Featured book this week is The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay.
There’s an extract to read too…
“From the wild beauty of the Australian bush to England’s rugged south coast, this is a deeply moving story of heartbreak, heroism and homecoming by a beloved, multi-award-winning author.”
When Lucy Hunter stumbles upon her grandfather Harry’s World War II memorabilia, she finds a faded photograph of a stunning young woman known simply as ‘George’ and a series of heartfelt letters. They are clues about the secret years, a period of Lucy’s family history that has been kept a mystery … until now.
How did a cattleman from north Queensland find forbidden love with the Honourable Georgina Lenton of London and persuade her to move to his isolated outback property? And why are the effects of this encounter still reverberating in the lives of Lucy and her mother, Rose, now?
As the passions of the past trickle down the years, three generations of one family pull together. Each must learn in their own way how true love can conquer the greatest challenges of all.
Extract from The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay
The Secret Years is about three generations of one family. There’s Lucy, a returned female soldier from Afghanistan who finds her life at a crossroads, Ro, her under-confident mum who feels she’s made a mess of her life, and Harry, Lucy’s grandfather, an outback cattleman and WW2 hero, who won the heart of a glamorous and wealthy London debutante. The story moves from the Aussie outback to England (where there’s plenty of glamour) and also involves a desperate escape through the New Guinea jungle during the war, so there’s plenty of romance and heroism.
A soft footfall on the carpet outside… and she glided out of the shadows.
‘George, you’re still up?’
‘Of course I am. I had to see you. Will you come outside with me?’
He only hesitated for a second, looking back in the direction of her parents’ rooms. ‘Sure.’
She had a fur wrap ready. Pulling it around her shoulders, she led the way, back down the stairs, out through a side door and into the bright, starlit night. ‘Let’s go to the boathouse. We can talk there.’
She wondered if he could hear the pounding of her heartbeats as they made their way together, over the damp lawn, to the little wooden hut beside the lake.
‘Was my father too awful?’ She had to ask.
‘No, he was perfectly reasonable.’ Just the same, Harry sounded tense.
‘But he demanded to know your intentions?’
After a beat, ‘Yes.’
It was too dark to read his expression. ‘And?’
‘And I told him I needed to speak to you first.’
‘Oh.’ This sounded more promising. Georgina almost hugged him with relief.
It was dark and gloomy inside the boathouse and she opened the little cupboard where lamps and candles were stored.
‘Here, let me,’ Harry said, as she fumbled with the matches.
He struck a match firmly. Light flared and Georgina handed him a candle to light, and then another.
‘That’s better,’ she said, as she set the candles in a pot of sand to cast their golden glow over the timber walls and floor and the cushion-lined benches. ‘I can see you now.’
But what she saw frightened her. Harry was standing stiffly to attention, watching her sadly. Too sadly.
She felt a knife blade flash of panic. ‘Harry, what is it? What’s the matter?’
A sigh escaped him. ‘I’m very afraid that I’ve made a regrettable mistake.’
‘How do you mean?’
His mouth twisted unhappily and he looked away through the wide doorway to the black glassy surface of the lake and a solitary white swan, limned by starlight.
Georgina couldn’t stand it, couldn’t bear the suspense a moment longer. ‘Harry, please don’t play games.’
‘That’s the last thing I want.’
‘You are going to ask me to marry you, aren’t you?’
‘That’s what I’d planned.’ He seemed to speak with difficulty, as if he was dragging the words out. ‘But I realise now that I was fooling myself.’
‘Why?’ The single word was a cry, a howl of despair.
‘George, I –’
‘You love me.’ Georgina didn’t care that she sounded desperate. Harry had told her that he loved her. So many times.
‘The thing is… I have so little to offer you.’
So there it was. Just as she had feared. Harry had been overawed by her family, by the estate, the titles.
This was all going terribly wrong. Everything she held dearly was slipping out of her grasp.
‘You’ve never seen where I live,’ Harry said, confirming her fears. ‘It’s not a lush tropical plantation like your aunt and uncle’s. It’s way out in the outback. It’s isolated and hot. We have drought for years at a stretch and then floods. And flies, damn it.’
With every word he uttered, Georgina’s fear and frustration mounted. The one person she trusted to hold her world together was backing away, potentially walking out of her life.
In the candlelight his face reflected the same agony that was ripping through her insides.
‘George, I’ve seen the way you lived in London. And now this – ‘ He flung out his hand in an agitated gesture that indicated the Hall, the grounds, the lake… ‘This estate is even grander and lovelier than your London house. And it’s not just the house. There’s the lifestyle – all your friends.’ His jaw squared and his mouth was a tight, hard line. ‘I’m sorry. Kalkadoon’s no place for a lady.’
Read more about Barbara and her books on MEET BARBARA HANNAY