The Landowner’s Secret Excerpt

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney blog-sized

Terrifying to think about it, but my first book with Harlequin/HarperCollins, The Landowner’s Secret, is out next week.

 

Here is what it’s about:

 

New South Wales, 1885

When Alice Ryan wakes to find thugs surrounding her cottage, on the hunt for her no-good brother, she escapes into the surrounding bush.

It is wealthy landowner Robert Farrer who finds her the next morning, dishevelled, injured, and utterly unwilling to share what she knows. With criminals on the loose and rumours that reckless bushrangers have returned to the area, Robert is determined to keep Alice out of danger, and insists on taking her into his home-despite the scandal it may cause. Convincing her to stay on with him for her own safety, however, is going to take some work.

What Robert doesn’t expect is his growing attraction to the forthright, unruly woman staying in his home. Before either of them can settle into their odd new situation, their home and wellbeing come under threat and they will need to trust each other to survive. But they are both keeping secrets, secrets that have the potential to ruin their burgeoning love, their livelihood … and their lives.

 

And here are the first few pages:

 

Chapter 1

Southern Tablelands, New South Wales

Late April, 1885

 

Alice Ryan woke at the first shout, and sat bolt upright at the second.

With her mind still muddled by sleep, her body shook with fright before she even realised what was happening. She felt the unease, the disturbance in the night. This far out the bush was usually still, the quietness punctuated only by the odd scuffle of a possum or rustle of wind in the trees. But right now there was an energy that didn’t belong.

Curling her fingers into the counterpane, she waited in dreadful anticipation.

There. A voice—faint, but distinct—reached her ears, becoming louder as she sat frozen in place.

Someone was out there, in the dark.

‘Ian?’ she whispered, uncertain. Who else could it be but her brother, and yet … Some instinct stopped her from calling out and confirming she was home. And just as it took complete hold, a second voice joined the first.

Slipping free of the blanket and pressing her bare feet to the floor, she clutched the bed’s footboard and waited. And waited.

The light of a flame—so dim at first she thought she’d imagined it—flashed not too far beyond the cottage’s small window. It wasn’t much, but it was so foreign in the darkness of the scrub.

She strained to make out any sounds that weren’t meant to be there, but heard next to nothing over the pounding in her ears. Moments later the light flashed by again. It was closer this time.

Alice startled; clapped a hand to her mouth.

This was all wrong. Nobody had a reason to be there, on a road that led to nothing but her home. This far out she was all alone, except for—

Endmoor.

If she could slip out unnoticed, she could reach the big homestead beyond the trees on foot—thieves or troublemakers would be mad to try anything with Robert Farrer. The landowner was too wealthy, with too many men on his property, and no doubt he had better weapons than she did if it came to that.

Alice made her decision in an instant.

Moving fast, she struggled into her frock and grabbed her shawl from the end of the bed before slipping a hand beneath the mattress for the small packet she kept hidden there. She stuffed it down the front of her bodice, shaking with fright and determination.

Trying her best to be quiet, she scrambled across to press her back against the cool wall near the door.

One of the men spoke again but she still couldn’t make out the words. There were at least two of them and they weren’t just talking, but laughing. Whacks echoed through the night air, as though they were hitting at the scrub with sticks, and then she heard more laughter in amongst the other sounds of the night.

Whatever they were about, it was a game to them. Likely a drunken game …

Alice curled her toes against the freezing floor and hugged herself tightly, willing them to just go, just leave her be and make their fun elsewhere. The voices came more loudly from the front of the house. Her only way of escape was through there.

Cursing her rotten luck, her absent brother, and all the trouble life brought down on her, she took a big breath for courage and lurched past the window as fast as she could, scrambling in the darkness for the small knife she’d left on the table.

‘Ian, you bastard!’ The call came from so close by her heart nearly stopped.

Desperation took over then, and she chose speed over silence. Fumbling in the shadows with frozen fingers, shoving her way through the bits and pieces she’d left on the table that evening, she patted about desperately until they hit a strip of cold metal. The knife.

