Manuscript assessed and copyedited by Lynk Manuscript Assessment Service
Fifteen-year-old Eliza Raines knew that her foolish pride in defying her puritanical Scottish father had consigned her newborn, Emily, to a miserable existence, so unlike that of her sister who had accepted her father’s decree that she marry into a French family in the tradition of the Auld Alliance. Whereas Eliza’s sister was able to position her own daughter, Delphine, into an even more stately French family, there was no going back for Eliza and Emily, forced to do whatever it took to survive in late eighteenth century England, especially when an evil volcanic cloud from Iceland suddenly descended, precipitating frigid winters and causing crop failures en masse. In the blink of an eye, it seemed that all of Northern Europe was in the grip of famine.
On 1st August, 1785, a year after they were married, Delphine’s husband, Arnaud de Marchienne, left the strife behind when he sailed from the French port of Brest on a three year expedition of discovery into the Pacific to rival that of Captain James Cook, endorsed by King Louis XVI himself, and led by the most famous French navigator, Comte de La Pérouse.
Eliza and Emily were soon heading in the same direction. The despair of the poor was manifested by chronic overcrowding in English prisons, prompting Parliament’s resolve to resume the transportation of felons. With its American colonies lost, so began the greatest, the most daring expedition of its kind ever attempted – the assembly of ships to transport fifteen hundred convicts to establish a penal colony on the farthest side of the world. Debauchery was rife in the cramped, unsavoury and unsanitary cells below deck, where the sanctity of females was non-existent. So when consumption claimed Eliza mid-voyage, a young marine officer cadet named Joshua, the third son of Lord Samuels, stepped in to safeguard the tender aged Emily. Together, they became part of the founding of the Colony of New South Wales.
Arnaud met a very different fate, another sailor lost amidst the many seafaring gambles that arch enemies, France and England, regularly took in the quest for control of the South Pacific. France had come within a whisker of claiming both Terre Australe and New Zealand for itself. Yet, even as Britain sowed the seeds for new nations, the French nation imploded into bloody and violent revolution beneath the tricolour cockade. Their eventual saviour was a soldier whose ambition to be the emperor of Europe thrust France into a constant state of warfare. Despite the risks, Delphine had no option but to rely upon the young Englishman mentioned in Arnaud’s last letter from Botany Bay if she was to solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearance and overcome the unremitting ache in her heart …