Why Botany?


Earlier in January we celebrated the release of debut author Sharon Ibbotson’s thrilling regency novel, The Marked Lord. Today on the blog Sharon tells us a little more about the hero of the book, Fitz, and his slightly unusual talent! 


With The Marked Lord being released this month, I’ve had many people ask me questions about the book and my writing process. From ‘What was your inspiration?’ to ‘What do you like to have for dinner?’ (by the way, I think ‘wine’ would be an appropriate answer for both!) I’ve been truly surprised by the breadth of interest in the story. But one point has come up, again and again:

‘Your hero is a botanist? Hmm. That’s different.’

The truth is, I conceived of the hero long before the plot of the book. As an Australian raised on stories of the great botanist Sir Joseph Banks (I went to Banks Public School, lived on Banks Drive, and saw the Banksia everywhere, the great floral emblem of New South Wales) I learned very quickly to love gardening and botany.

Joseph Banks (who appears, albeit in letter form, in The Marked Lord) was the greatest botanist of his time; the man who sent hand-drawn images of Australian flora and fauna back to Mother England during his travels with Captain Cook. Australian flora and fauna are incredibly unique and very special, and at first, the British were disinclined to believe that what Banks told them was true (spoiler- it was very true!)

So, I knew from the start that my hero would be a botanist, and that, at one point in his past, he would’ve been under the tutelage of Banks. I suppose, in one way, it was my way of bringing a bit of Australia into a Regency romance (I have an idea for another regency with an Australian heroine, born in the prison colony and brought back to the UK, but that’s a story for another day…) as well as my love of gardening.

I’m incredibly lucky where I live. I’m in suburban London, but standing in our garden, you wouldn’t know it. For one thing, a river cuts through the back of our land. We have a pond and cascade, full of newts and occasionally visited by ducks and even herons. I have a kitchen garden, full of herbs and flowers to attract bees, and a massive greenhouse (not as big as Fitz’s, sadly) that my very clever husband built me for my thirtieth birthday. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that we are under one of the Heathrow landing paths, and that occasionally our peace is broken by the roar of a 747 engine (although I also love planes, so that doesn’t really bother me) you wouldn’t know you were in London at all. My husband and I are keen gardeners (although I don’t get as much time in the garden now as I would like, with two young children running around) and we’ve dedicated years to planning and planting.

So, when I wrote Fitz, his love for botany was very much my love for botany, and I probably put more of myself into his character than I ever did into Sophy, the heroine. Although Sophy, having been raised so closely to Fitz, and respecting and admiring him as she did (I’m very much a believer that respect and admiration for one’s character comes before love – I know, I know, I’ve read too much Austen) also turned out to have a passion for gardening herself.

In a way, I suppose I also wanted to make a point about beauty, and about it very much being in the eye of the beholder. Fitz, horribly scarred on the outside, is beautiful within. And Sophy, beautiful on the outside, carries her emotional scars tightly on the inside. Many plants are like this too. A rose, after all, is surrounded by thorns. Blackcurrant sage, if left untended, can turn into the spindliest of wooden shrubs. And rhubarb, which I always refer to as the ‘femme fatale’ of the plant world, is tart and sweet on the tongue but nestled amongst highly poisonous leaves. Sometimes, like with Fitz, you must look beyond appearances. And like Sophy, sometimes beauty hides an inner pain.

When I sit down to write a book, I tend to ‘head canon’ the hero before the heroine. I do this because I like to think about what makes him attractive to me, and thus, what will make him attractive to my heroine. I’ve never been one for looks; in all the times I’ve ever been in love, it’s been the personality that attracted me before the looks ever did. So, with Fitz, when I listed his features, I simply wrote ‘scarred’ under the box I reserve for appearance descriptions, before going to ‘personality’ and writing about three A4 pages. As such, in The Marked Lord I don’t shy away from describing Fitz as physically unappealing. He is not your typical ‘scarred regency hero’ type, with a delicate scar running down one side of his face, marring but not obscuring his traditionally handsome good looks. No, Fitz is more like the Phantom of the Opera – completely scarred and disfigured, to the point where he describes himself as a sideshow attraction. Is this a risk? Perhaps. I want my readers to fall in love with Fitz, I want them to understand his appeal to Sophy. But I’m truly hoping they’ll understand that Sophy falls in love with Fitz and his beautiful personality.

Fun fact. The Marked Lord is not the first time Sir Joseph Banks appears in a work of fiction. Far from it. He also appears in Mutiny on the Bounty, that old tale about the sailors who overthrew Bligh and left him for dead in the ocean. Rather miraculously, Bligh and the crew who remained loyal to him survived their ordeal, and Bligh went on to become Governor of… Australia. The same Australia Banks and Cook mapped 36 years earlier.

The Regency period is littered with references to Australian history, and I’m so glad to share a little of it with you all in The Marked Lord.

The Marked Lord is available as an eBook on all platforms and also as an audio book on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Sharon
Follow her on Twitter @seibbotson
Like her on Facebook Sharon Ibbotson Author 

Driving in the Outback


Janet Gover has recently celebrated the paperback release of her novel, Little Girl Lost, which returns us to our favourite Australian town of Coorah Creek! In today’s post, Janet takes us up and down some of the outback roads which were inspiration for the book. Watch out for kangaroos! 

When I first came to live in England, one of the things that amazed me was all the conversation about roads – or more precisely routes.

I’d listen to people saying – ‘The M3 was jammed so I exited at the A30 and came via the B389…..’

This doesn’t happen in the outback of Australia.


You don’t have a lot of options on outback roads.

We don’t give all our roads number in the same way. But more importantly, a lot of the time there is only one road that leads from A to B.  In the towns, of course, there are options, but where I learned to drive there was only ever one road that went where I wanted to go, and it was flat and pretty much straight, owning to a lack of rivers and hills. And as often as not, it was a dirt road as well.

This is the sort of road I learned to drive on. Although not when it rained. It’s too easy to get bogged on the black soil tracks.

This is the sort of road I learned to drive on. Although not when it rained. It’s too easy to get bogged on the black soil tracks.

When I first saw an OS map, I was really surprised at the scale and detail. The owner of that map was equally shocked to learn that in Australia, we don’t have anything similar. The country is too big, and vast areas of it have no roads, no buildings … not even a creek. The only tracks are those left by cattle or sheep or camels. An OS map would have very little to show.

Driving a long straight outback road is so very different to driving on an English motorway. For a start, you can go for an hour or more without even seeing another car. The English motorways have lights. The only lights in the outback are the car’s headlights. It gets very dark out there.

There are warning signs like this in a lot of places, but the kangaroos don’t read the signs. You can find them anywhere.

There are warning signs like this in a lot of places, but the kangaroos don’t read the signs. You can find them anywhere.

There is always the risk of an animal – most often a kangaroo, on the road. And if a kangaroo seems to jump out on front of you in a vaguely suicidal fashion – that’s just what they do. You have to stay alert. And never forget that where there is one kangaroo, there’s bound to be more, and just because one has safely crossed the road ahead of you, you still need to be ready to slam the brakes on.

skid marks

It’s easy to see where someone had taken some pretty fast evasive action.

I was recently driving near Canberra with an English friend – who was very excited to see kangaroos on the side of the road. He didn’t seem to understand that they made me, as the driver, wary.

In Little Girl Lost, we spend a bit of time on outback roads – with Tia on her motorcycle, with Pete in his truck. And of course, Sergeant Max patrols the road.

This is the Harley Davidson motorcycle I gave to Tia. I found it in a car park in the Middle East – but it looked just right.

This is the Harley Davidson motorcycle I gave to Tia. I found it in a car park in the Middle East – but it looked just right.

There is a certain magic to driving an outback road late at night. The sky is just amazing – the stars seem very close. The night air smells like nothing I have found anywhere else in the world.

Sometimes it can seem as if you are the only person left in the world.

Now there’s a story idea in the making!

A truckie heading west into the outback.

A truckie heading west into the outback.


Little Girl Lost is now available to purchase as an eBook and paperback. Click HERE for buying options.

For more information on Janet Gover, follow her on Twitter: @janet_gover
Visit her website: www.janetgover.com

A tour of Coorah Creek


It’s release day today for the e-book of Janet Gover’s Little Girl Lost – the fourth story set in the tiny Australian outback town of Coorah Creek. To celebrate, Janet takes us on a tour of the Creek.

After four books (and maybe more to come – who knows), I thought it was time I took you to Coorah Creek.

The town is fictional, but in building it, I’ve drawn on the small bush towns I know so well. I grew up in a town just like Coorah Creek – only a fair bit smaller. So come with me now and let me show you around.


This is what you see driving into my old home town. This isn’t Coorah Creek – but in many ways it is. 

Let’s start at the pub. The Coorah Creek Hotel is the heart of the town. It’s the place to get together with their friends and neighbours. A lot of community decisions are made at the pub – decisions to form a bush fire brigade or create a sports ground for the kids at the school. Small towns thrive on gossip, but the  gossip you hear at the Coorah Creek pub is the kind of gossip that will result in everyone pitching together to help someone repair their home, or clear some land.

image 2

This hotel is actually in New South Wales – but this is what the Coorah Creek Hotel looks like – including the wrought iron on the upper veranda. The only difference, this is brick, and Trish’s pub is timber. 

This bar is in my head whenever I write a scene set in Trish’s bar… see that big walk in cold room behind the bar. Can’t you just see Syd and Jack storing the kegs there?

image 3

When I was a kid, I once rode my pony into this bar. I can’t remember why but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. 

We didn’t have a police station in my town. It just wasn’t big enough so the nearest police station was about eleven miles away. But Coorah Creek does have a police station. In my head it looks like this. This was the post office in my old town, but in some small communities, a one man police station would look a lot like this.


Note the faded and worn paint. Paint doesn’t last long under the outback sun.

Coorah Creek has a hall. It’s where the town Christmas party is held. This is exactly what it looks like.  As an aside, I met my first politician in this hall during a community event when I was a teenager.


The hall was built out of corrugated iron – even the outer walls. It was pretty hot inside in the summer. 

My town had a single garage. It looked like this when I was a teenager, and it still does. Change comes slowly to these little towns.


This is Ed Collins’s garage exactly. 

One of the icons of Queensland – particularly the bush – is wooden houses built on wooden stumps. I guess it had a lot to do with available building material and the need for airflow under the house. Those stumps and the metal caps on them also keep ants and termites out of the house. Most of the houses in Coorah Creek are like this.


Note the water tanks. We had no reticulated water and survived totally on rainwater or water delivered in tanker trucks when it was really dry.

That’s Coorah creek for you. There are not a lot of bright lights. There’s no shopping centre or movie theatre. But there are a lot of good people.  That’s the strongest memory I have of growing up in my small town. People would be there whenever help was needed. That’s the town I have tried to capture in Coorah Creek. I hope you’ll go and visit and meet some of my friends.

Janet’s new novel, Little Girl Lost, is the fourth book in her Coorah Creek series and is now available to buy as an eBook. Click HERE for purchasing options. 

For more on Janet, follow her on Twitter: @janet_gover

Visit her website: www.janetgover.com