‘Help me, help me,’ she whispered to a God who’d never listened before, and gripped the handle firmly, her other hand shaking, while she once again backed up against the wall.

Bracing herself for anything, she pulled back the curtain only enough to get a glimpse of the clearing around the porch. In a sliver of moonlight she could just make out the figures of grown men dotted around the clearing. Further down the trail, near the road, she saw more forms and shadows. Horses, she realised with even more dread in her belly. She sure as hell couldn’t outrun those.

Shaking more, she cast her mind out beyond them all, mapping herself a route of escape. If they were here for Ian, they were out of luck. As usual he was nowhere to be found.

She let the curtain slip back through her fingers and then bent to grasp the laces of the boots left beside the door. There was no time to tug them on, nor to find her stockings.

She nearly shrieked with surprise when something whacked directly against the outside of the house, but held fast and slapped a hand over her mouth again as she waited for what’d come next.

‘Are you comin’ out, or are we comin’ to get you?’ one of them called. It was not a familiar voice.

‘We don’t have all night!’ yelled another.

There was more laughing. More jokes.

Alice rose carefully, quickly tugging the shawl more tightly around herself without letting her grip on the knife loosen. She edged the door open the tiniest amount, trying to peer beyond the intruders to find the fastest direction into the trees. The boots banged lightly against the old wood, and she pressed her lips tightly together in frustration.

‘Maybe there’s no-one ’ere. I swear, James, if we’re out ’ere freezin’ our bloody arses off for no reason …’

‘Someone’s ’ere. There’s smoke comin’ from the chimney and I saw movement at the window just now.’

‘Bloody hell,’ Alice whispered, becoming number and shakier than before. ‘Bloody, bloody hell.’

There was silence then except for the shuffling of shoes in the dirt. And then a third man spoke.

‘Maybe it’s the sister.’

‘There’s a sister?’

An awful pause followed. And then, ‘Is she pretty?’

Alice wished the bottom of the floor would open up and swallow her whole. Fear icier than the chill in the air ran over her from head-top to heels. She knew more about physical fighting than any proper lady ever would, but she was still a scrap of a thing and not likely to get far before they …

‘There’s only one way to find out.’ The first man said. ‘James? Kick in the door.’

‘Not bloody likely,’ she whispered. She’d go to the devil before she let that happen or let a single one of them put his grubby paws on her.

And with those thoughts giving her fresh determination, she flung the door open and ran.

 

You can order it at these links:

 

HarperCollins AU US UK

Amazon AU US UK CA IN

Romance.com.au

Kobo AU NZ US UK CA IE IN ZA

Barnes and Noble

Apple Books

Google Play

Booktopia

The Week: 29th July – 4th August

 

Queanbeyan Lawn Cemetery New South Wales Australia near Canberra Australian Capital Territory Sonya Heaney 2nd August 2019 2

Queanbeyan Lawn Cemetery New South Wales Australia near Canberra Australian Capital Territory Sonya Heaney 2nd August 2019 1

A trip to the cemetery in Queanbeyan, just before the border with Canberra, on Friday afternoon (my grandparents are buried there). If you ever wonder what landscape inspires my writing, take a look at it.

Sonya Heaney Library Books Santa Montefiore Christy Reece Sophie Barnes Historical Costume

Sonya Heaney Library Books Mary Balogh Julia Quinn Lisa Kleypas USSR Ukrainian Costume

I visited the library again on Monday. After figuring out the scary returns scanner, I sent two (of six) books back, and came home with eight more!

Yes, I’ve already read Marrying Winterborne, but I wanted a look at the hardcover version. I’m going to return it for someone else to borrow at the start of next week.

The USSR book is actually a 1980s encyclopaedia of Eastern European costumes, and the section about Ukraine was so fantastic (and strangely accurate, considering Russian propaganda – the only information crossing the Iron Curtain to get to the west – was [and still is] so anti-Ukrainian) I just had to borrow it. I actually want to buy it!

