Thursday, December 24, 2020

"The Sapphire Child"

Janet MacLeod Trotter is the author of numerous bestselling and acclaimed novels, including The Hungry Hills, which was nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, The Tea Planter’s Daughter, which was nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year Award, and In the Far Pashmina Mountains, which was shortlisted for the RNA Historical Romance of the Year Award. Much informed by her own experiences, MacLeod Trotter was raised in the north-east of England by Scottish parents and travelled in India as a young woman. She now divides her time between Northumberland and the Isle of Skye.

MacLeod Trotter applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Sapphire Child, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He wondered what had happened to break up their friendship. Was it just Esmie being loyal to his father or was there another reason? George’s poisonous words about Esmie resurfaced. ‘Your father never married her. She’s just his whore ... they’re like a couple of sewer rats copulating!’

How could anyone speak about his beloved Meemee like that? To stop himself dwelling on it, he thought of Stella again. She must come with him and not go off with the Irishman, however amiable he was.

The next time Andrew was talking to Moira he asked, ‘What do you think of Mr Keating?’

‘He’s very charming – a bit of a ladies’ man, I’d say.’ She smiled. ‘Why do you ask?’

‘He likes you too,’ said Andrew. ‘He told me.’

Moira looked surprised. ‘Really? Did he say so? I got the distinct impression he’s keen on Stella.’

‘Well, he’s nice to Stella but I think he prefers someone a bit – er – more mature.’

‘Goodness, you must have some very grown-up conversations for your age in the Keating cabin,’ Moira said in amusement.

Andrew reddened. He wasn’t lying when he said that Hugh liked Moira, but he was pretty sure if Stella gave him any romantic encouragement, Hugh would press his suit with her rather than the failed governess. It worried Andrew that Stella might already have done things with Hugh, such as kissing, for they’d started calling each other by their first names and he’d witnessed them touching hands under the table and sharing secret smiles.

Moira tweaked his nose playfully. ‘Will you be my little cupid and tell Mr Keating I’ll meet him on the upper deck at cocktail hour?’

‘Of course,’ said Andrew.
As the novel is over 500 pages, I was astonished by how relevant page 69 was to the overall story! It’s told from the hero, Andrew’s, point of view (while still a teenager) and mentions some of the main characters – most importantly Stella who is my central heroine. Although we can’t tell what Andrew’s relationship is to Stella, we learn that he cares a lot for her and is jealous of her growing interest in Hugh Keating, the Irishman with whom he is sharing a cabin. It is apparent that they are on board a ship and that Andrew is apprehensive at what lies ahead. There is also a hint of the trouble he is escaping (to do with his father and step-mother, Meemee) that is preoccupying him. Andrew doesn’t know it yet, but the voyage is more than just a trip from India to Scotland but a life-changing event – one that he inadvertently sets in motion by his actions on page 69. In his conversation with the flirtatious Moira, he seals the fate of both Stella and Hugh, that will have long-term and devastating consequences.

Having said that, there is so much more that cannot even be guessed at by reading page 69! The novel is largely about warm-hearted Stella, the Anglo-Indian daughter of the hotel manager at The Raj Hotel in Rawalpindi, and her dreams of fulfilment beyond her close-knit community which are shattered by betrayal and the upheaval of world war.
Visit Janet MacLeod Trotter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue