The Lost Valley (A Tasmanian East of Eden) by Bestseller @JenScoullar is a Snuggle Up Readathon Pick
Title: The Lost Valley
Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Genre: Historical Fiction/Saga
A Tasmanian East Of Eden.
The Lost Valley is a sweeping saga of ambition, betrayal and dangerous love.
Tasmania, 1929: Ten-year-old-twins, Tom and Harry Abbott, are orphaned by a tragedy that shocks Hobart society. They find sanctuary with their reclusive grandmother, growing up in the remote and rugged Binburra ranges – a place where kind-hearted Tom discovers a love of the wild, Harry nurses a growing resentment towards his brother and where the mountains hold secrets that will transform both their lives.
The chaos of World War II divides the brothers, and their passion for two very different women fuels a deadly rivalry. Can Tom and Harry survive to heal their rift? And what will happen when Binburra finally reveals its astonishing secrets?
From Tasmania’s highlands to the Battle of Britain, and all the way to the golden age of Hollywood, The Lost Valley is a lush family saga about two brothers whose fates are entwined with the land and the women they love.
Mr Robert Abbott, close friend of the Premier and Hobart’s most prominent businessman, was forty-one years old when he took a rifle and shot his wife in the head. He then turned the gun on himself.
Robert had planned his crime. The twins away at boarding school. Staff with the night off. A very special twentieth wedding anniversary celebration at home with Helen, just the two of them. Crystal vases stood crammed with roses. A silver ice bucket held his wife’s preferred brand of French champagne. They feasted on oysters and poached salmon in the garden as the sun went down.
After dinner, they danced in the drawing room to a carefully arranged play-list. A mix of their favourites, up tempo at first. Putting On The Ritz. Happy Days Are Here Again. Helen loved Charles King. Then a little jazz and ragtime. He showed off his moves, and her face flushed with pleasure as he swirled her about in her lilac dress. How beautiful she was. His wife could still foxtrot with the best of them, although her Charleston lacked some of its former, youthful energy. Helen’s breath came in little pants and her generous bosom heaved as he stopped to change the record.
As the night wound down, the music grew slower and more tender. ‘I love you, Robbie,’ she whispered, as they waltzed cheek-to-cheek to strains of Don’t Ever Leave Me and Gershwin’s Feeling Sentimental. It was an unseasonably warm evening for a Tasmanian early spring. The heady scent of jasmine wafted through the open window, so evocative of a lifetime spent together in this house. Robert breathed in a great draught of sweet air. This was as fine an evening as had ever been. So fine, he almost changed his mind.
Ten-year-old Tom Abbott and his brother Harry walked in slow motion down the aisle of St Mary’s cathedral. Tom had never liked churches, and he especially hated this one. With its frightening frescoes of frowning saints, booming organ music and those twin coffins at the front that, according to Reverend Russell, contained his dead mother and father. Which was which? The coffins looked the same, and neither he nor Harry had been allowed to look inside. Tom desperately wanted a chance to see his parents again, especially Mama. What if she wasn’t dead in there? What if she needed help?
The long, black boxes, engraved with crosses, bore heavy brass handles and were strewn with flowers. Tom couldn’t stop staring; couldn’t stop worrying. Mama was scared of small spaces and Papa? He was so tall, surely he’d hit his head?
The boys came to a halt, causing a traffic jam of mourners. Mrs Boyle nudged them forward. Harry tried to escape down the aisle while Tom ran up to the first coffin and struggled to raise the lid. A man pulled him away, handing him back to his scolding governess.
Grandma Bertha hurried over, chins wobbling, large nose turning red. ‘Control your charges, Mrs Boyle. This is a funeral, not a playground!’
‘I want to see them,’ yelled Tom, squirming free. ‘I want to see my parents.’
Grandma Bertha grabbed his arm in a vice-like grip. She shoved Tom and Harry along the front row and pushed them into their seats. ‘Stay here and don’t move,’ she hissed. ‘We are in God’s house. God is all-seeing and all-knowing. He will punish you boys severely for any further misbehaviour.’
Tom looked at his brother and an understanding passed between them. Grandma’s threat was an empty one. If Mama and Papa were dead, hadn’t God already done his worst? Tom started to cry.
Isabelle Abbott approached St Mary’s with shaky steps. The imposing, sandstone cathedral, built in the gothic style, was too grand, too public for her personal sorrow. A gloomy sheet of cloud lay over everything. Raindrops dripped down her veil and off her nose. She loved rain in the ranges, but here in Hobart? It just emphasised the tragedy of the occasion. Mothers should not bury their sons.
She stumbled as a wave of anguish stole the strength from her legs. This ordeal was almost beyond her. Isabelle steadied herself and searched the crowd, hoping to spot Thomas and Henry, Robert’s twin boys. She hadn’t seen them for six long years, but the children were nowhere in sight.
Isabelle had insisted on coming to the funeral alone. That was a mistake. She suddenly longed for a friendly face, someone to share the burden of her grief. Robert’s father was dead and her daughters lived in England. None of the Abbotts would welcome her; far from it. Not the black sheep of the family. Not the dishonourable woman who’d abandoned her husband to run off with the fabulously wealthy Colonel Lucas Buchanan, the undisputed love of her life. He’d died two years ago, breaking her heart. Leaving Isabelle alone at Binburra, their beautiful but remote estate in the Tasmanian highlands, with only a yard man and housekeeper for company.
And now her son and daughter-in-law were gone too, laid to rest together at this shared funeral, as requested in a recent caveat to Robbie’s will. Isabelle had spoken to the police. An intruder, they’d said. A mysterious intruder, bursting into Abbott House and blasting the life from her beautiful Robbie and his wife. But Isabelle knew better. That open verdict returned by the coroner? A cover-up to protect the reputation of the Abbott name.
Robbie had confided something on that last visit home, the first in years by her estranged son. Such a fine-looking man. Intelligent brown eyes. Tall, with even features and a proud bearing, just like his father. They’d sat in those woven wicker chairs on the verandah, beneath the scrambling mountain blueberry vine. Drinking tea. Taking in the view of Binburra’s wild ranges. For the longest time nobody spoke. Robert seemed to be gathering courage for something.
‘Wall Street,’ he’d said finally. ‘Last year’s crash. What do you know of it?’
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Universal link: https://books2read.com/TheLostValley
November is a time to be thankful. What are you most thankful for this year?
I’m most thankful for my happy, healthy family and the privilege of being able to write stories for a living.
Why is your featured book worth snuggling up to?
The Lost Valley is a sweeping saga of two Australian brothers who are twins. Meet them when they are orphaned at age ten shortly after the 1929 Crash hits Australia. Snuggle up and lose yourself in their epic journeys through World War 2 and beyond. The 500 plus pages will fly by! 122 reviews on Amazon averaging 4.5 stars.
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Runs November 1 – 30.
Drawing will be held on December 1.
Jennifer Scoullar writes page-turning fiction about the land, people and wildlife that she loves. She has always harboured a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. Jennifer lives with her family in on a beautiful farm in the mountains that was left to her by her father. Horses have always been her passion. Read her books now to discover why Jennifer Scoullar is one of Australia’s favourite storytellers!
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