Flock of Galahs Australian Birds Queanbeyan near Canberra Australia 2nd August 2019 Sonya Heaney Grey Pink

Lunchtime at my aunt’s house in Queanbeyan the same day I visited the cemetery.

Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Blue Winter Sky Sunny Warm Afternoon Sonya Heaney 30th July 2019

My amazing writing view in sunny Canberra this week.

New Cover for Lisa Kleypas

Chasing Cassandra (Ravenels #6) (2020) (The sixth book in the Ravenels series) A novel by Lisa Kleypas US Cover 2019

Happy 201st Birthday, Emily Brontë!

Emily_Brontë_by_Patrick_Branwell_Brontë_restored Emily Brontë, as painted by her brother Patrick Branwell Brontë (died 1848), from a portrait with her sisters.

My review of Consequences of a Hot Havana Night (Passion in Paradise #6) by Louise Fuller

Consequences of a Hot Havana Night (Passion in Paradise #6) by Louise Fuller

The Week: 15th – 21st July

WinterVention Canberra Austrlaia OutDoor Ice Skating Canberra Theatre Centre Sonya Oksana Heaney 20th July 2019

burst

Winter outdoor ice skating and fairy lights in Canberra last night.

Blue Sky Sunny Winter's Day Queanbeyan to Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 19th July 2019 Nature

Crossing the state border from Queanbeyan (NSW) to Canberra on Friday afternoon.

Crazy Cat Grey Cat Sonya Heaney Canberra Australia 19th July 2019

The neighbour’s cat napping in my office on Friday. Despite what it looks like, he does actually have a head. And he’s so big he fell off the couch just after I took this picture!

My book is on NetGalley!

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney blog-sized

Five years since MH17

298-mh17-candles

The Dancing Plague of July 1518

Die_Wallfahrt_der_Fallsuechtigen_nach_MeulebeeckEngraving of Hendrik Hondius portrays three women affected by the dancing plague

Book Feature: London’s Best Kept Secret (Midnight Secrets #2) by Anabelle Bryant

London's Best Kept Secret (Midnight Secrets #2) by Anabelle Bryant

The Week: 26th February – 4th March

The National Library of Australia in Canberra last night, on the first night of the Enlighten festival. It was a gorgeous night, and I have never seen crowds like this at the event before.

Queanbeyan Lawn Cemetery near Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 28th February 2018 Blue Sky end of Summer

Visiting my grandparents’ graves on the last day of summer.

Kangaroos Queanbeyn Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 28th February 2018

Canberra’s kangaroo plague – a blurry picture from the car window!

Summer ended this week, but the temperatures haven’t dropped. Many people say autumn is the best season in Canberra – warm, but not too hot, and with all the autumn colours.

I cannot believe all the snow in Venice. this time a year ago we were sitting out in the piazzas in the sunshine, drinking wine. What a difference!

Russia Annexes Crimea Ukraine 2014 little-green-men russian special forces

This week marked the fourth anniversary of Russian Special Forces invading and overtaking Ukraine’s Crimea. Putin waited until his showcase event – the Sochi Olympics – was done, and then sent his troops in. Four years now, and the Crimean Tartars are experiencing the sort of persecution they suffered under Stalin, and the Russians are pulling down historic palaces on the peninsula.

My review of Hello Stranger (Ravenels #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Hello Stranger (Ravenels #4) by Lisa Kleypas

50th Anniversary of Romeo and Juliet

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet 1968

The Flooded Library

 The RUC at Turner was drenched in floodwater on Sunday Canberra Flood 25th February 2018

Release Day for Lisa Kleypas

Hello Stranger (Ravenels #4) by Lisa Kleypas

The Week: 3rd – 9th April

^^^^

Driving from Queanbeyan to Canberra on Thursday afternoon. A few hours later there was a terror attack in Queanbeyan, and this road was the one the attackers used to escape interstate (the state border is at the rise up ahead on the road). Now I’ll always think of that when I see this gorgeous picture.

