Today we visit 19th Century Egypt with historical novelist Jane Jackson. Jane's latest novel, ‘The Master’s Wife,’ the sequel to 'The Consul's Daughter' in her 'Captain's Honour' series, is published by Accent Press.
I asked Jane to tell us about 'The Master's Wife,' and wondered if the location of a story was important to her as a writer.
Location is a vital element in each of my books. My aim is to create a story that could only have happened to that couple in that place at that time.
After finishing ‘The Consul’s Daughter’ I wrote ‘Crosscurrents.’ But Caseley and Jago from 'The Consul's Daughter' kept returning to my mind.
Conflict is the engine that drives any story and these two had already been through so much to reach their ‘happy ever after,’ so a sequel would have to contain a devastating threat to their happiness.
I’ve always been interested in Egypt, and reading Wilfred Blunt’s account of the Egyptian uprising gave me my idea and background for 'the Master's Wife.' ‘The Consul’s Daughter’ ended in 1874. This new story begins eight years on in 1882.
As master of a trading schooner, Jago sailed all over the world. He had also carried out secret missions in the past. For this book I needed a reason for Caseley to go with him. But for the sake of the story, that reason had to involve major conflict.
The worst thing that can happen to a loving mother is losing her children. Caseley’s sons were five and three. They died in her arms during an epidemic while Jago was away at sea. Her grief and his guilt have opened an unbridgeable gap between them. Aware of Jago’s undercover work in Spain, the British Treasury entrusts him with £20,000 in gold to bribe Egypt’s largest Bedouin tribe to take Britain’s side should increasing unrest lead to war.
Devastated by the discovery that her husband has been seeing his former mistress, and desperate to escape her home with its constant reminders of loss, Caseley wants to sail with him. She sees the journey as a last chance at reconciliation. When he claims Egypt will be too dangerous Caseley shocks him with a bitter laugh. The worst that could happen to her already has, so what has she to fear? Realising Jago has shut himself off from emotion she employs reason, reminding him that the official language of Alexandria is French. She speaks it. He doesn’t. For this reason, and the importance of his mission, he needs her.
At Gibraltar they pick up a journalist employed by Reuter’s Agency. While bankers and merchants who have made fortunes in Egypt are escaping before the fighting starts, Robert Pawlyn is returning to Egypt. Sickened by the blatant lies telegraphed to England and printed as fact in the London papers to deliberately stir up fears for the Suez Canal, he is determined to report the truth. Pawlyn’s friendship with Antonia Collingwood, daughter of the assistant British consul, leads to an introduction to Sheikh Imad Abu Qasim al-Hussein, a member of the ruling family of the Tarabin tribe. He and his cousin, Sheikha Sabra will be attending the wedding of another relative in the Eastern desert. This large gathering of Bedouin will include tribal elders: the very people Jago needs to meet.
The story moves from the spring warmth of Falmouth in Cornwall to the chaotic cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, the hot, crowded, noisy streets of Cairo, and then to the harsh rugged terrain of the Eastern Desert. Days of brutal heat turn swiftly to bitterly cold nights of incredible beauty as gritty dust glitters under countless stars. This journey into the gathering storm echoes Caseley and Jago’s struggle to find a way forward from the loss that shattered their lives.
I haven’t visited Egypt. I can’t cope with heat! Instead I did a lot of research through books, photos and travel videos.
I’m currently working on the fifth in my Polvellan Cornish Mysteries series. These are novellas of around 30,000 words with a cast of regulars, the main character being Jess Trevanion, a genealogist who returned to the village where she was born and grew up, following her husband’s death and the loss of her home. The series characters all have on-going stories and each book contains a mystery Jess has to solve. She and Tom Peters, her teenage sweetheart, have resurrected their romance. But while he’s keen for them to marry, Jess likes things as they are.
Cue more conflict!
After a variety of totally unremarkable jobs Jane Jackson got married and started her family. An avid reader since the age of four, and finding herself a single parent with two small children, she thought she’d try writing a book – as you do. Her first, ‘Deadly Feast’ took three years to research and write, and was published by Robert Hale. It helped her believe in herself. She has been a published writer for 40 years, and ‘The Master’s Wife’ will be her 31st traditionally published book.
Please do drop by Jane's Facebook pages:
www.facebook.com/PolvellanCornishMysteries (Written as Rachel Ennis)
On Jane's website you will find more information about her writing and excerpts from all her books: