. The two viziers flanked the dais, with many men of a younger generation than Hani was accustomed to seeing at such occasions. A pair of fan-bearing servants stood at their posts of honor, their tall ostrich-plume flabella—like fantastic creatures, half-bird, half-tree—erect in their hands.
Hani dared not raise his eyes to the king except in sneaking glances. He saw at Nefer-khepru-ra’s side the coolly beautiful queen in a crown that resembled nothing so much as the flat crown of the goddess Tefnut. She was as unmoving and unsmiling as a cult figure, perhaps not daring to budge lest her tall headgear should slip. Nefer-khepru-ra himself had on the striped nemes, a comfortable wig cover, whose lappets fell down over the jeweled weshket collar around his slim neck. Upon the golden diadem, its double serpents, the protectors of Upper and Lower Kemet, watched with fiery eyes. The king’s pointed face was not bent over Hani, but he seemed to gaze out someplace higher, perhaps at the door—or perhaps at the sky beyond.
“You are retained, Hani, our servant,” he said in his silky voice. “We have decided to change your assignment, though. Set aside the investigation of Abdi-ashirta. He is basking in the presence of the Aten by now, and it is the younger generation who rules. Is it not?”
“Yes, My Sun,” Hani said, inclining. He suspected it was not only Aziru the king had in mind. And Hani wondered why Nefer-khepru-ra made a point of referring to his new policies and the regime in A'amu with such insistence.
“Our droll old friend Rib-addi has requested your presence along with that of Yanakh-amu. And sol-diers, of course. We may send him a few impressively decorated ones. But he needs to be aware that he must solve his own problems. And right now, that problem is Aziru, who has threatened to take Simurru yet again. Perhaps you have heard.”

Hani bowed assent. Nefer-khepru-ra’s voice was so smooth and languid that Hani was beginning to feel lulled toward sleep despite the crackling tension in his limbs and the knowledge that the slight young man—the god—on the throne before him would happily snap him in half like a crocodile if Hani displeased him. This must be the way a small bird feels, confronted by the hypnotic stare of the cobra, he told himself. It was not an unpleasant sensation, but he knew that death lay at the end of it if he didn’t walk wary.
The king looked at Hani for the first time. “We want you to make whatever passes for peace among those people up there, Hani. Aziru wants to be a vassal. Tell him you’ll work something out if he will relinquish his claim on Simurru. The commissioner at Simurru is young and inexperienced. We would like you to guide Aziru’s actions quietly into ways more pleasing to us… in spite of the commissioner, if necessary.”
“Yes, My Sun.”
The king was silent for a moment, and Hani felt Nefer-khepru-ra’s eyes boring into him. “They like you up there.” The king’s cold smile curled the ends of his mouth, and his eyes narrowed, glittering black in the half-light. “Everybody’s happy when Hani comes.”
Those words should have filled Hani with pride, but a wave of shivers spread across his skin. Was the king sincere? It was hard not to hear something snide in the words said with such a smile. Hani deepened his bow and murmured, “You do me too much honor, My Sun.”
Then the king looked away again into space. It was as if a shutter had fallen closed. The majordomo took Hani by the arm and guided him as he backed away, bowing.

Pick up your copy of Bird in a Snare 
(The Lord Hani Mysteries, Book 1) at your favourite online bookstore.

Click HERE!

Grab the series:

Bird in a Snare (Book 1)
Lake of Flowers (Book 5)

N.L. Holmes is the pen name of a professional archaeologist who received her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. She has excavated in Greece and in Israel and taught ancient history and humanities at the university level for many years. She has always had a passion for books, and in childhood, she and her cousin (also a writer today) used to write stories for fun.

Connect with N.L. Holmes:

Website • Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Instagram • Pinterest • BookBub • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads

Tour Schedule

Friday, 13 May 2022

Check out Kianna Alexander 's fabulous book — Carolina Built: A Novel #HistoricalFiction @KiannaWrites


Carolina Built: A Novel 
By Kianna Alexander 

Publication Date: 22nd February 2022
Publisher: Gallery Books
Page Length: 327 Pages
Genre: Black & African American Historical Fiction / Biographical Fiction

This “exuberant celebration of Black women’s joy as well as their achievements” (Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author) novelizes the life of real estate magnate Josephine N. Leary in a previously untold story of passion, perseverance, and building a legacy after emancipation in North Carolina.

Josephine N. Leary is determined to build a life of her own and a future for her family. When she moves to Edenton, North Carolina from the plantation where she was born, she is free, newly married, and ready to follow her dreams.

As the demands of life pull Josephine’s attention away, it becomes increasingly difficult for her to pursue her real estate aspirations. She finds herself immersed in deepening her marriage, mothering her daughters, and being a dutiful daughter and granddaughter. Still, she manages to teach herself to be a businesswoman, to manage her finances, and to make smart investments in the local real estate market. But with each passing year, it grows more and more difficult to focus on building her legacy from the ground up.

