Congratulations Tea Cooper on the release of
The Currency Lass
Read an excerpt below!
She can run but she can’t hide…
As her father’s only heir, Catherine Cottingham expects to inherit their sprawling property in the Hunter Valley. What she doesn’t understand is why her father is trying to push her into a marriage to the pompous and repulsive Sydney businessman Henry W. Bartholomew.
When the will is read it becomes clear money, or the lack of it, lay behind her father’s plans. Catherine is mortified — as a married woman all her possessions will pass to her husband, the overbearing Bartholomew. Her only alternative is to wait until her twenty-first birthday and inherit the property in her own right, but can she elude such a determined man until then?
A chance encounter with a travelling circus and its fiery lead performer, Sergey Petrov, offers the perfect solution and Catherine escapes to the goldfields. But there is more to the circus than spangles and sawdust and Catherine finds herself drawn into a far-reaching web of fraud and forgery…
A stunning new novel from the bestselling author of The Horse Thief and The Cedar Cutter
Excerpt from The Currency Lass by Tea Cooper
June 1st, 1851
Sydney, New South Wales
Row upon row of fine buildings had sprung up since she last visited Sydney and above them all, the towering spire of St James’ Church reigned. Lights blazed from the shops, with dressmakers and bonnet makers displaying an amazing array of clothing in their windows.
‘Sydney is the city of the future. It has everything to offer. Museums and zoos, horse-drawn omnibuses and ferries. Tomorrow we will promenade in Hyde Park and take strawberry ices in the Café Parisienne. You are missing so much locked away in the Hunter.’
Certainly life at Cottington was a far cry from this whirlwind of activity.
Bartholomew tugged on her arm and drew her to a halt. The lights surrounding The Adelphi Hotel blazed and the sweet smell of confections and other treats filled the air, rather like the local shows and race days at home.
Following a line of flares that led around the back of the hotel they arrived in front of a large ring surrounded by row after row of tiered seating. Fresh sawdust spread over the ground muffled the smell of horses, sweat and numerous bodies. Children scurried around chasing each other and all manner of people crowded the entry.
‘Our seats are somewhat away from the riff-raff. Since the fortuitous arrival of the Russian Cossack’s troupe with the country’s very first equestrienne, Princess Valentina, the whole world is begging for a glimpse.’ Bartholomew stopped suddenly and pulled her even closer. ‘I should warn you about one thing, Catherine, I would hate your sensibilities to be offended.’ He patted her arm almost as though she were an aged aunt. ‘I’m told most of the ladies find it adds a touch of spice to the entertainment.’ His beady eyes gleamed and he lowered his voice. ‘In some instances the performers’ attire could be regarded as vulgar.’
Whatever was he babbling about? ‘I’m not easily offended, Mr Bartholomew. I’m a country girl as you well know, used to country life.’
He glanced from left to right then leant close to her ear, his breath fanning her cheek. ‘The performers, both men and women, are somewhat scantily clad, short skirts and tight garments, which leave little to the imagination.’
Catherine pulled away, stifling a laugh. Perhaps now was not the time to mention that she preferred to ride astride and favoured a disreputable pair of stockman’s moleskins topped off with a loose shirt and cabbage-palm hat. ‘I’m sure I shall manage, Mr Bartholomew. Thank you for your concern.’
His shoulders drooped a little and he slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. ‘In that case let us find our seats.’ With a succession of rather neat little skips somewhat at odds with his top hat and evening clothes he led her under the billowing canvas awning.
A long stage overlooked the ring where strangely garbed creatures cavorted and performed a series of peculiar antics. Walking on their hands, contorting into impossible poses, leaping and tumbling to the accompaniment of a band, if it could be called that, no more than a fiddle, tin whistles and a drum.
An assortment of people packed the tiered seats and the dirt surrounding the arena. She’d never seen such a collection: some in evening clothes like Bartholomew, and others wearing nothing more than slops or filthy working clothes. ‘How many people do you think are here?’
‘Six, seven hundred, maybe a thousand.’
‘That must be half of the population of Sydney.’
‘Nowhere near, my dear. Nowhere near.’ He smiled at her in a benign manner and patted her hand once more. ‘We are close to forty thousand now. The authorities were fearful of the mischief and vagrancy that might ensue with such a performance, yet nothing has eventuated. Sydney is simply captivated. From the poorest street beggar to the highest echelons of society.’ He tugged at his waistcoat and puffed out his chest.
Within moments of settling into her seat the flares dimmed, the music ceased and a vibrating anticipation filled the arena. Then Catherine picked up the soft steps, a muffled whisper before a single flare blazed to life in the centre of the ring.
Her breath caught.
Oiled skin gleamed dark as mahogany under the lights, one man astride a pure white stallion. Her skin rose in an embarrassing rush of bumps and she pulled at her sleeves, her palms damp under her gloves.
‘Ladies and gentlemen …’
The crowd broke into a fevered applause punctuated by whistles and cheers from the seats behind them.
The man sat, not a muscle moving, right hand raised in salute and the bridle loose in the fingers of his left, until the crowd calmed. ‘Welcome to Rudi’s Equestrian Circus.’ His knees clenched and, like a conquering hero, his horse reared tall and statuesque.