More of that lower in this post.

^^^^

Visiting the Treasures of Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery yesterday. Canberra has had an exclusive exhibition from Versailles for a few months now (including stuff like Marie Antoinette’s harp and Madame de Pompadour’s furniture), but because I was overseas I didn’t get there until this weekend. We actually tried to visit last week, but it was so busy everywhere we couldn’t even find a place to park! Yesterday the queue to get into the exhibition was so long it ran the entire length of the building, but we were determined to visit! It ends next week.

Dropping my brother home in the city yesterday afternoon.

Gorgeous, sunny autumn afternoon.

Parrots everywhere in Canberra now the autumn berries are coming out.

There was an Islamic State-inspired terror attack here overnight from Thursday to Friday this week. Of course – because nothing makes the news unless it happens in Sydney or Melbourne – it was barely reported.

The details of it are appalling, and I won’t go into them, but two teenaged boys went on a fourteen-hour rampage. The final stabbing happened on my aunt’s street, a few metres from her front door – it could have been her.

The house one of the attackers lived in and that was raided by police is a few doors from the house my grandmother lived in until she died in 2015. The murder at the service station happened close to where I’d met people for lunch a few hours earlier, and near our Ukrainian hall. The two guys were caught across the border here in Canberra, a few streets from my house, on a road I’d been down twice that day.

Literally every location a crime was committed during the rampage was somewhere I’d been on Thursday, and also somewhere I had a personal connection to.

While Canberra is the capital city, Queanbeyan is basically a country town, a small community just over the state border, and it is so shocking that now terrorism can literally happen anywhere.

I’m so angry that it barely made the news, because things only get reported if they happen in “known” cities.

A Visit to Dr Johnson’s House

Meet the ‘Grammar Vigilante’ of Bristol

My review of A Perfect Gentleman by Candace Camp

My review of Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World (Jane Austen Regency Life #2) by Maria Grace

Make a Date with Harlequin – Viking!

Make a Date with Harlequin – Cowboy!

The Week: 26th September – 2nd October

queanbeyan-nsw-30th-september-2016-sonya-heaney-sky-storm-clouds-nature

Stormy sky on the way home from Queanbeyan, NSW on Friday afternoon.

We had a public holiday on Monday, and I went out to the pub on Friday, so this seemed like a very short week! We have ANOTHER holiday this coming Monday, too!

I spent the public holiday visiting the Australian War Memorial, and then the Kingston Foreshore. It was a nice (if windy) day, but then the craziness started. South Australia had this freak storm, and the entire state lost power – South Australia is 1.5 times the size of Texas. The tail end of the storm reached us a couple of days later, which meant our Floriade spring festival and night festival had to be closed for a couple of days.

This time last year I was in full summer dress!

Congratulations to my cousin, who danced her final National Irish Dance Championships yesterday, held in Hobart this year.

This article disgusts me. Having been to school through the early John Howard years, where public education was stripped and stripped and stripped of money, to the point they couldn’t even afford to maintain the toilets, and all our textbooks were fifteen years out of date hand-me-downs from the private schools… I’m so angry about this:

Some private schools receive nearly three times the funding they are entitled to

In other countries it’s illegal to use government funding for private education!

That’s my rant for the week!

Australian War Memorial Canberra

victoria-cross-winners-uniforms-australian-war-memorial-canberra-26th-septermber-2016-sonya-oksana-heaney-military-sas

Lisa Kleypas’ Upcoming Book

Devil in Spring (2017) (The third book in the Ravenels series) A novel by Lisa Kleypas

The thirty-second anniversary of…

Ghost of a Chance by Jayne Ann Krentz

My review of Dark Fancy (Noble Passions #1) by Sabrina York

dark-fancy-noble-passions-1-by-sabrina-york

My review of A Fabrication of the Truth by Katie Kaleski

a-fabrication-of-the-truth-by-katie-kaleski

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Birthday

1832 portrait of English writer and biographer Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65)

The Week: 28th March – 3rd April

Canberra Australia Sunset Sonya Heaney Autumn

One of our (unedited!) sunsets in Canberra this week.

