When her grandmother dies, Gabby discovers an old letter concealed in a secret compartment in the roll-top desk made four generations earlier. The secrets it reveals belong to an even earlier generation—the first members of Gabby’s family to cross the ocean from Britain to Australia, over 150 years ago.
In 1855 Sarah and Mary are alone on The Colchester, after their parents are both killed by the deadly disease on-board. The family left their home in Wales in an attempt to find a
better life in the colonies but with both parents dead the sisters are devastated, with no idea what to do next.
Sarah also becomes ill and, worried about passing her illness to Mary, encourages her to spend the days away from the stuffy cabin, in the fresh air on deck. Befriended by a gentleman, Mary finds herself swept up in a hopeless cycle of shame and lies, with no way out. When the girls arrive in Melbourne they have little hope of finding suitable work and make a drastic decision which could lead either to fortune or disaster.
Mary’s heart was beating so fast she thought she might have a heart attack and it was only knowing that Billy was there, that it was up to her to keep him safe, that kept her outwardly calm. “Please, mister, just take our savings and go. There’s a bunch of troopers coming along behind us.”
Another shot rang out and this time it was one of theirs; the man who hadn’t approached the cab, but was holding back, keeping watch, slumped over on his horse and the sidekick turned his horse around. One more shot and his hat flew off his head. “Let’s go!” he said.
The leader tipped his hat to Mary. “Sorry, love, we have to go now. Maybe next time.”
They disappeared as suddenly as they’d appeared and Baz pulled up beside the carriage. “All right, Mrs?”
“Yes, what about Luke and Harry?”
“Luke copped it in the arm, but he can sit up all right in the wagon, not on a horse. That whitefella though, I don’t know, he looks bad, Mrs.”
“Harry?” Sarah climbed out and ran back to the wagon, with Mary behind her.
His head was bleeding and he was barely conscious. “Can we put him on the mattress?” Sarah said, as she used her handkerchief in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
With Mary and Sarah’s help, Baz managed to drag Harry behind the seats to the mattress and lay him down there. The bleeding had almost stopped but Sarah was very worried; she couldn’t tell what the extent of the injury was. Mary was helping Luke, bandaging his arm with her scarf and he said he’d be all right, sitting in the seat beside Baz, who would drive Harry’s cart. The horses were tied to the back.
“Would you mind if I sit here with Harry, Mary?” Sarah asked. “Perhaps Luke could go with you?”
Mary nodded. She could see what it meant to her sister and she had no doubt at all now that Harry was more than a friend. Luke was happy to ride with Mary and Billy and was well enough to sing some songs to the little boy and put him to sleep. He had persuaded Mary to take Harry to Elsie and Biddy, who he said were the best hope he had of survival.
After spending most of her younger adult life as a full-time mother of five, Christine rediscovered a love for learning when her youngest son started school in 1990. By the time her son graduated from high school, Christine had earned a Diploma in Art and Design, a Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Philosophy of Religion, with Honours in History.
During her Honours year she came across the tragic case of Camellia McCluskey, when researching infanticide and child murder for her thesis. She found the case especially compelling because of the quantity and quality of research material available and also because the crime actually occurred in the regional city where she herself lives.
She wrote a non-fiction version of the story, ‘Not Guilty’, but she became frustrated at the missing elements of Camellia’s personal history. She decided to create a story, based on her knowledge of the period and research, in an effort to reveal her humanity. By the time the reader learns how the murders unfold, they have an appreciative insight into Camellia the person, without having had the opportunity to have met her. As a fiction writer Christine enjoyed writing ‘Her Flesh and Blood’ more than ‘Not Guilty’, but the non-fiction version has proven more popular with readers.
She has several books on Amazon and has also had short stories published on radio and in journals. ‘The Letter’ was inspired by her love of history in general and also family history.