When Chloe Mainwell, the pampered only child of an ambitious British politician goes to France for her debut into society, she discovers life to be far more unbelievable than she could ever have imagined. After marrying ‘under a cloud’, her arrival in New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century leaves her in no doubt of how different, or how difficult, life can be. Yates’ Landing is a romantic novel set on the Kaipara Harbour against a background of historical events such as Women’s Emancipation, Halley’s Comet, the sinking of the Titanic, World War 1 and the influenza epidemic which devastated much of the country. The Whangarei-born author has captured the essence of a fascinating district and its place in New Zealand history in this, the first of three books set in the north.
At the back of the Auditorium, Will Cray stood, hidden by the curtains in a position where he could peer out at the audience that was filling the hall. Music throbbed, filling every corner of his mind as people still filed in. A quick glance told him it was a full house, every table already cluttered with glasses and a tiny posy of flowers in the centre of each, compliments of the Ladies Guild.
The hall was new, built at the end of the road past Willow Reach. He had contributed to its construction as a memorial to his Grandfather and great Grand-parents and never dreamt that he would be one of the earliest to be welcomed through its doors. And he was regretting his choice. He shouldn’t have gone to the meeting; it could only make him more anxious than he already was. Mentally he blamed Dana Hunter, his school teacher from years ago, for pushing him into it though he knew it was his own fault. He was just too soft.
Tonight he would be presented with an award for his new book and he was alone. All those unfamiliar faces terrified him and he shivered as he let the heavy fabric drop back into place. He couldn’t do it. He knew he couldn’t; had argued with Dana but to no avail. And now he was standing there in a borrowed suit and someone else’s shoes, waiting as if to be fed to the lions. And there would be lions, human ones, just waiting to absorb him, to analyze him, criticize his work, his clothes, his posture and certainly his long hair and beard.
Reporters with cameras and cell phones had hounded him for days after his book came out until eventually, he had simply sailed off in Wanderer and stayed at sea, enjoying the peace and quiet of the harbour. And the locals, who knew his boat well, went about their tasks without letting on that they knew where he was. Not even a glance his way betrayed his escape. Speculation spread widely but no-one said a word. The Harbour community knew when to keep its mouth shut.
Now, he stood trembling. Dana had finally convinced him that it would be rude to the community if he refused the award. They had done all they could to protect him as he stayed, safe and hidden in their midst, but now the time was right. He peered out again, eyes scanning desperately for a face he knew, any friendly face would do. The thoughts raced through his mind as he watched the commotion. Camera men adjusting their lens for the umpteenth time, reporters making sure their mics worked okay. Testing testing. The stage had already been set; a table with the obligatory glass of water and a couple of comfortable chairs, lights glaring up into his face and beyond, a sea of expectant faces, at the moment all laughing and chatting eagerly as they knocked back their choice in alcohol.
‘Joy should be here.’ He thought, ‘She was always there for us. She would have enjoyed this. Grandpa William would have too. But they’re both gone. Everyone’s gone.’