By Anna Campbell
Flinders visited Australia twice, the first time between 1785 and 1800, and the second time between 1801 and 1803. He captained the ship that first circumnavigated Australia; in a rowboat, he and George Bass explored large areas of the NSW coast near Sydney; Flinders and Bass also proved Tasmania was an island by circumnavigating it; he was a brilliant cartographer; and he was the first to suggest calling my native land Australia. On a more personal note, he was the first European to sail into Moreton Bay, upon whose shores I grew up and still live.
All this achievement and excitement came to an abrupt end in 1803. On the voyage back to England, Flinders called in at Mauritius for supplies. This was in the middle of the Napoleonic wars, so the powers that be imprisoned him for six years as a spy, an experience that broke his health.
One of the reasons Aussies remember Mr. Flinders so fondly is that a black and white cat named Trim accompanied him on many of his adventures: “The best and most illustrious of his race, the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures. He made the tour of the globe, and a voyage to Australia, which he circumnavigated, and was ever the delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers.”
Trim is honoured with several statues, including one at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, where he receives considerably more visitors than his master does several feet away. The vagaries of fame! In a more recent tribute, Trim sits faithfully at his master’s feet in Mark Richard’s lovely statue at Euston Station (putatively marking the site of the explorer’s grave, as in 2014, the body hadn’t been found) which commemorates the 200th anniversary of Flinders’ death.
|Trim's statue by John Cornwell behind Matthew Flinders's own in Sydney, Australia.|
As a romance writer, my heart warmed to the fact that Matthew Flinders jeopardised his career by trying to smuggle his new bride on board his ship when he left London to go back to Australia in 1801. Sadly, the ruse didn’t succeed. Sadder still, this was the voyage where he ended up imprisoned. Poor Ann didn’t see her husband for another nine years once he left England.
Even more interesting, I discovered that Matthew Flinders’ grandson is the famous Egyptologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie who was the model for Emmerson in the fantastic Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I’m crazy about those books! Isn’t it interesting how research keeps curving back on itself?
As you can imagine, I’ve long wanted to use Matthew Flinders’ life as the basis for a historical romance. I got that chance in 2017 with my sixth Dashing Widow book, Catching Captain Nash. In my story, Captain Robert Nash returns from years of imprisonment in South America to find his ‘widow’ just about to get engaged to another man. Not the homecoming he’d been dreaming about! Unlike poor Matthew, Robert gets to make a full recovery and embark on a long and happy life with the woman he loves and the daughter he didn’t know he had.
If you haven’t read the Dashing Widows, now is a great time to try the series, because the first book The Seduction of Lord Stone is currently free across all platforms. I’m also giving someone who comments today a chance to win the boxed set of the first six stories, including Catching Captain Nash.
If you’re interested in reading further about Matthew Flinders, Wikipedia is a great start.
Matthew Flinders Petrie.
Even Trim gets his own Wikipedia entry!
The Giveaway is now closed.
Five years after he’s lost off the coast of South America, presumed dead, Captain Robert Nash escapes cruel captivity, and returns to London and the bride he loves, but barely knows. When he stumbles back into the family home, he’s appalled to find himself gate-crashing the party celebrating his wife’s engagement to another man.
No red-blooded naval officer takes a challenge like this lying down; but five years is a long time, and beautiful, passionate Morwenna has clearly found a life without him. Can he win back the wife who gave him a reason to survive his ordeal? Or will the woman who haunts his every thought remain eternally out of reach?
Love lost and found? Or love lost forever?
Since hearing of her beloved husband’s death, Morwenna Nash has been mired in grief. After five grim years without him, she must summon every ounce of courage and determination to become a Dashing Widow and rejoin the social whirl. But she owes it to her young daughter to break free of old sorrow and find a new purpose in life, even if that means accepting a loveless marriage.
It’s like a miracle when Robert returns from the grave, and despite the awkward circumstances of his arrival, she’s overjoyed that her husband has come back to her at last. But after years of suffering, he’s not the handsome, laughing charmer she remembers. Instead he’s a grim shadow of his former dashing self. He can’t hide how much he still wants her—but does passion equal love?
Can Morwenna and Robert bridge the chasm of absence, suffering and mistrust, and find the way back to each other?