I hope everyone around here remembered about daylight saving! I know it’s easier now with so many devices updating themselves, but it seems every year I hear of a funny mistake!

Apparently we’re not going to have autumn this year. It’s still in the high twenties (Celsius) and the leaves aren’t really changing colour.

I had a dismal reading week this week. So many historical romances I tried to read, but couldn’t cope with; some I could not finish. Maybe that means I’m due for some good books now!

Parliament House Canberra Australia 2nd April 2016 Sonya Heaney Back-Burning..

Smoke over Australian Parliament during fire reduction burns in the city over the weekend.

The entrepreneurs bringing the Great Moscow Circus here – again – have been obscenely spamming the streets with advertising, and paying many people to put huge signs up on their own houses. Whole streets in Canberra and neighbouring Queanbeyan are lined with the things – three signs per house. Sad that people have already forgotten Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (and Georgia, and the bombing of civilians in Syria, and the human rights abuses, and the extreme homophobia, and the… you get the picture) and will do anything for a few dollars. Even the house next to my late (Ukrainian) grandmother’s has them.

So some people who will remain unnamed have been adding some things to a few of the signs:

 protest for ukraine anti-putin great moscow circus advertisementsprotest for ukraine anti-putin great moscow circus advertisements.

The collapse of the Wisconsin State Capitol

In one of history’s more successful April Fool jokes, in 1933 it was reported in the Madison Capital-Times that the Wisconsin State Capitol had collapsed. 1st April 1933.

One week until One With You

One With You by Sylvia Day

No more copies of Fifty Shades of Grey!

But now it looks like everyone’s love affair with Fifty Shades of Grey is well and truly over.

My review of Edge of Surrender (At the Edge #1 Part 2) by Laura Griffin

Edge of Surrender (At the Edge #1 Part 2) by Laura Griffin

My review of The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

My review of Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

The Week: 5th – 11th October

Floriade Canberra Australia Spring Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney 5th October 2015 Purple Flowers Garden Nature

At Floriade on a very hot Monday afternoon.

Qeanbeyan New South Wales Australia Queanbeyan River Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Spring Nature

And on the Queanbeyan River on Friday.

This week started with another public holiday, and we went to the Floriade flower festival and then out to lunch. It was too hot for the flowers, and very hot walking around!

Friday and Saturday we went out to dinner and to various theatre shows. In all, I haven’t achieved all that much this week!

2013 Noosa Long Weekend FestivalMACQUARIE Day 7Tourism Noosa© 2013 Barry Alsop PhotographerEyes Wide Open IMAGES

The show we saw on Saturday night.

On the way back from the theatre (the hugely underrated and spectacularly fantastic Expressions Dance Company’s production) in Queanbeyan on Saturday night, we had to pass my late-grandmother’s house. The new owners have moved in, and apparently don’t have curtains yet.

We were so horrified by what they’ve done to the place we circled back and went past again! Yes, it was stalkerish, and yes, we know we can’t control what they do!

However, the house was built by a bricklayer, with all special, expensive, handmade bricks throughout, and a big feature – REAL – fireplace. It’s all gone, and instead now everything is plastered over, and the lounge room wall now has the biggest flat screen television I’ve ever seen (it must have cost about half the price of the house again!). That’s it. Plastered walls, knocked down walls, covered-up fireplace, and a giant TV playing the football.

Poor Baba. Her house has been ruined!

