WW2 has been declared. A strange find on the beach gives Mary Rosie the chance to fulfil her dreams and contribute to her country, but all is not what she imagined.
After witnessing the first bomb to be dropped on mainland Britain, Mary watches her friends leave to join the forces and longs to be with them, but is held back by loyalty to her widowed mother.
France has capitulated. Johnny Allan’s regiment has been annihilated by German troops north of Paris. Johnny has to find a way to get home and to the girl who no longer waits for him.
Leisel is a German Jew who lost her family to the Nazis and has to make her way in Britain, a strange new country, while harbouring a desire for revenge.
Their lives become entangled in a way that no one could have envisaged.
A story about war, family ties, love, loyalty and loss.
Living in an isolated Highland community, Mary is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart. But when war is on the horizon, and the county is flooded with young men from the forces, she meets a handsome pilot, who makes her feel things Johnny Allan never did.
Saturday night came round at last and Mary took extra care with her looks. She dressed in her best frock and curled her hair, taking care not to overheat the tongs. She even borrowed a bit of make up from Rita. Deep down she wondered who she was really doing this for. Johnny wouldn’t care if she came in a sack. She thought about the airman’s striking eyes and laughed at herself. He must be somewhere in his twenties and he’d sounded posh, not someone who would ever be interested in her with her broad, flat accent and country ways. Anyway, if she did marry Johnny, years down the line when they were old and settled with several children, it might be good to sometimes remember a handsome pilot who had once held her hand too long. That’s if she married Johnny.
Mary was disappointed that the promised band failed to turn up. Instead the music was provided by a gramophone, but she was in such high spirits just to be there, that the scratchy records could not dampen her mood. She turned to Rita to say just that, then stopped, the words instantly frozen inside her.
The two young pilots, looking smart and polished in their uniforms, walked through the door. Mary was surprised at her own reaction. There was something about this man that gave her a squeamish sensation in her belly, made her heart beat high in her chest and dried her mouth, all of which were new, embarrassing, but exciting sensations, sensations that Johnny never raised in her. Aware that she was staring, she snatched her gaze away, then sneaked a sideways glance at Greg. He was watching her, a slightly amused look on his face.
Was he laughing at her — pleased that yet another silly young lassie had fallen for his smooth good looks and wonderful eyes? Well, she would show him how disinterested she was. Pulling her shoulders back and tilting her head, she looked around for Johnny who was in the far corner, seemingly not noticing her at all.
‘Let’s go get some lemonade,’ she said to Rita, who stood next to her, swaying to the beat of Glenn Miller.
Rita shrugged. ‘That’s if Lily’s made any.’ Lily was the caretaker of the hall and usually laced beakers of water with whatever berries she could get her hands on, berries and her home-made wine. The word ‘lemonade’ covered a variety of flavours.
They were about to go when she heard the voice at her shoulder. ‘May I have this dance?’
Even before she turned, she knew it was him. She tried, unsuccessfully, to look nonchalant when she nodded. He slipped an arm around her waist and clasped her hand in his. Greg was taller than she thought and he led her effortlessly onto the floor.
‘Penny for them,’ he said.
‘I thought it was a band tonight. I’m a bit disappointed.’ She spoke in a little rush through dry lips.
He smiled. ‘Not too disappointed, I hope.’
Not now, she thought, aware of the pressure of his arm and the minty smell of his breath. She laughed, a silly giggly little sound.
‘We’d best introduce ourselves properly if we’re to dance all night. I’m Greg Cunningham.’
Dance all night? A pleasant shiver ran through her. ‘Mary Rosie.’ Should she tell him she was here with her boyfriend or just enjoy the moment? She decided on the latter. Serve Johnny right for leaving her alone. He was supposed to care for her, but didn’t actions speak louder than words? He did look at her the way Greg Cunningham was looking at her now – but Greg, he made her all tingly inside.
‘Have you lived here all your life?’
‘I was born on Raumsey, an island over there.’ She nodded over her shoulder in a northern direction. ‘We moved to the mainland when I was still small. My dad was injured in the last war and often needed a doctor and there was none on the island. My mother knows about herbs and things; she was the island howdie, but, well, there’s new-fangled medicines that work better than hers. My cousins still live on Raumsey.’ Realising she was babbling, she snapped her mouth shut.
‘Your mother was a what?’
‘A howdie. I suppose you’d call her a midwife.’
‘Ah, I see. And you, do you like living here? I imagine it’s very quiet.’
She loved his voice. It was soft and deep and proper, like they taught in school. ‘We do have dances and sometimes go to town to the dances there or the pictures.’ Her mouth dried again and she gave a little cough.
About the Author
Catherine Byrne always wanted to be a writer. She began at the age of eight by drawing comic strips with added dialogue and later, as a teenager, graduated to poetry. Her professional life however, took a very different path. She first studied glass engraving with Caithness Glass where she worked for fourteen years. During that time she also worked as a foster parent. After the birth of her youngest child she changed direction, studying and becoming a chiropodist with her own private practice. At the same time she did all the administration work for her husband’s two businesses, and this continued until the death of her husband in 2005. However she still maintained her love of writing, and has had several short stories published in women’s magazines. Her main ambition was to write novels and she has now retired in order to write full time.
Born and brought up until the age of nine on the Island of Stroma, she heard many stories from her grandparents about the island life of a different generation. Her family moved to the mainland at a time when the island was being depopulated, although it took another ten years before the last family left.
An interest in geology, history and her strong ties to island life have influenced her choice of genre for her novels.
Since first attending the AGM of the Scottish Association of Writers in 1999, Catherine has won several prizes, commendations and has been short-listed both for short stories and chapters of her novels. In 2009, she won second prize in the general novel category for ‘Follow The Dove’
In 2016 The Road to Nowhere won second prize in the Barbara Hammond competition for Best Self Published novel. The follow up, Isa’s Daughter won 1st prize in the same competition the following year.
Although the books follow the fortunes of the same family, they are all stand-alone.
The fifth book in the Raumsey series is Mary Rosie’s War.
Catherine Byrne lives in Wick, Caithness.
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1st Prize – all 4 of Catherine Byrne’s previous books in paperback .
6 x Runners Up Prizes – PB copy of Broken Horizon (UK Only)
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