Life in the time of…
Colonel William Light
By Virginia Taylor
|Colonel William Light: Self Portrait, c. 1815|
“MULVANE, Kan. — A toddler fell 16 feet into a narrow well Thursday night but was pulled free about five hours later after dozens of rescuers dug a tunnel to rescue him. Firefighters freed the 17-month-old boy, identified only as Jesse, shortly before midnight as his family waited above. He was strapped to a board and appeared to be in good condition, rescuers said.” Chicago Tribune.
Based on stories like this one, and having written a hero, Alasdair Seymour, who needed an early redemption to carry him through a story where he might be considered to be rather arrogant, I wrote a tunnel rescue scene for him into Starling, my first historical romance in my South Landers series for Kensington Books. If I had him save the life of a child, he couldn’t be all bad.
First I had to find some reason for him to tunnel and I found it in the history of my state of South Australia. But, to go back to the beginning, in the days of the early colonial settlement, Colonel William Light, who had served under the Duke of Wellington in the peninsula war, was appointed the surveyor-general for the new province. He came, he saw, and he selected the location and designed and laid out the plan of the City of Adelaide.
Because hills lined the coast, the new settlement had to be constructed in a long line. The reason why he chose this location was because clouds drifting over the nearby Adelaide Hills would provide rainfall, a promising indicator of good conditions for avoidance of drought prone areas. Another was that the location was adjacent to the swiftly flowing creek proudly named the River Torrens.
In those days, the River Torrens (named after the man who invented the Torrens Title, used worldwide) was the only close source of fresh water. Aborigines lived in and around the site. Collecting this water was a problem for the early settlers. Justifiably annoyed by having their land invaded, the native tribesmen kept in sight of the riverbanks, finding the desperate settlers, collecting water, easy targets for their spears.
Not about to be defeated so easily, the settlers built tunnels to the river. They also built wells close to the banks for the same reason, using guards to protect the gatherers while the water was being drawn.
Thirty years later, after the city of Adelaide had been developed, and the wells and tunnels disbanded years before, the hero in Starling, discovers a neighboring child has been trapped in one of these disused wells. Knowing the well was too narrow for an adult and that the child was wedged, he needed to tunnel beneath the child and drag her out via this narrow passage.
As far as I’m concerned, that is one of the bravest acts a person can do, risk his life for another. This makes him a legend, though my story is a myth. But of course, the real legends were the early settlers who built the colony.
An aspiring dressmaker, orphaned Starling Smith is accustomed to fighting for her own survival. But when she’s offered a year’s wages to temporarily pose as a wealthy man’s bride, she suspects ulterior motives. She can’t lose the chance to open her own shop, but she won’t be any man’s lover, not even handsome, infuriating Alasdair Seymour’s…
To prevent his visiting sister from parading potential brides in front of him, Alasdair has decided to present a fake wife. He lost his heart once, and had it broken—he doesn’t intend to do it again. But stubborn, spirited Starling is more alluring than he bargained for, and Alasdair will risk everything he has to prove his love is true…
Set against the sweeping backdrop of 1866 South Australia, Starling is a novel of cherished dreams and powerful desires, and the young woman bold enough to claim them both…
As a child, Virginia Taylor had no talents other than messing around with a pencil and a pad of paper, and reading under the bedclothes at night. At the age of eight, she won a colouring-in contest, which led her to believe she should pursue the life of an artist. After dropping out of the South Australian School of Art, she worked in interior design for a year, before deciding a life of penury was not for her. Her next venture was as a nurse/midwife, during which time she met and married the perfect man (for her). In time, she produced two daughters, wrangled five or six cats, numerous guinea pigs, hurt and injured birds and lizards, learned how to spin, weave, dye, pot, work with leather, paint and renovate houses, in between working out how to write a successful book.
A publishing contract not being forthcoming after a few years of intensive striving, she joined with a theatre set designer and painted his sets for him. While she did so, he taught her the mechanics she needed to design and paint her own. In the meantime, she entered writing competitions, until she was sure of making the finals or winning.
She was offered her first two contracts in 2013 by Random Romance and then sold the next seven to Kensington Books USA during the next couple of years. Meanwhile she is writing more and more books while pursing her gardening hobby. Currently she is a volunteer gardener for a National Trust property.