Australia, 1845: On the way to Kangaroo Island, a passenger ship strikes a hidden reef in a storm and sinks. From prisoners to the privileged, everyone on board is cast into the sea, and only two young women survive: Amelia Divine and Sarah Jones. Just when it looks like they are about to get rescued, Amelia suffers a bad head injury and loses her memory. She can not even recall her name. Using her companion's ill fate to her advantage, Sarah jumps at the chance to change her identity and to escape her own grim future. From impossible love to heartbreaking misfortune, the ripple effect of that fateful day will follow both women in ways Sarah had never imagined. A twisting tale of deception and consequence, "Island of Whispering Winds" whisks you away to the fantastic Australian countryside, while Sarah and Amelia find themselves. Just how far with Sarah go? Will Amelia ever learn who she really is?
With an eye for detail, Elizabeth Haran is the author of numerous other romantic adventures including "Under a Flaming Sky," "River of Fortune," "Flight of the Jabiru," and "Staircase to the Moon," available as eBooks.
For fans of sagas set against a backdrop of beautiful landscapes, like Sarah Lark's, "Island of a Thousand Springs" or Kate Morton's, "The Forgotten Garden."
About the author: Elizabeth Haran was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia and migrated to Australia as a child. She lives with her family in Adelaide and has written fourteen novels set in Australia. Her heart-warming and carefully crafted books have been published in ten countries and are bestsellers in Germany.
Australia, September 1845
Off the southern coast of mainland Australia
"Lucy! Bring my parasol at once, do you hear?" The beautiful young dark-haired woman called impatiently. She was obviously worried about her peaches-and-cream complexion.
"If your skin is burning, Miss Divine, perhaps you should come out of the sun," Lucy advised her employer in a kindly tone. She was aware of how powerful the sun's reflection off the sea could be. With her blonde hair and fair skin, she burned in a matter of minutes. She was standing in the shade of the aft deck, sheltering as much from the rising wind as the sun, while the S.S. Gazelle rolled and dipped over mounting waves. They were traveling along the southern coast of Australia, heading for Backstairs Passage, a notoriously volatile stretch of water that separated Kangaroo Island from the mainland, but with strong head winds the crew claimed it would be dark before they got there. It was almost October, and the weather should have been mild to warm, but the wind was as chilled as a winter's morning.
Amelia Divine was standing at the ship's railing, glaring at her servant. "This terrible rocking motion is making me feel ill, Lucy. If I don't keep the breeze in my face, I am likely to feed those horrible mutton chops we had for lunch to the fish."
Lucy inwardly groaned. Amelia had done nothing but whine since they set sail from Van Diemen's Land five days ago on the steamer Lady Rosalind, and it was taking its toll on her nerves. It was too warm. It was too cold. The food was terrible. The crew were rude. They were being forced to mix with steerage passengers. On and on and on .
Even the brief stopover in Melbourne, before boarding the steamer Gazelle, had not improved her mood.
Lucy was convinced it was too windy to hold a parasol, but she went below to fetch it, just to keep her ladyship happy. She'd no sooner given it to Amelia when the bracing wind whipped it from her hand, and she screeched in annoyance as it flew over the side and was quickly swept away on the crest of a wave.
"Perhaps it would be wise to come out of this wind, Miss Divine," Lucy suggested. Amelia was so slight that Lucy feared the strong wind might carry her overboard.
"I told you, I'll be sick. If you haven't any more helpful suggestions, leave me be," Amelia said sullenly. She was turning the same pea-green as the sea, Lucy noted, and was obviously bent on making Lucy bear the brunt of her ill temper, as she had done more than once in the past few weeks. Lucy returned to the shelter of the aft deck, where she was awaited by a fellow passenger, who'd introduced herself as Sarah Jones.
Sarah had overheard Amelia's tirade. "I don't know how you put up with your employer's whining and the disrespectful way she talks to you," she said, glaring at Amelia, who was clinging to the railing with a snooty expression on her pretty face. She'd had the displeasure of meeting lots of Amelia Divines over the years. She'd been spoken to in the same insolent tone many times. Due to her circumstances, she'd had no choice but to accept it, but she didn't understand why Lucy put up with it. She was a servant, yes, but obviously a free person.
Sarah had an expert eye for those who were in the same position as herself, and Lucy wasn't one of them. If she'd been in Lucy's shoes, she'd have told Miss Divine exactly what she thought of her. It would probably have cost her position, but the satisfaction would be worth it.
