Part of the Border Magic Universe, set in 1780. With magic, monsters and incidental botany.
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Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. Along with a stack of books and coded journals, he's left her with the promise she'll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she's never been.
Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She's never left England before and is delighted to learn the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that, out here, the Miss Jones of the London salons is "just Jones" the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.
The non-binary explorer and the determined botanist make the long journey over the high mountain passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? The trip is fraught with dangers for both of them, not least those of the heart.
Part of the Border Magic Universe (formerly the Lost in Time Universe) set in 1780. With magic, monsters and incidental botany. You can read about the universe and all the books here.
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Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
You can listen to me read the excerpt here:
Edie was still washing when she heard the commotion. The sheep and goats were making a dreadful racket, baaing and wailing much louder than she had ever heard them, even when they were on the move. Then the herd dogs joined in, giving tongue like Edie had never heard before. She didn't have her stays on. Or her chemise. Or anything. She hastily pulled her dress over her head, grabbed up the pistol she kept by her camp bed and dashed out toward the noise in her bare feet, hair flying.READ MORE
She ran without a thought. She didn't know where anyone else was, but she assumed Henry and Bennett and the young men had already started the day of surveying they had planned last night. She and Jones had discussed riding out to look at the ruined caravanseri they had glimpsed from the hilltop yesterday as they were riding down into the valley, but Jones was usually up and about well before Edie emerged from her tent each morning, as were her men.
When she reached the little flock of sheep and goats, she stopped in horror. She wasn't at first able to make out what she was seeing, but then it came into focus sharply, with scents and sounds and colors. There was a tiger in among the goats. It was eating one of them. Margery, the leader of the herd. The three herd dogs were going berserk, barking and making short forays toward the tiger, before backing off again. The goats couldn't get away because they were tied. The tiger was sat in the middle of them, with its kill. It was peaceably eating Margery for breakfast.
Edie screamed. The dogs barked. Distantly she heard voices shouting, but they were a long way away.
The tiger looked at her. Or perhaps through her. It had big, black, bottomless eyes and looked annoyed that she had disturbed its breakfast. It stood up, ponderously, and growled. If anything, its eyes became darker and more menacing.
"I really don't want your breakfast," Edie said. "I liked Margery, I'm not going to eat her." The dogs were still barking like mad.
The tiger growled again, sniffing the air. It took a step forward.
Edie raised the pistol. She was pretty handy with it now. Henry had made her practice and practice at home before they had set out on their journey. She could shoot a musket as well, although she wasn't very good at loading. Her pistol was loaded. Henry had said that it was dangerous to keep a firearm loaded but that at night, fumbling in the dark to load one if the camp was attacked would take too long and might get her killed. Generally speaking, Henry had been very brutal in his explanations before he had agreed to bring her along. Edie spared a brief second to be grateful to her brother, although not too grateful, because a proper brother would be here at this point defending her from the tiger.
The tiger took a step forward. Edie said "I really don't want to shoot you. Please take Margery and go away."
The tiger growled some more.
Edie swallowed. She was going to have to shoot it. She had no idea how easy it was to kill a tiger, but she had a vague idea that shooting it and missing or shooting it and only wounding it would be a bad outcome.
It had Margery's blood all around its mouth and down its front. It looked like it was a male tiger. It had a beard and lots of muscle. It was very large and its eyes were completely black. It probably came up somewhere between her waist and her shoulder. She really hoped it wasn't going to kill her and eat her. She didn't have her stays on. She didn't want to die without her stays on. Her mother would be mortified.COLLAPSE
This book has been a long time coming. I first started mulling the idea of writing about plant-collectors a couple of years ago when I read a newspaper article about Europeans stomping round the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 'discovering' new plants. I knew I wanted Ella Fortune (from Lost in Time) to have her own book and it seemed like the kind of thing she might do in the 1920s after she'd finished being an ambulance driver in France and started a newspaper. Initially I thought this might be it.
However...when I started writing, the characters didn't want to be in the twentieth century at all, they wanted to be in the 1780s. This was a completely new era for me and cost me a lot of research-time. I relied heavily on 'Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India' by Shashi Tharoor for background, plus 'She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen: British women in India 1600 – 1900' by Katie Hickman about women in India and 'The Honourable Company: a History of the English East India Company' by John Keay. I recommend these three as giving a reasonable overview of the pre-British Empire period. I also did a lot of reading about the Victorian flower-painter Marianne North 'A Vision Of Eden: The Life And Work Of Marianne North' and found 'Among the Tibetans' by Isabella Bird illuminating.
So then. Having dealt with the change in time-period, I started out with Jones, who I knew was non-binary and Edie, who's sexuality can best be described as 'pragmatic'. And as their journey over the mountains progressed it became clear that Jones was probably demi/gray asexual, as well. And then the paranormal intruded, which I find it often does once I start writing. And by the time I got to the end, I was in a real twist about how they were going to get their happy ending and be able to come back to England as a couple and both be settled in their own skin.
Anyway. Here it is. I hope you enjoy it.