From Canadian fir forests, oaks of England and onto the fern bush in New Zealand, this family saga centres around four forthright, liberal women, spans five generations, three continents, two world wars, and one hundred years.
The story begins in present day New Zealand when Nicole receives an ancient diary from her Canadian grandmother, Cindy that she begins to read. It begins in 1898 with Amanda's elopement with her beloved Jack and her struggle to survive and prosper away from her domineering father in Washington State. The two begin a new life in Vancouver, Canada where, over the years, she develops a publishing empire.
Her daughter, Dorothy becomes a nurse serving in England. She falls in love with a soldier about to be charged for desertion from the trenches in the Western Front in World War 1. Will he be court-martialled and shot?
In World War 11, Cindy becomes a Land Girl in war torn England and tragedy strikes their family.
Nicole has her own problems and is helped by Cindy, now an old lady when and ancient legacy comes her way.
Each period in time is filled with drama, joy and sometimes tragedy, but vividly illustrates the determination of each woman to enrich her life through love of partners and families and a liberal outlook on life.
Pen On Paper
Monday 19 September 1898
The decision is made. Tonight, I am leaving my home of the last twenty years. Father will not compromise and has banned any association with Jack Williams. Why, you might ask? Is it only, as he says, because Jack is a Presbyterian and our family is Irish Catholic? No, I believe it is also because we are the landed gentry and he is but a poor worker in Father's lumber mill.
We are leaving for Canada and a new life away from this autocratic atmosphere where women are expected to obey without question. I shall miss Mother but dare not tell her of my plans because she is sure to pass the information onto Father and he will carry out his threat.
I attended Mass for the last time ever yesterday and hope God forgives me for forsaking the Church. Jack is doing the same as we do not believe God only looks down on one religion; Catholic or Presbyterian. We shall be neither but shall pick a third faith to follow. I will take my money and the shares given to me for my eighteenth birthday so Father cannot withdraw them.
As I stare in the mirror I see my auburn hair and freckled nose. Even though I wish them gone Jack loves my freckles and my curves but I must not be vain.
Have I made the right decision? I only know I love Jack with all my heart and he loves me in return. Only you, Dear Diary, will unfold the truth as Jack and I move forward into the new century together. The 1900s are only a little over a year away. What do they behold?
Amanda blotted the entry and tucked the cloth bound notebook in her cane pouch; it was a bag really that held her clothes and other necessities. She glanced around the bedroom for the last time. Wasn't it strange that to do something for love, one had to become so sad?
She brushed her hair, rolled it up high and put her Sunday frock on. It was probably entirely inappropriate for the horse ride they were about to make but she could think of nothing else to wear. She pulled the especially made bag over her head and tied the strings around her waist, wiggled into her coat, bonnet and gloves and, except for her riding boots, was dressed to leave.
'Honey, are you still awake?' Her mother's voice came up the corridor.
Amanda jumped in fright at the sound and swung back from the dressing table. Her face drained of colour as she stared at the door. If Mother walked in now their plans would be ruined.
'Just reading, Mother,' she called and tried to disguise the quiver in her voice. 'I'll have the light off soon.'
'Don't be long, Honey. Father says you should not let the electric light burn too long or it will overheat.'
'No, Mother,' Amanda replied and pulled the cord so the light went off. 'I've decided to sleep now. See you in the morning.'
'Night, My Love.'
She shivered and stared at the silhouette of the window in the darkened room. The only other light in the house, the one in the main bedroom along the corridor, clicked off and she heard her mother's cough. It was like any other night. Father was at a meeting and would not be back before midnight and by then she'd be long gone. Amanda could just make out the hands of the clock on the mantelpiece. Nine thirty-five! Jack would arrive at ten but promised to wait if there were any delays.
It was a three-hour journey north from their Washington State home to the border into British Columbia. Afterwards they'd continue onto Vancouver. If discovered here in United States she would be brought back home but Canada was a new country beyond Father's influence. She would be safe. Just three hours away! Amanda waited with a pounding heart for almost five minutes before she adjusted the strings of her pouch and grabbed her boots.
She tiptoed to the landing and glanced along the corridor. The door to her three brothers' room was shut. She was the eldest and would miss them, especially five-year-old Jamie. A touch of sadness crossed her mind as she thought back to her only sister, Georgina who would have been nineteen now but had died three years earlier from diphtheria.
Mother's door was open but all was silent. Using her left hand to run fingers along the wall, Amanda made her way to the banister and felt, rather than saw her way down the stairs. Her eyes were open but could see nothing except pitch-blackness.
Suddenly her foot hit something soft and a cat screamed.
Shed forgotten Patches slept on the stairs. She reached down, patted the animal and hoped the noise didn't disturb her mother.
Luckily, all remained quiet and Patches seemed content once he realised who it was. He gave a more pleasant meow and followed her to the kitchen. She could feel him by her leg as she crept forward. The kitchen stood silent and eerie in the white reflected light from the window but now, at least, the outline of the bench could be seen. Amanda moved forward and opened the veranda door. Cold air puffed into her face. It was only autumn but already the night temperatures had dropped and snow was close.
