I’m delighted to welcome one of my fellow Accent authors to the blog today. Jane Jackson is a truly excellent writer, and an all round lovely person. She is here today to share some of the background to her novel, ‘The Master’s Wife.’
Over to you Jane…
When Caseley and Jago Barata’s two young sons die in an epidemic while he’s away at sea, her grief and his guilt create an unbridgeable chasm between them.
Believing he failed his wife when she needed him most, Jago cannot turn to her for comfort. Seeking escape from his guilt he takes up with his former mistress, devastating Caseley when she finds out.
Aware of Jago’s undercover work in Spain, and deeply anxious that increasing unrest in Egypt could lead to war, the British Treasury asks him to carry £20,000 in gold to Egypt to bribe the largest Bedouin tribe to fight on Britain’s side.
What had caused the unrest? Ambitious to make Egypt more like Europe, Khedive Said then his heir and nephew Ismail had raised money for their expansive but poorly-planned schemes through crushing taxation. When that wasn’t enough, they took out huge loans at high interest rates from British and European banks.
By 1876 Egypt faced bankruptcy. Anxious to protect its 44% share in the Suez Canal, Britain demanded – and was granted- joint financial management of Egypt with France. Ismail was deposed in favour of his son Prince Tewfiq, and left for exile in Naples on a train loaded with gold, objets d’art, jewels and furniture.
The poorest Egyptians saw little improvement in their lot. They toiled for overseers employed by large landowners and too often had to choose between buying seed for their own small plots, or a length of cloth to replace the rags that were all they had to wear.
Wilfully blind to their own part in fuelling the upsurge of anger, the ruling elite refused to believe that the fellahin would ever rebel. But the Egyptian poor, who did not want their country ruled by Turks or by Europeans, had found a charismatic leader in Egyptian-born Col. Ahmed Arabi. (There is a saying that those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it, and I see painful similarities between these events and our current situation)
Jago’s mission to Egypt would take him away from home for at least three months. Desperate to escape a house filled with memories, Caseley pleads to go with him. He is reluctant, concerned for her safety. But she demolishes his argument by pointing out that for her the worst has already happened so what has she to fear? Besides, the official language in Alexandria is French which she speaks and he doesn’t. if only for this he needs her.
Because I’m a plotter, I had mapped out the story’s route. But Caseley and Jago are strong people and once the journey began they took over, reacting in ways I hadn’t planned or expected. This led to unforeseen consequences. It was as much an adventure for me as it was for them. I lived the events with them. I laughed, wept and had my heart in my mouth more than once. Would Jago fulfil his mission? Could he and Caseley find a way back to each other?
Gesturing towards an alcove screened from the cabin by the folds of a thick dark curtain, he moved to the open doorway. ‘You know your way around. I want to get underway.’
‘Yes, of course.’
They were husband and wife and as wary as strangers. He disappeared and she heard his boots clang on the chased brass treads of the companionway. Alone now she pressed a gloved hand to her dry throat as her heart thudded. Not too late…With all her heart she hoped so.
Everything was as she remembered: the table designed to fit the narrowing stern and edged with a wooden lip to prevent things sliding off. The shelf above filled with books and sea junk secured by a beautifully turned fiddle rail. The shallow brass lamp suspended beneath the open skylight.
Her gaze moved from the clock and barometer to the squat stove standing on its protective metal plate in front of the forward bulkhead and bracketed by a full coal-bucket and basket of logs.
Through the open skylight came the sounds of a ship making ready for sea: the rattle of blocks, snapping canvas, and the crew’s banter. Six years had passed since her last trip and it was exactly as she remembered.
She crossed to the sleeping alcove. Pushing back the curtain she saw the nightstand. Beneath a hinged lid was an enamel basin. A cupboard underneath held a chamber pot. Light fell across the bed and her breath caught in her throat.
Immediately after proposing to her, Jago had instructed Hammer to widen the narrow berth so it would comfortably accommodate them both. She had made a mattress to fit and bought new blankets. In that small private space they had discovered each other, shared their pasts and talked of their plans for the future. Their elder son had been conceived there. She had slept in Jago’s arms, safe, loved, until her advancing pregnancy had made it uncomfortable and unwise.
The berth had been reduced to its original size. Rejection stung like a slap. She lifted the blankets and saw the mattress had been made smaller. Their time together, her presence here, her part in his seafaring life, he had erased it all. She had believed herself numb to further pain. She wasn’t.
You can buy The Master’s Wife from all good retailers, including- : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Masters-Wife-Captains-Honour-Book-ebook/dp/B01DPSLP5C
I have lived in the same Cornish village nearly all my life.
My first book, a romantic thriller, was published in 1982. After four medical and ten contemporary romances for Harlequin as Dana James published worldwide I began writing longer historical romances. Of the fourteen published as Jane Jackson some remained Cornwall-based, others – set in the C18th and C19th – ventured to foreign shores while maintaining strong Cornish links. After joining the RNA in the early 1990s I reached the shortlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award with Eye of the Wind in 2002, and was shortlisted for the Historical Prize in 2010 with Heart of Stone, and in 2016 for The Consul’s Daughter. Crosscurrents published in 2016 was shortlisted for the Winston Graham Historical Prize. The fourth in my ‘Polvellan Cornish Mysteries’ series, Secrets and Lies written as Rachel Ennis was published in April.
Teaching the Craft of Novel Writing for over twenty years from Ad. Ed. to MA level has been both a pleasure and a privilege. Ten of my former students are now multi-published novelists.
Many thanks Jane, wonderful blog.