Friday, February 03, 2017

Margaret Sutherland's Her Valentine Romance

Back in New Zealand in 1986, my life was at a low point.

My long marriage was over, and in my loneliness a suppressed romantic longing erupted like a volcano. My diary was full of angst-ridden desires. I wanted love. I wanted roses. I wanted a white knight to carry me away to see the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

On a whim, I arranged a nursing job in Australia and set sail, presumably for one year overseas. Friends welcomed me into their home. They belonged to a group who liked to dress up and re-enact the customs and pageants of old-fashioned times. Suddenly my fantasies surrounded me. Grown men in armor jousted in the back yard. Pages and courtiers wafted in to visit. A soulful young man gave me flowers. As the Lady Margaret, I was bedecked in a pink flowing garment and invited to join the fun.

My story took a right turn as Life shook its head at my plans. I stayed in Australia. I met a man who brought me roses—growing in a pot, “so they wouldn’t die.” We sat on the foreshore and watched the fireworks. I found my happy ending.

Once things settled down I thought I would try writing a romance, using this material. A publisher turned it down and I forgot about it. Much later, as I cleaned up my paper mountain, I found the draft. About to burn it, I flicked through the pages. I was hooked! After so long, I’d forgotten the story. The dress-ups, food and festivities were there, but what was all the insecurity, the jealousy, the fear of falling in love again? Was Caitlin and Will’s story really ours? Riveted, I couldn’t put the book down.

It needed a big rewrite but the story has a happy ending. Her Valentine Romance celebrates that most romantic of all days—Valentine’s Day. It’s my story, I love it and I hope many readers will love it too.
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