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We are writers mainly from Australia and New Zealand who write speculative fiction with romantic elements. Be it fantasy, paranormal, dark urban fantasy, futuristic and everything in between.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Magic Thursday: Courting Trouble

Great-granddad. Front & centre.
I've always known history got things wrong. For instance, when my great-grandfather arrived in Western Australia in 1895 he didn't immediately strike it rich on the Goldfields. Instead, he spent his life working on the railways. I wonder what he'd have thought of my steampunk version of Western Australia in 1895.

Courting Trouble is about a threat to the British Empire, but it's also about the changing role of women and my hero's burning question: How do you woo a suffragette?

Below is a snippet from Courting Trouble. A digital copy is also up for grabs. Just leave a comment on this post and you'll go in the draw.

So, do you know what your great-grandparents were doing in 1895?


“Esme Smith, I could spank you.” Jed loomed over the rickety round table where she sat trying to concentrate on the socialist speaker, whose thin voice was losing badly to the competition of a hurdy-gurdy and the pub patrons’ drunken sallies.

She glanced up, startled, guilty, and then angry at that stab of guilt. Her heartbeat accelerated. She pressed her gloved hands to the table, then snatched them away. The tabletop was sticky with spilled beer even after the landlord had given it a desultory swipe with a dirty rag. Her sherry glass rocked perilously.

“I told you not to come here,” Jed continued.

“That’s right. You told me.” She scowled up at him. How dare he stand there like some gunslinger from his native California, daring her to challenge him? Well, she intended to do more than challenge him. She’d set up her Women’s Advancement League because she believed heart and soul that women should be mistress of their own lives. No man, no matter how charming, intelligent and downright devilishly good-looking, was changing her mind.

“Hello, handsome.” One of the pub’s working girls sashayed up to Jed and stroked a none-too-clean hand down his lapel. “Looking for company?”

“No.” He caught her hand and put it firmly away from him, then turned a look of blistering contempt on Esme.

She flushed. While she sympathized with the women forced by dire circumstances into prostituting themselves, she hadn’t been aware that such women worked at the Rootail Pub. Their presence had made her question whether Jed, just slightly, had possessed a valid point when he’d declared the pub completely unacceptable. She might be a suffragette, but she was respectable.

The working girl shrugged and her neckline slid impossibly lower. “If you change your mind…”

He ignored her. “We’re leaving.” It was an order.

“You can.” Esme lifted her sherry glass but was careful not to actually sip any of the disgustingly sweet wine. “I’m staying.” She replaced the glass carefully on the table.

A muscle in his square jaw twitched.

She smiled up at him, enjoying his frustration. His dictatorial attitude made defying him irresistibly satisfying. He could hardly haul her out of here without causing a scene—and Mr. Respectable wouldn’t want to do that. “Jed, if you could move a fraction to the side…I can’t see the speaker.”

Swan River Colony, Australia, 1895

All suffragette Esme Smith wants is respect. Her beau, American inventor Jed Reeve, may be more enlightened than most men, but lately his need to protect her is at odds with her need for independence. Esme begins to wonder if a modern woman can share her life with a man without losing some of herself.

With his courtship of Esme stalled, the last thing Jed needs is the pressure of saving the Prince of Wales. But when blueprints for a sonic destroyer fall into his hands, he uncovers an anarchist plot that could have deadly consequences.

While investigating the threats, Jed is determined to keep Esme out of harm's way, despite her protests. But when the terrorists capture Jed and demand a priceless emerald in exchange for his life, it's Esme who must draw on all her strength to save the day.

34,000 words


  1. You paint a delicious dichotomy. I really like these two. :)

    1. I love Esme and Jed. They became so real to me I could see her striding down the street on a mission and him strolling beside her, grinning. Thanks for dropping in, Maria

  2. Can't wait to read Courting Trouble, Jenny! I love Jed and Esme :-)

    1. Thanks, Christina :)

      You wouldn't guess what just arrived from the Book Depo! Oh all right, small hint: there might be an archangel involved ;)

  3. I love a strong female character. I think Jed is in for a challenge :)
    My great grandparents were thinking about heading to NZ.

    1. Essie Summers hooked me on the pioneer ethos of New Zealanders. Though my knowledge of your history (our near neighbours!) is shockingly limited. Think it's time I grabbed a couple of history books.

  4. Fun scene, Jenny. Love it! My great grandparents were village people who didn't stray to far from home. But I don't know too much about them. I know one of my paternal grandfathers was a shepherd. One of my maternal great-grandfathers went to America never to return. It's so cool that you know about your family history.

    1. There are tantalising gaps in the history. Mum's Polish and well, you know what WWII in Europe did to records -- even if I could read them! Uh, Polish is so difficult. We have a photo of my great-grandfather's brother in a (we think) Russian officer's uniform taken before he fought and died in WWI. Nothing weird about that, you say. Except my family were meant to be poor but honest, not officer material.

  5. Solidarity, Sister! Love that scene, Jenny. I bet you had fun writing it. :) I'm afraid I have no idea what my great-grandparents were up to. Toiling away at something no doubt.

  6. Sandy, I did have fun :)

    Great-grandparents can be really difficult to find out about. Can be some surprises, though, when you do!


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