Hobart Town 1878 – a vibrant town drawing people from every corner of the earth where, with confidence and a flair for storytelling, a person can be whoever he or she wants. Almost. Ellen Thompson is young, vivacious and unmarried, with a six-month-old baby. Despite her fierce attachment to her family, boisterous and unashamed of their convict origins, Ellen dreams of marriage and disappearing into the ranks of the respectable. Then she meets Harry Woods. Harry, newly arrived in Hobart Town from Western Australia, has come to help his aging father, ‘the Old Man of the Mountain’ who for more than twenty years has guided climbers on Mount Wellington. Harry sees in Ellen a chance to remake his life. But, in Hobart Town, the past is never far away, never truly forgotten. When the past collides with Ellen's dreams, she is forced to confront everything in life a woman fears most.
Based on fact, Cold Blows the Wind is not a romance but it is a story of love – a mother’s love for her children, a woman’s love for her family and, those most troublesome loves of all, for the men in her life. It is a story of the enduring strength of the human spirit.
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Catherine Meyrick is a writer of romantic historical fiction. Her stories weave fictional characters into the gaps within the historical record – tales of ordinary people who are very much men and women of their time, yet in so many ways are like us today. These are people with the same hopes and longings as we have to find both love and their own place in a troubled world.
Catherine lives in Melbourne, Australia but grew up in Ballarat, a large regional city steeped in history. Until recently she worked as a customer service librarian at her local library. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also an obsessive genealogist. When she is not writing, reading and researching, she enjoys gardening, the cinema and music of all sorts from early music and classical to folk and country& western. And, not least, taking photos of the family cat to post on Instagram.
On Saturday, Harry woke to the sound of an empty cart rattling along Bathurst Street. He knew he should get up but slowly drifted back towards sleep and the dream he had reluctantly woken from all week – Ellen Thompson, warm and willing, in his arms. He forced his eyes open and lay staring at the ceiling. How many times had he relived his memory of last Sunday? Ellen pressed against him, her eager kisses. And he had started it – her intention had been simply to kiss him on the cheek. But wasn't that encouragement? He lay there, his eyes wide. Eliza. He pushed thought of her away. It was over seven months now. She was the past.
Set in the sprawling landscape of Australia, in particular beneath Mount Wellington in Tasmania during the late 1800s, the reader is immediately introduced to two people searching for a different life and hoping that love is just around the corner. As the cold wind blows down from the mountain, and as each winter passes, Harry Woods reconnects with his aging father and step-mother (known as Grannie), helping as a guide to tourists who trek up the mountain... and he, ultimately, meets the beautiful young Ellen Thompson whose poverty-ravished family has a reputation in the nearby town of Hobart. Yet, Ellen sees a future with this man, ignoring all of the doubts lingering about his past, simply because she desires acceptance, security, and a future. The reader is led along, believing in this love affair, and the ease and comfort their relationship brings to each of them, and to Harry's parents as they become real grandparents to Ellen's first child, Billy, and to Harry and Ellen's baby. The dream and promise is just right within reach... yet, the cold wind blows again, and as often happens in life, unexpected problems rise. Harry's past comes to Hobart and snatches all of Ellen's hopes, even as she gives birth to Harry's second child.
She no longer felt the consuming hunger for him that had marked their first weeks together, but she needed him as she needed food and air. In that bed, cocooned from the world and its cares, they talked into the night. Ellen loved the sound of Harry's voice. He told her stories, tales of his childhood, tales of his adventures. In the darkness, she heard the changes in his voice, developed a sense of what was memory and what was embroidery intended to amuse her, aware of the pauses, the brief silences hinting at something held back. She wouldn't question him. She knew that one day he would feel he could tell her everything.
The warmth and comfort that the author delivers in the first half of the book, like layering cosy quilts to shield from the harsh winds and snows blowing down from the mountain, leaves the reader quite unprepared for the sudden turn of events for not only Harry, but especially for Ellen. When his secrets are revealed, Ellen emerges as a resilient woman in a time when a woman's place in the wilds of Australia depended much on a man. She reveals an admirable fortitude, and again and again, her love for her children revitalizes her in the face of heartbreak, stark poverty, and the unspeakable acts of good-for-nothing scoundrels. Also, that love is not where one expects it to be.
Harry stood on the deck of the Southern Cross as it pulled away from the dock, his eyes fixed on the mountain, snow extending down its slopes as far as the Springs. He had barely been able to look away from it when he arrived. He remembered how he had felt then – for the first time in his life he was free to do whatever he wanted, no past, nothing expected of him. And Ellen had only added to that feeling of freedom – young, beautiful, eyes for no one but him. Who wouldn't have done what he did?
The engaging way in which the author tells the story truly makes the reader sympathetic to Ellen's travails, and with each page turn, you are impelled to discover how her story ends. A very well told narrative, sweeping the reader into the story with incredibly developed main and secondary characters, and vivid setting. You can feel the chilling wind not only in the setting but in the relationships which thread through the novel. One caveat to the accolades is the jarring feeling this reviewer felt at the stark shift in feelings between the main characters, which is not to say that it wasn't warranted or plausible – it was just unexpected, which is, in itself, a reason for any reader to want to learn about Ellen and Harry's story. The author, Catherine Meyrick, definitely reveals herself to be an incredible storyteller, and the end notes, which tell a lot about the research done for this book and the connection to Ms Meyrick's own family, gives great historical detail about a time in Australian history that many may not know about. Very well done and the author is to be commended.
“....the people who move within the pages of this novel were once living people, in so many ways like us today – people who wanted shelter, warmth and enough to eat, who hoped for love and security, freedom from illness and, most of all, a better future for their children. It is the daily heroism of ordinary lives...”
“Cold Blows the Wind” by Catherine Meyrick receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company
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