02 June 2013

Guest Blog: Gwendoline Ewins

This week, we're welcoming author Gwendoline Ewins with her latest historical romance title set in the early 19th century, Drums. The author will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:

They come from different worlds, yet fate brings them together on the deck of a sailing ship anchored beside a spectacular tropical lagoon - then drums on the shore beat out a warning.

**From Gwendoline Ewins**

For as long as I can remember I’ve been intrigued by what pushes people to leave their homeland and search for another place to live their lives. Sometimes the reasons are pretty obvious - freedom, safety, opportunity, space, beauty. In my case, I travelled with my husband wherever his work took him and these days live in New Zealand. Before then we lived in Polynesia for almost a decade.

We lived on remote islands in the eastern Southern Seas, tiny scraps of land in a vast sea that were first inhabited over four thousand years ago as people left Havaiiki - wherever that might have been - and set out for something better or simply different. Those early seafarers travelled on fragile trimarans that should never have survived the long and arduous journey across the mighty Pacific. They should have been swamped and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. The passengers should have died from thirst or hunger, or from being tossed overboard and eaten by sharks. But they survived, sustained by coconuts and fish and by their knowledge of the stars and the patterns of the sea and the weather. They were courageous people, intelligent and beautiful with a lusty appreciation of life. And they found what they were looking for.

Then Europeans came - explorers and adventurers, whalers and sandalwood gatherers, traders and missionaries, good people and bad people and everything in between. Most of them were men who might have thought they’d died and gone to heaven because of all the sex and erotic dancing under the moon, but by the end of the 1790’s the missionaries were coming and brought wives with them.

The London Missionary Society sent a motley band of thirty-seven missionaries -scholars and tradesmen - with their families to Tahiti. They left Wapping in August 1796 on The Duff and arrived in Tahiti seven months later. Straightway they set about learning the language and reducing it to writing, setting up schools and fanning out from Tahiti to proselytise. Their Polynesian students were of all ages and eager to learn. Their rate of literacy quickly surpassed that of Europeans. They produced script that became an art form.

John Williams was one of those early missionaries. He was marooned on Rarotonga and with local materials and help built The Messenger of Peace in 15 weeks. It was 60 ft long and 18 ft wide. In 1839 he was martyred on the island of Erromango - later a succession of missionary ships travelling between Polynesia and Micronesia were named after him.

In some ways the Europeans found themselves in paradise on stunningly beautiful islands described as emeralds scattered over a sapphire sea. Fish and fruit were abundant. The islanders wise in the use of medicines made from shrubs and nuts and seaweed.

But the clash of cultures would have been enormous. Polynesians took it for granted everything was to be shared - “sharing” was tantamount to theft to the Europeans. Polynesian open expression of joy or grief would have been alien to 19th century Europeans. Beliefs about sensuality and promiscuity were miles apart. To put it simply, Polynesians believed this was right and that was wrong and Europeans often believed the opposite, and at the same time wrestled with the notion of desire far from support and encouragement of church congregations half-way around the world.

This then is the world where my Southern Seas Series heroines and heroes come to live - more can be found on my website: http://www/gwendoline-ewins.com 

In Who is He? Luke Wainwright is an artist attracted by Polynesia's vibrant light. In A Perfect Wife for Peregrine Winthrop Peregrine is sustained by the passion and joy of his work for the mission. In Unexpected Hero, Charity Trescothick is the dutiful daughter of a missionary. Drums will be available within the next month or so, meanwhile I hope you enjoy the excerpt below. Two people meet on the deck of a sailing ship: a destitute teacher on her way to marry a missionary she has never met yet agreed to marry, and a botanist who has been searching for orchids in Polynesian rainforests.

Every good wish, Gwendoline.

Gwendoline Ewins is the author of Drums and other works of historical romance, set in Polynesia and New South Wales in the early 19th century.