I am delighted to have Barbara Hannay in my chair today. Her latest book, The Secret Years is a wonderful story that explores love past and present, and the ties that bind us to our past. The sweeping settings in England, and North Queensland were beautifully written. The characterisation was cleverly executed, and the reader sympathised with and understood the motivations of the characters. One of my favourite reads for 2015!
This month marks seventy years since the end of World War 2. For me, it's appropriate timing for the release of THE SECRET YEARS, as the book has strong links between a veteran of World War 2 and a young Australian female soldier returning from active duty in Afghanistan.
These characters, Harry Kemp and his granddaughter Lucy, were partly inspired by the memory of my late Uncle Ralph, who served in Tobruk and at Kokoda in World War 2, and by my years living in the garrison city of Townsville.
Mind you, THE SECRET YEARS is not really a book about war, although all of its characters over three generations are deeply affected by either their own war service or the impact it has had on the people they love. The story is mostly about romance and about the complexities of family life in a contemporary Australian setting, as well as family secrets linking in earlier generations.
Harry is a retired and aging cattleman with a vast property in the remote Gulf Country who, like many veterans from his era, is strangely silent about his war experiences, even with his closest family members.
Meanwhile, Lucy is a Townsville based career soldier, who has has risen through the ranks and has only recently returned from active duty in Afghanistan. The focus of the story is not on her experiences in a war zone, however, but on the issues she faces in adapting to civilian life and the secrets she starts to uncover about her family history.
I had to do more historical research for THE SECRET YEARS than for most of my previous books, but the research enabled me to develop another important character, George (or more correctly, the Honourable Georgina Lenton) a wealthy debutante, who finds herself firstly, in the middle of the London blitz, and then in an even more terrifying situation where she's struggling for survival in the jungles of New Britain after the bombing of Rabaul.
So yes, war is a feature of this novel, but I look at this mostly from a feminine perspective. I wanted to tell a modern Australian story which also paid tribute to the heroism of that bygone era. But first and last, I am a romance writer and it's romance – three romances in fact – that lie at the heart of this novel. I hope you enjoy it.
The Secret Years is available from Penguin Random House at https://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780143799733/secret-years
Annie loves sharing her writing chair with special guests! If you'd like a turn...please email her! firstname.lastname@example.org