|Summer Readers Circle|
Why I Wrote Annie’s Choices by Tricia McGill
At the start of her story in 1843, Annie is 18. Having spent all her life on the sheep farm at Bathurst west of Sydney, owned by her Papa Tiger, she is still naïve in the ways of the world, yet forthright because of her upbringing. Deciding to stay with her brother Tim and his wife Jo in Melbourne after a visit with her parents, she meets Jacob, who works as a carpenter for her brother. Jacob is a steady sort of man who keeps his feelings close to his chest and Annie is never quite sure how he feels about her.
Some of Annie’s choices turn out to be questionable, especially the biggest one of all where she makes the wrong decision about the two men who come into her life. Many changes have occurred in the fledgling colony in the 25 years or so since Annie’s Mama first set her feet down on solid land at Sydney Cove as a prisoner of the crown. My main aim in this, the final in the series, was to go full circle and take the family back to where it all began. I say final, but Tiger and Bella had eight offspring so who knows, one of them could very well start hinting it is time we heard their story.
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Annie’s Choices Excerpt:
It was fortunate that the house built for Tim and Uncle Carlos had sufficient rooms to house them all while Mama and Papa were visiting. Uncle Carlos and his Amelia were in the midst of planning a home of their own not too far away and would be moving there soon. The furniture manufacturing business they started on reaching Port Phillip was thriving due to the arrival of new settlers in the district. Jacob was happy to share a hut adjoining the stables with Billy, the native who had journeyed south with them in search of his long-lost family. A fruitless search it seemed, since many of the natives had either been forced inland or died in the numerous battles with squatters and settlers.
All Annie had learned to date about Jacob was that he arrived in town last year with his Ma, who worked for a family of free settlers. He had a hand in building the family’s house and so acquired the skills required by Alfred, Tim and Carlos’ chief craftsman, who welcomed him when he applied for employment in the factory.
When she arrived with her Ma, Papa, Uncle Remy and Aunt Sara last month to spend the Christmas season with Tim and Uncle Carlos, and to meet Tim and Jo’s first born, the first person Annie set eyes on was Jacob, even before being greeted by the family. It turned out that he was sent ahead to lend a hand with their luggage. As the sun slanted across his head, turning his hair to gold, for a fleeting moment she imagined him as some sun god and not real, and her breath caught in her throat.
A memory her mother related to her once of how the first thing she noticed about Pa when brought ashore at Botany Bay all those years ago, was his thatch of golden hair, made Annie wonder if that was perhaps when Mama fell in love with Papa. In her eyes, Pa was still a handsome man, even though old. Her Ma laughed at her when she said that a while back, scoffing that he was in his prime at fifty and four or so years.
Jacob had politely welcomed them all, before continuing his assigned task, and Annie was taken aback by how softly spoken he was compared to most of the farm workers employed by her Pa. Another day passed before she was in his company again and heard that lovely lilt. He seemed reticent about stopping to talk, and Annie’s curiosity became roused.
Now here it was, almost one month later, and still she had not managed to pass more than a few words with him. Always he was off going about one task or another when not working alongside Alfred and his other employees making their splendid furniture. He seemed to enjoy spending his leisure time with Billy and the horses. With a sigh, she plumped up her pillow and turned onto her side. Tomorrow, or as soon as the opportunity arose, she intended to gain his attention.
Perhaps he thought her ugly. Sure that she was no raving beauty, nonetheless Annie knew that many of the other misses of her age in the colony were less attractive by far than her. Some had mottled skin gained from spending too much time out in the sun without a bonnet. Her hair had gained a few compliments from one or two young men and she knew some found its color appealing. Mama and her brothers had inherited their reddish locks from their Spanish Papa, and although hers was not as dark as theirs it was nevertheless a lovely shade between red and gold so Ma had assured her.
A terrible thought then hit her and she sat up with a jerk. Could he already have set his cap at one of the other misses who made sheep’s eyes at him? How she wished she were worldlier.
About Tricia McGill:
Award-winning author Tricia McGill was born in London, England, and moved to Australia many years ago, settling near Melbourne. The youngest in a large, loving family she was never lonely or alone. Surrounded by avid readers who encouraged
Tricia’s love of animals has always shown up in her books. Tricia devotes as much time and money as she can spare to supporting worldwide conservation groups and is passionate about supporting those who do all they can to preserve our wildlife for future generations. Some animals seem to be getting the raw end of the deal even in this enlightened age. She also volunteers for a local community group that helps disabled adults and children to connect to the internet with provided computer equipment. When people ask what she does in her spare time, she is heard to ask, “Spare time, what is that?”
Visit Tricia online:
Click here for Tricia's author website.
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