'Bye, Patches,' Amanda whispered and patted her pet for one last time. The door squeaked when she pushed it but everything remained still. The barn was across the cobblestone yard and beyond, the lane where Jack would be waiting with Stargo, her horse, already saddled. Everything was going to plan.
She squeezed into her boots and moved across to the barn.
A crunch of footsteps made Amanda turn. Six men stood up behind them. Sean O'Donnell glared at his daughter and signalled to the others. Amanda recognised the burly men from the lumber mill.
'Well, Amanda,' O'Donnell snarled. In one brief step he was in front of her and slapped her so hard across the cheek, the apple in her hand went flying and she crashed back on the ground.
She screamed and wiped her hand across a bleeding mouth. Jack couldn't help. The furious man was struggling to free himself from two men but his efforts were futile.
'You cowardly bastard!' Jack yelled as Amanda struggled to her feet.
'Your turn will come,' O'Donnell said in a quiet voice and very slowly pulled a long thin cane out from a leather bag attached to his saddle. 'Strip her top off,' he ordered.
Two leering men moved forward and grabbed Amanda. With one tug her frock was yanked down to her waist, her remaining petticoat suffered the same fate and the cane pouch was cut off and tossed away.
'For modesty's sake she can leave the rest on,' O'Donnell hissed. 'Turn the little harlot around.'
Rough hands thrust her, none too gently, over a round rock while Jack screamed and struggled to be free of his captors. With one almighty crash Sean O'Donnell lashed her across the bare back.
Excruciating pain, worse than she had ever felt in her life made her scream. Her whole body jerked up and tears rolled down her face. She banged down on the stone and jarred her chin so hard it felt as if her teeth would fall out.
'I shall report you to Father McNeil for this,' she shouted defiantly through her teeth and spat out some blood. 'You may have the town wrapped around your fingers but not Father McNeil.'
O'Donnell had his hand up ready for another lash. He hesitated. The one person in the county not under his control was the local priest. 'Let her go,' he grunted and Amanda felt herself released.
She fell to the ground, stopped and pulled her frock up before turning again towards her father. 'You will never touch me again, Father,' she said. 'Now let Jack go and we'll be on our way.'
'Oh yes, the young man' said O'Donnell. 'You can have him when we've finished, Amanda. He's not even Catholic so Father McNeil won't worry about him. You can watch and see what happens to heathens who go around raping my daughter. No court in the United States will convict me for a right and just punishment.'
He turned and was about to give an order when Amanda heard another voice, a calm clear voice that everyone else also heard.
'Not yours, maybe, but ours will. In the name of Her Majesty's Government, you will stop and drop all your arms.'
Amanda stared in the direction of the voice. In the pale dawn light, a man dressed in a red jacket, lemon squeezer hat, brown riding trousers and knee high black boots, stood with a rifle in his hand.
'The name is Dutton, Sergeant Anthony Dutton of the Northwest Mounted Police. You men are illegal immigrants into Canada.'
O'Donnell leaped around and his hand went for a gun but stopped half way there. There was a click of a bolt and the Canadian moved his rifle up ever so slightly.
'I wouldn't,' he said. 'I don't know about The United States but in Canada it is against the law to assault women.' He grimaced. If you want to try anything...' He added no more but two more red-coated men, with rifles aimed and ready, stepped out from the trees, both.
'You have no authority here,' O'Donnell snarled but made sure his hands were free and away from his gun. 'This is the State of Washington.'
A rifle cracked. Amanda screamed but her voice was obliterated by the sound. One of O'Donnell's henchmen stumbled. The man groaned and stared at his blood stained arm where a bullet had hit him.
'You're half a mile within Canadian territory,' Sergeant Dutton said softly as clicked back the bolt and expelled the expired cartridge from his rifle. He turned. 'Constable, if you'd be kind enough to give the lady a hand.'
Amanda found a hand grab hers and a Mountie, hardly her age, assisted her up. 'You're safe now, Ma'am,' he said. 'Welcome to Canada.'
She glanced across and saw Jack had been released and her father's men were backing up with their hands behind their heads. It was only when her eyes met Jack's and she saw the compassion that she allow the tears to flow.
Jack stared at O'Donnell. 'You are not even a man,' he spoke quietly but with venom in his voice. 'No man would treat his daughter in the manner you have just done. My God, it is almost 1900, not the 1830s. You are even too gutless to do anything on your own but had to use six great oaths to hold us down. Six!' Jack repeated and spat on the ground.
O'Donnell's face was black. He almost stepped forward towards the pair but hesitated when a Mountie click a rifle bolt.
Jack gave Amanda a tiny kiss on the forehead and turned her around so her back was exposed. She couldn't see it, of course, but could feel the throbbing ugly welt crossed across her back Blood dripped onto her clothes.
Jack turned to O'Donnell. 'My advice is to never come near Amanda or myself again. If you do, then, I promise God I shall repay this brutal punishment with interest.'