“Filled with passion and perseverance, Josephine Leary is frankly a woman that everyone should know” (Sadeqa Johnson, author of Yellow Wife) and her story speaks to the part of us that dares to dream bigger, tear down whatever stands in our way, and build something better for the loved ones we leave behind.

“Kianna Alexander breathes life into forgotten historical matriarch Josephine Leary, a budding entrepreneur born into slavery and raising herself to power after the Civil War as a community investor and savvy businesswoman. Josephine's moving struggle to build family and fortune will strike a chord in a story that is both timely and timeless—Carolina Built is an exuberant celebration of Black women's joy as well as their achievements!”
Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code

“In Kianna Alexander's moving Carolina Built, readers are afforded a look at the life of newly emancipated Josephine Leary and her courageous efforts to build a real estate business in post-Civil War North Carolina, all the while balancing the ever-increasing demands of her traditional responsibilities.”
Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie and Her Hidden Genius

“A beautiful, heartfelt story of an extraordinary woman too long forgotten to history. Kianna Alexander has recreated Josephine Leary's life with wonderful historical detail and obvious care that shines through on the page. Josephine's strength, determination, and ambition will an inspiration to any woman.”
Julia Kelly, international bestselling author of The Last Garden in England

Like any good Southern belle, Kianna Alexander wears many hats: doting mama, advice-dispensing sister, fun aunt and gabbing girlfriend. She's a voracious reader, an amateur seamstress and occasional painter in oils. Chocolate, American history, sweet tea and Idris Elba are a few of her favorite things. A native of the TarHeel state, Kianna still lives there while maintaining her collection of well-loved vintage 80's Barbie dolls.

Connect with Kianna:

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Check out Cheryl Adnams' fabulous #NewRelease — The Bushranger's Wife #HistoricalFiction @cadnams


The Bushranger's Wife 
By Cheryl Adnams

Publication Date: 19th April 2022
Publisher: Mira Books 
Page Length: 352 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

He stole her locket … she stole his heart.

Central Highlands of Victoria, 1861

Jack the Devil's reputation precedes him. The most notorious bushranger on the Central Highlands, nothing throws him off his game ... until he holds up Prudence Stanforth and her grandmother. Jack can't help but be captivated by the feisty Pru, with her sweeping red hair and complete lack of fear.

Weeks later, Pru crosses paths with the respectable businessman Jack Fairweather, and it's not long before she recognises him as the bushranger who stole her beloved necklace. His price for the locket's return is her silence ... and a kiss. A kiss that sparks something inside them both.

When Pru discovers her grandmother has been keeping a devastating secret, running away with Jack the Devil is the perfect escape for her broken heart. The dangerous nature of his less-than-salubrious occupation is a poetic contradiction to her sheltered upbringing and only fuels their passion. Until that danger becomes a reality. Between the return of dark elements from Jack's past and authorities intent on his capture, Jack and Pru must fight for their future together ... or risk losing everything.

Photograph by Nicole Weston
Cheryl Adnams
lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has published four Australian rural romance novels and a Christmas novella. Cheryl has a Diploma in Freelance Travel Writing and Photography and has lived and worked in the United States, Canada and spent two years with a tour company in Switzerland and Austria. Her passion for Italy, volcanology and cycling have made their way into her stories and her favourite writing retreats include Positano on the Amalfi Coast and Port Willunga Beach just south of Adelaide. When she’s not writing, Cheryl is still creating in her busy full time job as a trainer and learning designer.

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Monday, 9 May 2022

Have a sneak peek between the covers of Vicky Adin's fabulous #NewRelease — Elinor (The Art of Secrets Book 2) #HistoricalFiction #familysaga @VickyAdin


(The Art of Secrets Book 2)
By Vicky Adin

Publication Date: 8th May 2022
Publisher: Vicky Adin Author
Page Length: 376 Page
Genre: A dual-timeline women’s historical family saga

A distraught friend, a mysterious stalker, and generations of secrets. 

Emma’s job is to find the link, but tracing a family tree suddenly becomes a dangerous occupation.

Emma delights in uncovering her clients’ family secrets and writing their histories. When Jess begs her to untangle her skeletons and find the woman called Elinor, Emma soon learns someone doesn’t want the past brought to light. A series of threats puts her in danger, and Emma suspects there is more to her friend’s frazzled plea.

Elinor only wants one thing from life – a home and hearth where she can dispense love and laughter. Undeterred by the hardships of life between the two world wars, Elinor raises a large family and survives everything fate throws her way. Neither deprivation nor heartache prevents her from protecting those she loves. But is what she yearns for a step too far?

Intrigued by Elinor’s story, Emma is determined to find out who is causing trouble, and why, before it’s too late. 

Trigger Warnings:
Family life adversities and tragedies.

