Have you ever wrestled with this monster? I call it a monster because it frustrates the hell out of you, saps your confidence and sucks up your creative juices until you feel as wrung out and used up as an old dish rag.
Some time ago I decided to write a series because… well, series are popular, aren’t they? Book 1 went well. It’s a historical romance: boy meets girl and they fall in love in spite of their countries being enemies. It is a light-hearted book, an easy read, with an element of comedy. A nice change for me because I tend to be attracted to tragedy. I’ve killed off so many characters that readers may be tempted to think I am a closet psychopath. Not so, I do assure you.
I didn’t publish it immediately, because I thought that while writing Book 2, I might find changes I wanted to make to Book 1. The monster made its appearance very shortly after I started writing Book 2. In 6 months of ardent effort, after various stops and starts, I managed an incredible 62 pages. Was I ever going to write another book? Was I finished, washed up, with all those books clamouring in my head never to be written?
Say it ain’t so!
I hate an unfinished project, but I had no choice. If I wasn’t to lose confidence in myself entirely, I was going to have to abandon Book 2, or at least set it aside for a while until I had tackled one of those charming creatures inside my head that were waving for my attention.
I started a new book. Want to know how I did? Begun in the merry month of May, I have at this writing managed 169 pages. Not a great output by some standards, but that doesn’t matter. It is progressing.
The monster is vanquished.
Set in 19th century London & Africa
Anna is running away. From whom or what? She has changed her name and takes passage on a ship bound for anywhere. She doesn’t care, doesn’t even want to know. She is determined to shed the constraints of her society and live independently somewhere far away from England. The captain of the ship turns out to be a man from her past, the husband of a late and dear friend. He too has changed his name. Why? He is a very menacing and mysterious character and Anna is wary of him. Could he possibly be the love interest? To add a little more spice to the pot, also on the ship are Mrs David Livingstone and children who are going to meet Mr Livingstone. Yes, Anna’s destination turns out to be Africa.
By this time – the third chapter – I was so firmly hooked, I could hardly move.
Nothing could be a greater contrast to Anna’s previous experience than the lifestyle of the Livingstones and the culture of Africa. We observe this young, well-bred English lady as she rides for days in the back of a wagon, watches an animal being butchered, learns to pluck a fowl, lives through a drought, a lion attack and a war… and yet loves Africa. Meanwhile, she suffers nightmares of her past life and struggles to come to terms with the person she was.
Anna is a bit of a trope – a woman trying to live according to the mores of a later time – but because of the author’s excellent writing and story-telling, she rises above such clichés. All the main characters are interesting and well-presented, but my favourite is the Chief – also a real person – as colourful and delightful a character as you could hope to meet. The relationship between him and the Livingstones is heartwarming.
Judging by the ending, I feel sure there will be another book.
I wrote this review for Discovering Diamonds