Release Day for Madeline Hunter

Tall, Dark, & Wicked by Madeline Hunter

So, Stephenie Meyer celebrated the ten year anniversary of Twilight…

Life and Death Twilight Reimagined (Twilight #5) by Stephenie Meyer

Cover Love

Pride and Prejudice Book Cover Jane Austen

My review of A Daddy for Christmas by Linda Ford

A Daddy for Christmas by Linda Ford

My review of A Reluctant Bride (Amish of Birch Creek #1) by Kathleen Fuller

A Reluctant Bride (Amish of Birch Creek #1) by Kathleen Fuller

The Week: 6th – 12th July

Kangaroos Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan Australia 11th July 2015 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Winter

Kangaroos Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan Australia 11th July 2015 1 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Winter

Visiting the cemetery yesterday. The Canberra region has a serious kangaroo plague, and it’s getting worse and worse!

Winter Night Ice Skating Canberra City Australia Civic Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney 5th July 2015

Outdoor ice skating in Canberra a few days ago

On Monday the Christmas review books started appearing. Even for review books is this not a little premature??!! All the same, I’ve already started reading them. I guess at least it’s winter here, so all that talk about snow and fires makes a bit of sense.

For some reason I don’t seem to be getting notifications from a lot of sites anymore. For example, no matter how many times I switch my Pinterest notifications back on, I don’t get them! So I’m having a little trouble responding to people all over the internet at the moment…

I seem to be reading a million Western historical books at the moment, and a glance at my review books shows I have another thousand lined up. I have no idea how that happened.

I’ve written multiple times about how racist a significant portion of Anglo Australia is. This week, Australian “legend” Dawn Fraser went to the press with extremely racist comments about the children (not even the actual immigrants) of European and Asian immigrants. This woman lives on the same street as my aunt. The next time I see her…

Apparently “real Australians” are 100% British blood. I wonder what these equal opportunity racists think of Aborigines…

Things that do NOT make your romance heroine better than other women

new-moon-hq-stills-bella-swan-26178243-2560-1703

Clichés of Attraction

Heterosexuality.

Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC’s 1980 Production

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie David Rintoul Elizabeth Bennet Mr Darcy

My review of The Best of Both Rogues by Samantha Grace

The Best of Both Rogues by Samantha Grace

My review of The Marriage Agreement (Charity House #9) by Renee Ryan

The Marriage Agreement (Charity House #9) by Renee Ryan

My review of Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

The Week: 3rd – 9th November

 Spring Sunset Tuggeranong Canberra Australia 24th October 2014 Sonya Heaney 1

Canberra sunsets in spring = fantastic!

It has been a lesson in the unexpected this week.

A family lunch turned into the discovery of these gorgeous little babies in the shed:

 Kittens Qeanbeyan Australia 2nd November 2014

We have a home for the one at the back definitely, the one on the left probably, but the little one at the front on the right is still on the lookout for someone! If you’re in Queanbeyan or Canberra and want a sweet little cat… They’re about six weeks old, so it will be a few more weeks before they can go.

A lunch date during the week was cancelled because two people were sick.

And then my aunt was at work, had a fall, and needed surgery.

Stalinist parades in Moscow 7th November 2014

Meanwhile, in Moscow this week

 Russian Putin Propaganda in Eastern Ukraine November 2014

Ridiculous Russian propaganda is appearing in invaded parts of Ukraine.

Don’ even get me started on Australian politicians and their wilful ignorance! *cough*Tony Abbott*cough*…

As for books? I accidentally scheduled only historical romance reviews this week! It was a big release week for books in that genre.

My review of To Love and to Cherish by Leigh Greenwood

To Love and to Cherish by Leigh Greenwood

My review of A Rake by Any Other Name by Mia Marlowe

A Rake by Any Other Name by Mia Marlowe

My review of Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures by Lillian Marek

Lady Elinor's Wicked Adventures by Lillian Marek

My review of The Traitor by Grace Burrowes

The Traitor by Grace Burrowes

My review of Madeleine’s Christmas Wish by Ella Quinn

Madeleine's Christmas Wish (The Marriage Game #5.5) by Ella Quinn