"I need the work and lodgings," Lucy said by way of explanation. "I came out to Australia eighteen months ago with one hundred and fifty-six children from a London orphanage. The minute any of us turn sixteen, we are expected to make our own way in the world. I had my sixteenth birthday only last month, but I was lucky enough to get this position with Amelia."
"Miss Divine can't be much older than you," Sarah commented, still glaring at Lucy's employer. "Where are her parents?" They were obviously rich and had brought her up to look down on the working class, which only increased Sarah's dislike of her.
"She's nineteen. Her life was one to envy . until a few weeks ago, when her parents and young brother were killed."
"An enormous gum tree fell on their carriage during a violent gale in Hobart Town. Apparently they didn't stand a chance. I was hired to accompany her out to her appointed guardians, who live in the town of Kingscote, on the island. Amelia hasn't seen them since she was about eleven, but the family butler told me they're wonderful people, so I'm sure they'll be very kind to her. I'm praying she keeps me on as her companion because despite how difficult she's been, looking after her is certainly not hard work." Lucy was way too sweet-tempered to feel anger about Amelia's behaviour. Her soft nature even showed in her gentle features and her warm smile.
Sarah gave Lucy a look that suggested she'd rather put up with scrubbing outhouses than be anywhere near Amelia.
"If I wasn't Amelia's companion, I'd be working in a factory or doing cleaning work, and I don't fancy that," Lucy said. She glanced at the cracked skin on Sarah's hands and knew they'd been in water more than they'd been out. Her own hands had been in a similar condition when she lived in the orphanage.
Sarah's dislike of the haughty Amelia was not softened by hearing of her loss. She was sure she wasn't penniless, and she had guardians to look out for her. There was no doubt her future was going to be anything but hard. Besides, she was too beautiful to be pitied. In fact, Sarah disliked her because they were so different. Though they both shared the same features - long, dark brown hair, a fair complexion and brown eyes -, Amelia's face was beautiful, while Sarah's was rather plain. Though they both were going to live on Kangaroo Island, their new homes could not be more different. And of course, while Amelia was born with wealthy parents, Sarah came from an English working-class family.
Sarah could, however, see Lucy's point of view. Even so, it still galled her that the Amelia Divines of this world thought they had the right to treat anyone of a lower class like doormats.
Lucy noticed dark clouds were gathering over the mainland and prayed they would reach their destination before a storm hit them. "I am so curious to see the island. One of the other passengers told me the beaches there have beautiful white sand, and that the fishing is excellent. Amelia was a little dismayed when she heard the population is so small, because she thinks there won't be many stores where she can shop, but I'm looking forward to seeing the seals and penguins. I was also told the climate is similar to Van Diemen's Land so we shouldn't have too many hot days."
Sarah shrugged her shoulders. It didn't matter to her what the island was like. She had not had the choice to go there.
"What type of work are you going to be doing on the island?" Lucy asked Sarah.
It was an innocent enough question, but Sarah had every intention of telling Lucy a pale version of the truth. "I'll be living on a farm and taking care of some children who lost their mother nearly a year ago."
"Oh dear, what happened to her?"
"I believe she died giving birth to her seventh child."
"Does that mean one of your charges will be a newborn?" Lucy asked. Although she felt sorry for the farmer's children because they'd lost their mother, she couldn't keep a hint of excitement from her voice. She just adored babies.
"I was told the baby died, too," Sarah replied. Not for the first time she was thinking that the farmer's wife should have refused her husband's amorous attentions. If she had done so, their children might still have a mother. But Sarah was realistic enough to know that the poor farmer's wife had no choice but to accept her fate and be a dutiful wife, and she'd paid the highest price.
Lucy was still thinking about the poor baby who'd died at birth. "So you'll be a governess to six children," she said. It was a naïve statement that did little to hide the fact that she was reminded of the toddlers and babies she'd taken care of at the orphanage, the poor unwanted mites who had not a soul in the world to love them. Leaving them behind had been one of the hardest things she'd ever had to do. She could remember the day, just a month ago, when she'd walked out of the orphanage. It felt like only yesterday. The babies were screaming and the toddlers were wailing, but the nuns wouldn't let her stay. It had broken her heart, and she still felt a tremendous sense of guilt for deserting them.
Sarah was relieved with how Lucy perceived her situation. Being thought of as a governess was far better than Lucy knowing she was an indentured convict, a ticket-of-leave prisoner. At the age of fourteen she had been convicted and sentenced to a term of seven years for stealing. She'd served five hard years at the...