When Emma arrived at Jess’s family home the next morning, she was captivated by its old-world charm. The house was a typical Californian bungalow of the 1920s, set on a large section, with a white picket fence and a central pathway leading to the front door. The garden was a riot of colour, out-of-control roses and cottage garden plants. 

“Are you ready to do this?” asked Emma, thinking how pale and drawn Jess looked as she answered the door, as if she hadn’t slept well.

“I have to get it finished. That impossible sister of mine is wanting rid of everything, even though it’s half mine. Come on, let’s get on with it.”

They spent the next few hours loading Emma’s car with bags that she had offered to drop off at the hospice; those destined for the rubbish dump went into Jess’s. 

“I’d better call the auctioneers and see if they want any of this other stuff,” said Jess, sounding unenthusiastic. 

Looking around the rooms of furniture, lamps and ornaments, Emma was saddened that so many mementos would go to the second-hand shops to be disposed of, and any link with their previous owners would be gone. But she had to remember that not everyone was as nostalgic as her. Sometimes she felt more attuned to the past and people she’d never known than to many of the people she met in her current life. 

Except for Luke. He understood. She’d had so little growing up, and lost so much in such a short space of time, long before they’d met, that it wasn’t a surprise she hung on to sentimental objects.

“Let’s clear the table and spread everything out until we can make sense of it,” said Emma, putting a pile of photos on the table and roughly sorting them into recognisable groups. 

They pulled out the remaining drawers in the drop-front writing desk and put the more-important-looking papers on the table. 

“What do you want to do about all these receipts?” asked Emma.

“Dump them. They’re old.”

“Are you sure? There could be clues to your dad’s life amongst them.”

“Nah. Get rid of them. It’s what she wants.”

Emma wondered why Jess was being so compliant with her sister’s wishes. “Do you?” 

Jess shrugged as she added a few more handwritten letters to the box she’d started to fill. “Dunno what I’ll do with this lot. I doubt they’ll say anything interesting.”

“How do you know? They could be a gold mine of dates and names.”

“Maybe. But will they help me find my grandmothers – or whoever they were?”

“They might. I’d suggest you sort those letters into date order, and glance through them first. See what’s there.”

Jess took a handful from the box and began to place the letters into piles in decade order. “There’s a couple here from way back, a few in the ’30s and ’40s, but most are later.”

“What’s this?” asked Emma. The desk appeared empty, but she spotted a small drawer in the top section that had been missed, and pulled the knob. “It’s locked. Have you seen a key anywhere?”
Jess came to peer over her shoulder. “Is it? There’s no obvious keyhole.”

“Maybe it’s stuck.” Emma ran her hand along the front and sides, pushing and prodding. “Got it,” she said, pressing on a tiny lever at the back. The drawer popped open. Inside lay a fat envelope full of bits of paper and family notices. She handed it to Jess. “I think we may have found something.” 

Emma noticed the front panel of the shallow drawer in the middle had extensions on either side. She pulled the drawer from its surrounds and, as she did, the entire front section slid out to reveal another set of letter slots and drawers behind. “Oh, wow! This is amazing. I didn’t expect that. I’ve read about these secret cubbyholes but never seen one. What a treat.” 

Emma was eager to investigate further. Her love of antiques was almost as deep as her love of tracing family histories. “See how the drawer and the front set of racks are half the depth of the side? I hadn’t noticed. This could be where your dad hid all his secrets.” 

The two women stared at the back section of tall narrow slots, which held several envelopes, and a centre section with three small drawers. 

“Oh, Jess, this is beautiful. You can’t sell this. It’s so special.”

A strangled gasp escaped Jess, and Emma turned to see what was wrong. Jess held her hands over her mouth, her eyes goggling. Not for the first time, Emma wondered what else was bothering Jess. It couldn’t just be a bunch of old papers. 

“Dad built that desk. A long time ago. I remember …” 

“That’s wonderful. Are you positive you don’t want to keep it? If it was precious to your dad, maybe it’s tied to your past and might reveal the ‘indomitable Elinor Somers’.”

Vicky Adin is a genealogist in love with history and words. She has combined her skills to write heart-warming novels about early immigrants to New Zealand, weaving family and history together in a way that brings the past to life. Her passion is for multi-generational sagas linked by journals, letters and heirlooms. 

As a Welsh-born, Cornish raised immigrant to New Zealand herself, Vicky is fascinated by those women who undertook such hazardous journeys to find a better life; women who endured and thrived.

She invites you to journey alongside those women as they created a new life, or follow their descendants as they uncover the long lost secrets of bygone days while searching for their roots.

Become engrossed in The New Zealand Immigrant Collection, suspenseful family saga fiction uncovering the mysteries, the lies and the challenges of the past. And delve into the secrets of the past in The Art of Secrets series.

Vicky Adin holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education. She is an avid reader of historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories, and loves to travel. She especially enjoys caravanning around New Zealand with her husband and biggest fan; and spending time with her family.

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