The Brisbane author who writes historical fiction, started her working life as a corporate lawyer. No stranger to change, Christine took a gamble that paid off .
“I was writing all the time, so my husband encouraged me to have the time off to do it properly,” Christine says. “I published four historical romances with Berkeley and was awarded the Golden Heart for my first novel,” she says. (The Golden Heart award recognises outstanding romance manuscripts by romance writing members with unpublished novels).
Christine then published six more novels with St Martin’s Press under the name Christina Brooke.
“In New York the publishing industry is very fast paced,” she says. “I was writing two books a year and that was thought of as slow. So, I decided to take some time to be with my family.”
A change of genre
It was a discussion with her agent that then changed her writing direction. Christine explains that her agent asked her: “So, what would you really like to write?”
Christine knew immediately: “I really like Kate Morton and I like the idea of a historical story set around an old house,” she says.
“As a lawyer I was fascinated by the criminal conversation laws where a woman was her husband’s chattel and if she was even suspected of having an affair she was dragged into court.
“The accused adulterer was forced to pay a lot of money even when the evidence was very flimsy. She would also lose custody of her children, which were the husband’s property.”
The Wife’s Tale
Consequently, Christine’s latest novel The Wife’s Tale is a dual timeline novel that shifts from London and The Isle of Wight in the 1780s to modern day Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, combining her love of the historical and contemporary settings.
The novel follows the fortunes of Delany Rothwell as she struggles to keep her family’s place in English society by marrying the well-heeled, Lord Richard Nash. Yet all is not as it seems and much drama ensues with scandalous affairs, perverted behaviour, family secrets, and eventual murder. I know, exciting!
In this novel, the beautiful Lady Nash is a keen author who writes bodice-rippers and songs, as well as documents her life in her memoirs, some of which have survived in the book to the present day.
“Delany was modelled on scandalous women around that time,” Christine says. “Caroline Horton who had an affair with Lord Melbourne and nearly brought down parliament was one such beauty.”
In the novel’s present day, we meet lawyer, Liz Jones who travels to Seagrove—Lord and Lady Nash’s ancestral home—to negotiate its purchase for her boss back in Australia.
Liz falls in love with the stately home and befriends the Nash family currently living there. After trawling through Delany’s memoirs, Liz becomes fascinated by the story of this strong woman’s life. Her own life changes dramatically after becoming involved with the Nash family.
The importance of research
Christine says she was given the advice, “Your reader is like your heroine’s mother-in-law. She will find any fault in your work.” Thus, she takes the research part of her novels very seriously, researching it for a year before she started to write.
“I went to the Isle of Wight to do a very targeted fact finding mission,” she says. “Some things like Liz running from the cottage to the big house would’ve been quite tricky as it’s muddy and steep. Other things that I’d made up like a tapas bar that supplied food for the stately home’s Open Day was pleasantly true. There actually was a Spanish tapas bar in the sleepy seaside town of Ventnor.”
Christine says most of her characters were planned but like most novels’ characters, they changed and evolved.
“The misguided Margaret became a much greater presence than I’d expected,” she says. “One of the lawyers of the time had a dog called Phoss who he dressed up as a lawyer and counselled in chambers… I just had to include that. Our pug also became a character in his own right and then his grandson joined in too.”
Encouragement for budding authors
Christine advises aspiring romance writers to network and seek support.
“Join Romance Writer’s of Australia. Enter competitions to hone your skills. Find a good agent who you believe is telling you the truth about your writing. Enjoy what you’re doing and don’t be afraid to self publish if necessary,” she says.
Great advice! The Wife’s Tale will take you on such a wonderful journey you will want to book a ticket to London and holiday in the picturesque Isle of Wight. If you can’t get away, just read the book!