WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?
Can you imagine a different Scotland, a Scotland where women are commemorated in statues and streets and buildings – even in the hills and valleys? This is a guidebook to that alternative nation, where the cave on Staffa is named after Malvina rather than Fingal, and Arthur’s Seat isn’t Arthur’s, it belongs to St Triduana. Where you arrive into Dundee at Slessor Station and the Victorian monument on Stirling’s Abbey Hill interprets national identity not as a male warrior but through the women who ran hospitals during the First World War. The West Highland Way ends at Fort Mary. The Old Lady of Hoy is a prominent Orkney landmark. And the plints in central Glasgow proudly display statues of suffragettes. In this ‘imagined atlas’ fictional streets, buildings, statues and monuments are dedicated to real women, telling their often untold or unknown stories. For most of recorded history, women have been sidelined, if not silenced, by men who named the built environment after themselves. Now is the time to look unflinchingly at Scotland’s heritage and bring those women who have been ignored to light. Sara Sheridan explores beyond the traditional male-dominated histories to reveal a new picture of Scotland’s history and heritage.
Where are the Women was selected for the First Minister’s Summer Reading List 2019 by the David Hume Institute.
THE ICE MAIDEN
As she stows away on a ship bound for Antarctica, a young woman uncovers a shocking betrayal.
1842. Stranded on Deception Island in the South Atlantic, her whaling captain husband lost at sea, Karina is destitute and desperate. Disguised as a cabin boy, she stows away on a British ship. But Karina is about to get a nasty surprise.
As she grows closer to ship’s surgeon Joseph Hooker, Karina and the rest of the crew find themselves pushed to the limits both physically and emotionally as conditions worsen onboard. Engulfed in the chillingly hostile Antarctic landscape, something extraordinary happens – and Karina’s story becomes intertwined with some of the 20th century’s bravest Polar explorers …
ON STARLIT SEAS
Inspired by the story of Maria Graham, a brilliant Georgian travel writer who was the toast of London in her day
1824 – Charged with a mission by the Empress of Brazil, celebrated writer and the toast of Georgian London, Maria Graham sets off for England with the Brazilian civil war at its height. Newly widowed and a woman travelling alone, the stakes are high and when she accepts roguish smuggler Captain James Henderson’s offer of passage on his ship, she gets more than she bargains for.
Henderson is on a journey of his own, back to his childhood home in Covent Garden. Onboard Maria discovers both a dangerous secret concealed in a chocolate bar and an irresistible attraction to the mysterious captain. But falling in love with a smuggler is almost unthinkable for a woman of Maria’s social standing. Though Henderson tries his utmost to abandon his life of crime and forge a new identity as a London gentleman, he is caught in a dangerous tangle with a deadly aristocratic smuggling ring.
The only chance he has to save himself and prove worthy of Maria is to unmask the gang and break free from their clutches, but will it be enough? On Starlit Seas is a breathless tale of adventure, love and chocolate set at the height of the British Empire.
On Starlit Seas was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Prize 2018.
SECRET OF THE SANDS
Based on the archived journals and letters of James Raymond Wellsted, the first European to cross the Rubh Al Khali desert.
1833 – The British Navy are conducting a survey of the Arabian Peninsula where slavery is as rife as ever despite abolition. Zena, a headstrong and determined young Abyssinian beauty has been torn from her remote village and is now being offered for sale in the market at Muscat.
Lieutenant James Wellstead is determined that his time aboard HMS Palinurus will be a conduit to fame and fortune. However, his plans are thrown into disarray when two of his fellow officers go missing while gathering intelligence in the desert.
By an unexpected twist of fate – Zena finds herself the property of Wellstead, as he sets off on a daring rescue mission. Master and slave are drawn ever closer – neither of them knowing what fortune awaits them as they make their hazardous way through the shifting sands.
Beautifully written, this rich and epic novel that will appeal to lovers of historical adventures set in Britain’s golden age.
THE SECRET MANDARIN
Based on the real-life adventures of ambitious Scottish botanist Robert Fortune, this novel blends fact and fiction to create a story it’s impossible to put down.
Desperate to shield her from scandal, Mary Penney’s brother-in-law, Robert, forces her to accompany him on a mission to China to steal tea plants for the East India Company. But Robert conceals his secret motives – to spy for the British forces, newly victorious in the recent Opium War.
His task is both difficult and dangerous – the British are still regarded as enemies by the Chinese and exporting tea bushes carries the death sentence.
As their quest becomes increasingly treacherous, Robert and Mary disguise themselves as a mandarin and his man-servant. Thousands of miles from everything familiar, Mary starts to revel in her new freedom and the Chinese way of life – and when danger strikes, she finds unexpected reserves of courage.
The Secret Mandarin is an unforgettable story of fortitude and recklessness – of a strong woman determined to make it in a man’s world and a man who will stop at nothing to fulfil his desires.
Sara on Historical Fiction
I have been fascinated by history since I was a child. My father was an antiques dealer and he used to tell my brothers and I bedtime stories based on the objects he bought and sold. I grew up around diamond tiaras and tortoiseshell silver-backed hairbrushes and as a result, I’ve always felt a direct connection with the past. Then, as a teenager, I discovered the archive and my inner swot really shone. These days I spend a lot of time in libraries – it’s like treasure hunting for me. The point at which I hold an original letter or journal in my hand, and it brings a period to life, that’s just magic – someone speaking from 100 or 200 years ago, but it feels as if they are standing next to you telling you their story. I write historical fiction set in the era 1820 to 1845 – a time when the British Empire was expanding and an era of exploration and derring do. It’s part of where our culture came from (for good or bad) and I find myself drawn to artefacts and other archive material from this period. It was a vibrant time, gurgling with life and death – pre Era One medicine and before the age when the world was mapped. The women fascinate me in particular. There is less female material in the archive so finding any trace of our great great great grandmothers is a bonus. I keep a weather eye out for it and often create female characters from a mere mention or even, a sketch.