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Separated from his mother at birth, Matt Jones is a wayward young man who comes to Australia in search of his origins. Once he finds his family, there are stormy undercurrents with a jealous younger brother and an illicit relationship with Isabella, an innocent neighbour.
Isabella is heartbroken when he leaves her to try his luck at the goldfields. Matt's family intervenes on Isabella's behalf, but only a near-tragedy will make him realise how much he loves her. Will she have him back and can he also resolve the conflict with his brother?
He’d nearly finished feeding the horses that evening when he heard an urgent whisper from the stable doorway. “Matt! I need to talk to you!”
He dumped an armful of hay in a nearby manger and crossed to the door. It was Eliza, hovering in the shadows. He drew her into an empty stall and closed the half door, tugging her to the back where it was unlikely his father or Fred would see them. His senses immediately responded to the intimate situation, and he reached to pull her close, but she pushed him away.
“I said I wanted to talk, Matt!”
Her face was flushed, her eyes glittering with excitement. “I overheard them talkin’ in the stillroom. Mrs Evans and Miss Brown, that is. I was putting some jars away at the back, and they didn’t know I was there.”
Matt didn’t bother to hide his impatience. What could the housekeeper and Mrs Ashford’s maid have to say that would be of interest to him? “I’m not concerned with old women’s gossip.”
“Ha! But it’s you they were talkin’ about!” She turned away, as if she’d suddenly changed her mind. “But if you don’t want to hear it, I’ll be out of your way.”
“Eliza!” He gripped her upper arm. “Don’t be a tease. You’d better tell me, now.”
“Well, if you’re sure you want to know…” The girl smiled her satisfaction, like a fisherman who’d just reeled in a juicy catch. “They were talkin’ about us, to begin with.” She coloured slightly. “They were clucking like a pair of old hens about us walkin’ out together. Then, they said what a wild boy you were, just like your Uncle Charles.”
Matt stared at her, impatient in his confusion. “I don’t have an Uncle Charles.”
“Apparently, you do. I sneaked a bit closer then, so’s not to miss any of it. Miss Brown said how Miss Louise was a wild one, too, so it was no wonder you’d turned out the same.”
“Who’s Miss Louise? That wasn’t me mother’s name.”
Eliza shook her head. “Just listen, will you? Mrs Evans said how Miss Louise had a heart, not like the rest of them. She wanted to keep that baby and it fair cut her up, leaving him behind when she went back to Australia.”
Matt felt his heart leap, drumming unevenly in his chest. He put a hand on the corner post, suddenly needing to clutch something solid. “What are you tryin’ to tell me?”
“Can’t you work it out?” Eliza’s ample bosom swelled with importance. “You remember Mr Charles, the Master and Mistress’s son. And they had a daughter called Louise, too. There’s a portrait of her in the hallway, along with the rest of the family.”
Matt felt the blood draining from his face. “Are you hoaxin’ me, Eliza?” If so, it was a poor joke. “I don’t believe you.”
“Well, it’s true. I went and asked Cook, and she told me so. Louise Ashford was your mother. She swore me to secrecy, but I didn’t think that included you.” Eliza peered at him in the dim light, as if inspecting every detail of his face. “I had a look at the portraits in the hall after that. You’re so much like them; I’m surprised I didn’t see it before.”
Matt had seen Charles Ashford many years ago, when he’d been visiting from Australia. He searched his boyhood memories for a mental picture of him, with little success. “Christ!” He saw Eliza’s reproachful look and apologized, shaking his head. “Sorry. This is a bit hard to take in.”
He knew there were cases of so-called gentlemen from the big houses siring children on their servants, but this was a bit different. Questions whirled in his brain, colliding with each other like the colours of the kaleidoscope he’d once seen at the village fair. If this Miss Louise was his mother, who was his father? Why hadn’t she married him? Could the Ashfords really have let their own grandson be raised by their coachman?
“I thought you’d be excited about this, Matt. If I found out I was related to the nobs…”
He stared at her, wondering how she thought it made a difference. They didn’t want him, never had. The squire acted as if he hated him.
Heather grew up on a cattle property in Central Queensland. As a child she loved horses, books and the bush and these are still passions of hers. She and her husband now have a cattle and grain farm. She has two young adult children, a son who’s doing a boilermaker’s apprenticeship and a daughter who is presently living many miles away in South Australia.
Heather first began writing at the age of seven and published her first novel when she was in her early twenties. At that time many towns in Central Queensland were celebrating their centenaries, and this helped inspire her historical novels set in the pioneering days. Having babies interrupted her writing and she didn’t seriously return to it until many years later.
As well as being a member of the Queensland Writers Centre and the Romance Writers of Australia, she belongs to a local writers’ group which meets once a month. They’ve published two books of short stories, in which some of her work has been included. She has also had short stories printed in other anthologies.
Heather is one of a group of volunteers who once a month put together a newsletter of the happenings around her town. She works part-time at the local library and, of course, at home on the farm.
A HIDDEN LEGACY
The day Matt Jones discovers his parents at Fenham Manor, England are not his blood kin, his world as he knows it, comes suddenly to an end. A HIDDEN LEGACY by Heather Garside is exquisitely crafted with vivid detail, and is tightly interwoven with sexual indiscretions and family scandals. Mathew must strive to grow up to face his new world.
I highly recommend A Hidden Legacy, a Historical Romance written by Heather Garside for its intricate plotting, multifarious adventures, and the twisting tale of its family relationships. It’s more than just a quick afternoon read.-- Review Rate: 5, Reviewer: JoEllen Conger
A Hidden Legacy :
Ms Garside’s books are fascinating, giving you a definite feel for her homeland, Australia. No only does the romance enthrall but the essence of the country draws you in. Although this can be read as a stand-alone novel, it is also a welcome sequel to ‘The Cornstalk’. ... This delightful book is compelling reading and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who enjoys romantic novels. -- ‘A Hidden Legacy’ reviewed by, Hazel Statham, author of Dominic, My Dearest Friend, His Shadowed Heart
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 322
Paper Weight (lb): 13.4
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