The Look is due for release tomorrow (24th March) and I thought I share a little background, mainly on the setting, because this is my “stamping” ground – rural South Africa, with it’s interesting collection of “one-horse” towns (or is that one-shop?) dotted throughout the rolling farmland, where community is a way of life and values like family and loyalty prevail…
Thornleigh is a fictitious town, but it epitomises any and all of the little remote backwater “outposts” that you can stumble into on a leisurely drive through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands region – and any other part of South Africa for that matter. “Town” is something of an exaggeration.
Thornleigh consists of a filling station, a general dealer (which also serves as the post office) and, of course, the farmers’ co-op. The general dealer usually stocks everything from pantyhose to safety pins to school shoes (our kids wear uniforms here) and beer. Oh, and brandy, let’s not forget that. Klipdrift, usually, a popular brand among farmers. The farmer’s co-op deals in anything from portable braai’s (barbeques) to irrigation systems and, of course, fertilizer.
What they lack in infrastructure, they more than compensate in a commodity beyond price – community. Everyone in the district is known. Their genealogy, who married who and is related to who and how, where their kids are at school (boarding school, of course), who owned that particular piece of farmland before them (right back to three and four generations) and what it was sold for in Nineteen-“voetsak” (a classic South Africanism which basically means the year dot).
The KZN Midlands is an incredibly beautiful area, stretching inland from the mild coastal areas. The land rises steadily upward from the Valley of a Thousand Hills, beyond the provincial capital, Pietermaritzburg, and on to become the foothills of the mighty Drakensberg mountain range. The scenery is spectacular – lush and green and softly beautiful in summer, and incredibly shaded in hues of rust and gold and brown in the drier winters.
It is part of the vast empire of the Zulu monarch, King Shaka, who forged a nation from the tribes he conquered and who ruled with an iron hand. A master-strategist, he revolutionised the tribal armies and turned his "impies" (battallions), with their massive shields and hand held spears, into a force that effectively challenged the might of the British Empire. The area is also steeped in other history, the canvas against which the Anglo-Zulu wars, and the Anglo-Boer wars took place, and before that the place of hope and new territory for the Boer farmers who trekked east and north, seeking to escape British rule.
It’s primarily farming country, cattle and horses, and crops as well. It’s well known for it’s trout fishing, with dams big and small opening their doors to anglers, and also hosts the Midlands Meander, a sightseeing trip drawing local and national and international visitors. A slow drive through farmland to all the little out of the way places reveals a treasure of tucked-away craft venues, with screen-printing, pottery, sculptures…. Anything you can think of, you’re bound to find it there.
It has also mushroomed with many bed and breakfasts – farmhouses opened to the public, where you can stay as long as you like, rest, take walks and hikes, horse rides, fishing… All of these offer the most amazing getaways, with hosts warm and welcoming and the atmosphere beyond description. Zulwini Lodge, which plays a big part in The Look, is just one of these places (Zulwini is the Zulu word for heaven). The Midlands area is also, with it’s sweeping vistas and water-painted views, a popular place for weddings, and venues usually have to be booked well in advance.
This is the remote backwater my heroine, the sassy, streetwise, Morgan Slater, finds herself in. She comes looking for facts. Instead she finds a truth far deeper, one that challenges all her assumptions and turns her life inside out. The Look is not just a story about love – although Morgan’s encounter with lodge owner Blake Thornton brings a whole new dimension, and conflict to her life. It’s about community, and family, and the layers that go into making us who we are. Layers that Morgan is forced to explore and confront and examine in her journey to things unimaginable.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it! You can find it, along with an excerpt at: http://www.bookstrand.com/product-thelook-13952-330.html and I’ve included my blurb and author spotlight here…
With a secret that makes her pretty much a walking time-bomb with the potential to turn her own life and a whole lot of others inside-out, Morgan Slater's plans definitely don't include the suspicions of the determined and dynamic Blake Thornton.
She heads out to the back of beyond on a simple Quest for the Truth, but her first meeting with Blake draws the battle lines for a persistent confrontation that makes focusing on her real reason for being there extremely difficult. Worse, he has this uncanny instinct and a way of seeing beyond her sassy, street-wise confidence that makes their ongoing conflict more than simply a battle of wills.
But Morgan has also not anticipated a lot of other complications and, as she struggles to keep her secret and protect herself and others in a world of shifting boundaries and increasingly difficult emotional situations, The Look rapidly becomes...
"I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book, because it explores the layers – in people, in situations, and in our assumptions about life and about truth and how they all fit together. Morgan's courage lies in allowing the process of stripping-away to become a process of adding-to, an intriguing journey that I think almost all of us can relate to." ~ Judah