I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are easing into 2019 with comfort and happiness.
I am heading into the new year at full blast with the imminent release of The Secrets Mothers Keep on 31 January 2019 (I have some exciting news for paperback readers below!). For those of you who are familiar with my books, I must tell you that this story is a little different. The genre is women's fiction/family saga, though there is definitely still some romantic subplots weaved into the fabric of this story and all the emotion you are used to.
So what's this book all about and is it something you'd be interested in reading? Let me share a little bit about The Secrets Mothers Keep with you.
The Secrets Mothers Keep is set in a small town in Tasmania, Australia, called Campbell Town.The story centres around five women and a beautiful historic manor that is in dire need of restoration. It explores the themes of secrets - why we keep them, where they originate from, and the ethical implications of hiding things from the people we love. It tests the old adage of 'what you don't know won't hurt you' and spins it on its head.
One Family. Three generations. A common goal to unite them. A lifetime of secrets to divide them. But could uncovering the truth be the only way that this family can finally heal?
Three generations of women find their way back home to Tasmania. They embark on a project together to renovate the family manor and convert it into a bed and breakfast.
After a tumultuous life of pain and betrayal, Mary swore she’d never let anyone hurt her or her family again. But in order to keep her word, she has to guard a secret she swore to keep fifty years earlier.But with the family now under the one roof, and the past tampered with, the foundations of this secret are shaken.
Mary always believed that hiding the truth was protecting the family, but when all is exposed, she finds that by keeping her secret, she was the one hurting them all.
Pre-order for the e-book version of The Secrets Mothers Keep is available from Amazon sites worldwide. And the exciting news about the paperback is that I've fast-tracked its release so that people who order a copy will have it in their hands by release day of 31 January 2019.
Australian readers, you can order your paperback from the US Amazon site and it will ship to Australia. All e-book pre-orders are made through the Australian site and will download onto your e-reader on 31 January 2019.
US Readers, paperback and e-book orders are made through the US Amazon site.
UK readers, paperback and e-book orders are made through the UK Amazon site.
To get you a little more acquainted with The Secrets Mothers Keep, I've included the first two chapters below - exclusive excerpts. I hope you enjoy.
“Mary, I’m not going to sugar-coat this,” Luca says. He’s a tall, sturdy man, though a lot of the young ones are these days. Thick dark hair. Big brown eyes.
“I wouldn’t want you to, Luca. Come out and say it.”
He rubs his chin, the stubble raspy under his palm. His forehead is furrowed and his eyes are filled with a warmth of concern.
He is worried about upsetting Mary, which is a lovely sentiment—a good sign he was raised well. Unlike the previous builder who couldn’t mask his glee at her predicament; dollar signs had whirred in his eyes like cherries on a poker machine.
“This old house … it needs some serious repairs. As it stands, it’s unsafe. The years of neglect, well, you can see how it is.”
“So what you’re saying is it will cost me money?”
“I’d love to tackle this project out of the goodness of my heart, but I’ve gotta eat too. With heritage listing constrictions, it will be expensive.”
She crosses her arms over her chest.
“I don’t know what to say, Mary. I don’t. Without spending at least a hundred thousand dollars, I couldn’t even call this place safe to live in.”
Mary blows out a long breath of air that leaves her empty, not only of oxygen but of hope.
Viewtree House was built in 1857. A monster of a place set over two levels: ten bedrooms, five bathrooms and two kitchens, all set on twelve acres. She has done all she can to keep it neat and tidy, but she hasn’t been able to afford repairs, let alone maintenance, for the last two decades.
“It’s not yours to worry over. I’ll figure something out.” But short of selling it, she doesn’t have any other options. Tears sting her eyes, but she doesn’t dare allow them to show. Toughen up, Mary. This isn’t the end of the bloody world.
“Have you thought about opening it up to the public—?”
“Public?” Her voice is shrill, despite her best efforts to stay calm, but that suggestion is unthinkable.
“Like a conference centre. A writers retreat. You could make some money from the old girl.”
“No. That’s not an option.”
He peers out through the windows to the endless countryside that is her backyard. Mary follows his line of sight. “There’s a lot of land out there. Prime rural real estate. You could check out the zoning. Maybe subdivision—”
She shakes her head hard. The thought of ripping this place apart and destroying its essence makes her nauseous.
“You’d prefer to sell it. Offload the burden. I understand—”
“Of course not,” she snaps. “I couldn’t bear … selling is the last thing I want to do.”
Luca frowns. “I will help you any way I can.”
“At a price?” she adds, then regrets it. These circumstances are not Luca’s fault; he just happens to be the one delivering the bad news.
“Unfortunately goodwill doesn’t pay the bills.”
“No,” she says. “It most certainly doesn’t.”
“Whatever you decide, any help you need at all, you call me. And if there’s something dangerous like that step,” he says pointing to the half-turn stairwell. At this time of the morning, multi-coloured sunlight pours through the harlequin leadlight window and illuminates the shaky stairs in rainbow hues, contradictory to the dark mood within this place. “I’m here. No cost, okay?”
He already fixed the top step she nearly fell through yesterday for free. The painful big bruises to her ribs from gripping the wonky handrail is a reminder each time she breathes of how close she had come to rolling down the staircase to her death.
“Thank you. I appreciate you coming around and helping me like this.”
“If you come up with an idea to save this place, get me over again, and I’ll do you up a quote.”
She nods. “Sure.”
Luca gathers his tools, hands Mary his business card, and leaves through the front door. It was once a magnificent door, tall and wide, made of solid hardwood and coated with gleaming varnish.
She closes it behind Luca and leans against the cold timber. Now the surface is patchy, matt and splintered in places.
It doesn’t matter how many builders she invites to inspect her home and give over quotes, the condition of the house won’t change.
To be attached to a physical object such as a house is pathetic. Any other self-possessed woman would simply face facts, as hard as they are, and sell the bloody thing.
But her anchors are buried here. This is her home. The one proud remnant, aside from her bones, blood and flesh, left standing after a turbulent life.
Sure, she can stay here for a few years more and hope the place doesn’t deteriorate so much that it becomes a death trap. But then what? She will be in the same position but with an even bigger problem on her hands.
Mary sighs as she ambles along the entrance hall as though she is Luca or a potential buyer and sees her home through their eyes.
The timber floorboards beneath her feet are scuffed and rotting around the edges. Muffled creaks and squeaks from under the pale pink (once vibrant red) hall runners sound in warning with each careful step. The plastered walls have paint peeling off them in large flakes like skin after sunburn.
The high ceiling, though beautifully ornamental with intricate cornices, has patches of black blotchy water damage and rot dirtying the appearance.
Through the entrance hall, off to the side, is the living room: expansive, tired. Two windows along the back wall permit sunlight to spill inside and cast doubt on the illusion of grandeur she has long regarded. Splendid windows they are. Were. Tall and wide, from the floor to the high ceiling.
Large, faded fabric lounges sit frailly. Lead-glass lamps stand on timber side tables. Threadbare rugs, imported from Egypt long ago, are laid across the floor. Ornaments, pictures and vases sit upon the big Carrera marble mantel around the open fireplace.
She flinches at this horrible revelation.
How can she even live here let alone sell the place? Pride and complacency have clouded her eyes—she has only seen what she wanted to see, not the reality. The reality of this place, this home entrusted to her to upkeep, is so much worse.
It reminds her of those slouching homes she would pass on the way to school as a young girl. Her heart would race as she rushed by, praying she wouldn’t see the ghost that lived inside because surely all old buildings are haunted.
She would wonder how anyone could live in such a home, brittle and bruised, let alone linger too close to it as though the dilapidation was contagious.
But she understands now. Age and a lack of wherewithal, whether that be basic maintenance skills or money, mostly money, means the occupant had no choice.
She has no choice.
Mary glances out through the windows, past the gravel drive, towards the main road in the distance. Do girls and boys walk past and wonder how anyone could live here?
This house is no longer a home but a dying structure, a signpost of denial. But she can’t lose it.
The day she moved in, fifty-four years ago, she rushed to every spacious room, poking her head in, breathing in the scent of stained timber and garden-cut flowers, fresh-scented linen and hope.
Hope, in the beginning, was a force within this home, a buzzing entity inside of her, so great it would overflow and cover everything. But like this house, time, neglect and tough-luck have reduced the beauty of that emotion.
She rushes to the staircase, which sweeps upwards like a gesturing arm to the second level, and holds the balustrade, running her fingertips over the gritty hardwood. Can she find hope in this house and rediscover that hope within her own walls?
She has to. There is nothing left now but hope.
Up the stairs, she marches as fast as her aching knees can manage to her library and pulls out her best writing paper—glossy white with her name Mary Rivers embossed in navy blue along the top—and sits in her chair.
She writes out her plan, her last vestige of hope that she can save this house, and, in a way, she is yet to admit, to save herself too.
Mary is stooped over her writing desk. She never stoops. Always upright, prepared for battle. June can hardly remember her sister any other way. She usually detests Mary’s rigidity, but the bentness of her posture now is attacking June’s energy in a way she doesn’t like.
Mary’s form and that expression on her face—vulnerability? She’s never vulnerable. Not openly anyway. Sure, in private, Mary can be a much different person, but when that face of hers, lined by the years now, has an audience, it’s always the same—stern brows, intense blue eyes that watch everything, and a long straight line of a mouth.
June knocks at the door. She never knocks, but Mary’s intensity has thrown her off. She’s all out of balance. “Mary? Everything okay?”
Mary looks up. Stern blue eyes framed by reading glasses. Glasses, though magnificent, and obviously expensive, are dated.
But Mary’s expression is what steals June’s breath. It’s as though a mask held in place over decades has been ripped away revealing a tired, frightened woman.
June’s breakfast—a smoothie of cucumber, spinach, avocado and wheatgrass—curdles in her guts. She will pay for this brief clench of anxiety later.
Mary sighs and her shoulders slump.
Her sister’s unfamiliar show of emotion and the panic that is rising within her own chest eats through the serenity created during her morning yoga routine.
“Not really, June.”
A horse whisperer approaching a wild brumby, June treads slowly into the room.
“I could lose the house,” Mary says, matter of fact.
“What did the builder say?” Under normal circumstances, when Mary is still an erect tree rather than this slanting branch, June would crack a joke about how cute Luca is, how she’d like to jump his bones or some such thing. But now is not the time for jokes.
“It will be at least one hundred thousand dollars alone to make the house safe.”
June gasps. Zero-serenity now. See that is the problem with meditation, yoga and mindfulness, it works while the world is not throwing rocks at you, but the moment life gets tough, all her practice, peace, and abiding calm, floats away, leaving in its place gut-clenching nerves.
June closes her eyes, breathes in through her nose, then out through her mouth, loud and airy like a busted tyre deflating. Mary is still looking at her when she finds her voice again. “Okay. Okay. We can handle this. Now, I know you like to be … frugal.”
A dramatic understatement. Mary doesn’t spend a cent on anything. A penny saved is a penny earned and all that. She is so much like their father sometimes it’s frightening.
It’s not like she’s going to take that money of hers to her grave. She may as well spend it on the house and live out the rest of her life comfortably. Not these rotting boards, damp smelling walls and faded tatty curtains.
But money is a subject that’s difficult to broach with Mary. What’s that new term they’re throwing around these days? Trigger.
Mary’s trigger is money. There are others, like the house, her late husband, perhaps even June’s very existence, but money is the biggest.
Never in the history of their long sisterly relationship has June attempted to speak about every one of Mary’s triggers in a single sentence, though. A certain level of courage is required. Calm, tranquil thoughts. Still pools of warm water. Cleansing rain. The scent of a fertile pine forest.
“Perhaps it’s time you access the money Robert left you and use it on the house. Honestly, he’d want you to live comfortably, don’t you think?” June tightens from the inside, bracing for the storm.
Again that long sigh. “There’s something I need to tell you. You might want to sit down.”
June’s breaths come faster. This interaction is turning her into the opposite of what she works so hard each day to be. Instead of a slow-breathing relaxed turtle, she is a panting dog. This cannot bode well for her longevity. Cortisol must be shooting through the roof.
She finds a spare chair near the wall of books and drags it to the desk. She sits opposite Mary, waiting. Her fingers lace together.
On the table is Mary’s finest stationery set; the set reserved for family and important correspondence. For some reason, seeing the good paper enforces the magnitude of what is about to be said.
Mary clears her throat and June flinches.
“There is no money,” Mary says. “I don’t have a dollar to my name that could be used to repair this home.”
June’s heart thuds against her ribs then races away at a pace she isn’t comfortable with. She shakes her head, lips parted, looking for words, but nothing comes out.
“I don’t understand,” she finally manages, voice hoarse. “What … where is it then?”
Are they tears in Mary’s eyes? No. This isn’t right. None of this is right.
“I lost it.”
“You lost it?”
June pushes to her feet, her anxiety now replaced with some misplaced sense of injustice. Anger blisters through her. “How the bloody hell did you lose half-a-million dollars?”
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt of The Secrets Mothers Keep!
If you wish to know about my other books, please take your time browsing my backlist here: Jacquie's Books.