A Forgotten Sky

Excerpt

new-zealand-skyColin Monteath/Hedgehog House – www.colinmonteath.com

It seemed to Marina that the landscape glowed. She sat on the old sofa on the veranda at the back of the villa, the sounds of the other guests inside the home fading away. The russet features of the plains and distant hills deepened in colour as the sun touched them on this long twilight.

She shivered involuntarily, at the same time wondering why she would do so, when, after all, it was the middle of summer. And she was back home, after so long away. A place she had been away from for what seemed like a lifetime. Or a different life.

Marina tensed as the music drifted through the walls of the villa, anticipating the words to a song that, as if on cue, took her back to a long ago summer. An old New Zealand hit, she remembered. And surely only a coincidence, to hear it now, in this place that seemed crowded with memories, choices she had made with the sureness of youth. Such talent, people had said. A chance to get away from Eade. Which she had been so sure she wanted to do. After all, she had had all the time in the world.

“And the famous artist returns.”

Too late, Marina sensed movement at the end of the veranda. “Yes,” she said simply, unwilling to betray her agitation, be baited by the cutting tone. Knowing her escape out here had been futile; a temporary measure to alleviate her spiking emotions. “I’m just relaxing, listening to the stereo,” Marina added, belatedly realising what she had said. She stared rigidly out at the plains, holding her breath, sensing him moving closer. Unable to resist a quick sideways glance she drank in the dark hair, still slightly too long to be fashionable, the planes of his face, his contemptuous hazel eyes.

He laughed shortly as he saw her look towards him, the sound bitter, harsh, in the soft evening light. “Put the boot in, why don’t you, Marina.” He stood by the veranda railing, anger radiating from him. “You sure haven’t changed.”

Marina stood up, facing him, trying to camouflage her shock at his comments, at seeing him again. “Dan.” Marina saw his face change as she automatically shortened his name. “Daniel.” She involuntarily amended what she had said. His eyes met hers. “One song on the radio hardly matters now.”

He shook his head slightly, his eyes seeming darker in the low light. “No, it doesn’t, does it, Marina? Not any more.” Her icy beauty seemed to taunt him as he spoke, her pale eyes and ivory complexion stark against the shadows of the night, her perfectly straight hair giving no hint of its usual subtle red hue.

Before she could respond he moved away, reached for the lead-paned door, wrenching it open, and disappeared inside the home. Marina heard the click of the door as it shut behind him, sank back onto the sofa. The fabric seemed to burn her as memories flooded back.

Characters

new-zealand-skyJohn Rendle/Hedgehog House – www.pbase.com/johnrendle

Marina

Marina’s icy beauty seemed to taunt Daniel as he spoke, her pale eyes and ivory complexion stark against the shadows of the night, her perfectly straight hair giving no hint of its usual subtle red hue.

Marina Bryant is spoilt, willful and well on the way to achieving her childhood dream of becoming a successful artist. She can change a tyre (guess who taught her that!) but there’s quite a bit of local discussion about whether she really belongs in the Maniototo – and a few other things as well. It seems everyone’s got an opinion about her, but which is the right one, and more importantly, does Daniel have it wrong?

Daniel

Unable to resist a quick sideways glance at Daniel, Marina drank in the dark hair, still slightly too long to be fashionable, the planes of his face, his contemptuous hazel eyes.

Daniel Kent is a small town mechanic (as Marina likes to remind him) and her princess attitude (as he likes to remind her) is at odds with his dependable, rugged strength. He’s always tried to do the right thing, even if Marina doesn’t think so. Now it seems Marina has become even more high maintenance than his old ute – but luckily he’s always prided himself on his mechanical skills!

Setting

nz-beach

A Forgotten Sky is a contemporary New Zealand romance novel set in the fictional town of Eade, in the Maniototo District of New Zealand. Those of you familiar with the area will know the seemingly endless panorama of the sky – and the starkness of the landscape and plains. A very special part of New Zealand! Because Eade is fictional, of course it has no real location, but there are art deco influences (as in Ranfurly) and Dan and Marina visit several real locations around the Maniototo, Otago and Central Otago areas.

These include Toko Mouth, a small settlement just out of Milton, Otago and Alexandra, where the Central Stories Museum & Art Gallery is located. The locations and buildings that Marina paints and sketches are also real – including Queenstown, Oturehua, the Poolburn Dam, the Ida Valley and Oamaru and of course Waimate (Canterbury), with the St Patrick’s Catholic Church (Basilica). The Waimate area is also where the Kapua moa excavations took place, the inspiration for Marina’s paintings of a moa and a Haast’s Eagle, two of New Zealand’s giant extinct birds. For those of you visiting the area today, the Waimate Historical Museum has a small display of some of the moa bones found at the time of the excavation.

Those of you lucky enough to be familiar with Toko Mouth (at the Tokomairiro River Mouth) will see that I have used considerable creative licence with the topography and also the location of Dan’s fishing and Marina’s sketching – but the availability of trout at that time of year (subject to a fishing licence) the seat at the top of the path, the old macrocarpas– as well as the community spirit – are all real.

As well as setting A Forgotten Sky in some of New Zealand’s most unspoilt places I have enjoyed incorporating some Kiwiana into the story, and elements of our natural history and birdlife. Learning so much more about New Zealand art and music has definitely been an unexpected but very welcome bonus. I have also gained a new appreciation of the contribution of Francis Petre to the architecture of southern New Zealand. Thanks to all who have helped with my research and permissions for this book, especially those from the automotive, arts, and music communities.

Art

girl-with-flaxen-hair

The girl with flaxen hair, 1893, Dunedin, by Frances Hodgkins.
Purchased 1980 with assistance from the Todd Foundation. Te Papa (1980-0056-1)

woman-and-child

Woman and Child by Frances Hodgkins (c1912)
Watercolour and charcoal – collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Marina, the heroine of my New Zealand contemporary romance novel A Forgotten Sky, admires two New Zealand artists in particular, Frances Hodgkins (1869-1947) and Charles Goldie (1870-1947). Works by both of these artists can be viewed at major New Zealand art galleries.

A Forgotten Sky is a work of fiction, however I have referred to two real-life artworks by name. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery has kindly allowed me to display an image of Woman and Child (Frances Hodgkins) here for you to see, and to use their gallery as a location for a scene within the story.

I also appreciate the assistance of Te Papa/Museum of New Zealand in allowing me to display an image of A girl with flaxen hair (Frances Hodgkins), and of course to the copyright holders of these two works for also granting me their permission.

In researching New Zealand art for A Forgotten Sky this story I have found a welcome excuse to revisit art galleries to see both Charles Goldie’s incredibly lifelike and detailed portraits and a variety of works by Frances Hodgkins. These visits have been a real highlight for me.

A Forgotten Sky also contains references to two New Zealand art galleries. The fictional exhibition Marina vists to see paintings by well known New Zealand artists, including Frances Hodgkins and Charles Goldie, is set in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Thanks also to Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery, Alexandra, Central Otago, for allowing me to set Marina’s own fictional exhibition at their gallery, one I have visited several times to see their frequent exhibitions of local artwork.