Book Spotlight: Years of Stone (The McDonnell Clan, Book 2) by Beth Camp
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Beth Camp
Available e-book or paperback (337 pages)
ISBN-13 : 978-1500129583
Publication date: 28 June 2014
In 1842, Deidre Scott leaves Scotland to follow Mac McDonnell, the man she loves, who’s been transported to Van Diemen’s Land for resisting evictions. Their ship runs aground just as they reach the dreaded penal colony.
As Mac toils on a road gang, Deidre cobbles together a job. Befriended by Lady Franklin, the wife of Lieutenant-Governor John Franklin, Deidre finds a way to reassign Mac to Doc Morrell in Hobart Town. But Doc cannot help him once Mac fights with Constable Johnson. Mac must find a way to survive the prison at Port Arthur. Can Deidre and Mac build a new life for themselves in this rough and tumble penal colony?
“The continuing story of Mac and Deirdre's experiences as they struggle to find a life together amid overwhelming obstacles, is a "can't put it down" treat.” –Sally, Amazon Review.
“The fascinating characters and vivid historic landscape give a real sense of the life in early Australian colonies. –Merwyrn, GoodReads review.
"The heartache and joy of Mac and Diedre's relationship keeps you glued to the page.” –Karen, Amazon Review.
Years of Stone was a Quarter finalist in 2014’s Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition. ABNA reviewers commented Years of Stone “grips from the beginning,” and is “not to be missed.”
Free Kindle ebook available 20, 21 and 22 December 2020: Amazon
Chapter 1 (in which Deidre and Mac arrive at Van Diemen’s Land)
“Don’t push me,” Deidre snapped. “I know my place.”
The sailor ducked an apology and moved back along the line of women and children who waited their turn to be ferried ashore.
Deidre struggled to keep her balance as the Brilliant leaned to one side. Sea water sloshed over her feet, the foredeck tipped at a steep angle, and waves pounded the windward side. All around her, sailors scrambled to organize passengers and bring prisoners up from the hold.
Almost to Van Diemen’s Land, the ship had run aground on an outcropping of rock some eighty yards from shore. Just a half-hour before, the Captain had sent Mac and several volunteers over the side, wrapped with ropes, in a desperate attempt to tie lifelines from ship to shore. Now, both the Captain and First Mate shouted orders.
Deidre swallowed the bile that rose in her throat and steadied Amalie, the little girl from her cabin. Rough hands jostled them back in place as another rush of water sluiced over the deck. Ah, Mac. You told me not to follow you. God protect us all. The wind buffeted her wet hair, and she shivered. She grabbed Amalie as another wave slammed the ship.
Far below, a sailor held fast to one of the ropes strung from the ship to the land. As soon as a passenger was lowered, the sailor pulled his way along the rope to shore, with the passenger hanging onto his back. Once they started underway, another sailor crab-walked down a rope ladder on the side of the ship to wait for the next person.
The ship lurched again.
The woman standing next to Deidre moaned and sank to the slanted deck.
“Not now,” Deidre pulled the woman to her feet. “There’s only one person ahead of you.”
“Steady,” called First Mate Banks.
Amalie burrowed into Deidre’s skirts. “I’m scared.”
“Hush, child. Look there,” said Deidre. “That’s where we’re going. Mr. McDonnell will be waiting for us.”
The cliffs lining D’Entrecasteaux Channel rose dark above the surf and a small line of rocky beach as two overloaded cutters ferried passengers to the shore.
Before she knew it, Deidre was at the head of the line, Amalie clinging to her skirts.
“Let go.” Banks pried Amalie’s fingers from Deidre’s skirt. “Don’t worry. Miss Amalie. You’ll be next.” He looped a Spanish bowline around Deidre’s waist. “Miss Scott, sit in this like you was sitting in a chair. Just slip out of the rope once you’re in the water, and hold on to the sailor. He’ll take you to shore.”
“Wait.” Deidre pushed Amalie forward. “Can you tie her on me like you do for the sailors?”
Banks grimaced. “You’ll drown with her on your back.”
Banks shrugged. “We got no time to argue. If you can take her, do it.”
Deidre turned to Amalie. “Promise me you won’t let go, no matter what.”
The ten-year-old nodded.
Banks lifted Amalie onto Deidre’s back and linked the two together with a short piece of rope. Deidre grunted with the weight and choked as Amalie threw her arms around Deidre’s neck.
“Not my neck, Amalie. Grab my shoulders.” She gasped as the pressure eased.
Banks and another sailor lifted the two up and over the bulwarks. Deidre and Amalie bumped down the side of the ship, the wind a steady blast, waves splashing at their feet as they were lowered to the waiting sailor. Deidre gripped the bowline with one hand and steadied Amalie with the other.
Deidre reached out for the sailor and missed, her skirts billowing up as she fell into the sea. She and Amalie went under. Water coursed into her nose, and her heavy skirts pulled her down into the dark, churning waters. The rope around her waist jerked. Deidre kicked up and grabbed the sailor’s arm.
As they surfaced, Amalie shrieked, “We’re going to die.”
“Hold on,” Deidre shouted. Now free of the bow line, she clung to the sailor, Amalie heavy on her back.
Arm over arm, the sailor pulled his way to shore along the rope, the cold waves a steady roar around them. Deidre struggled to keep hold of the sailor as he fought his way through the waves.
I’m not going under, and neither is Amalie. Deidre closed her eyes to slits. We’ll make it. Deidre clutched the sailor, buffeted by the sea, her shoulders aching where Amalie clung to her. They rocked forward, and the sailor hitched forward along the rope.
Salt stung her eyes. She struggled to catch her breath, so cold she couldn’t close her hands. The undertow pulled at her skirts, then eased, and pulled again.
A giant breaker ripped them from the sailor. Deidre and Amalie tumbled into the surf, rolling over and over. Deidre’s head hit a rock. Pain sliced through her. Her feet touched bottom and slipped away. Another wave tipped her over. On her feet again, she fought her way through the surf and collapsed on the sandy beach. The waves tugged at her feet.
She wanted to lay down on the sand, grateful to breathe, but Amalie lay at water’s edge, unmoving. Deidre crawled over, grabbed her skirt, and dragged her up on the beach above the waterline.
The little girl didn’t move. Deidre brushed the sand from Amalie’s face and eyes. She leaned her head against Amalie’s chest, but she couldn’t hear anything above her own heartbeat. My God, my God, you can’t die now.
Beth Camp attended eight high schools and worked her way through as many colleges on the west coast of the U.S. before earning her master's at the University of Oregon. Her careers as an international banker, a corporate consultant, and a writing teacher and English Department Chair at the community college level have fuelled her passion for writing historical fiction. A love of international travel led Beth to Scotland to research Standing Stones (2010), which introduces the McDonnell family as they struggle with eviction and relocation in Northern Scotland during the Industrial Revolution. Years of Stone (2014), tells the story of Deidre who follows her fiancé, Mac McDonnell, a transportee sent to Van Diemen's Land in Australia. In Rivers of Stone (2017), Catriona McDonnell disguises herself as a boy to cross Canada during the fur trade era. Beth’s now working on a fourth tale in this series, Island Wife, about Moira, the sister who stayed behind on the Orkney Islands.
During this time of pandemic, we’re all finding it more challenging to travel. Beth compensates by diving into writing and research and working on a series of art crime mysteries, set in Scotland, France, and Egypt, all with historical underpinnings.
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