Royston Stirling has all the strength, money, and power that his infamous father wielded over the family cattle station deep in the dusty bush of Australia’s Channel Country. But from the moment she sees him, Amelia Boyd knows Royce struggles to be a better man. His tense energy attracts her, fueling the spell of remote, manor-like Kooralya and its lush gardens of gardenia and roses—even as she recognizes that the wedding bringing their families together is a terrible mistake.
Amelia knows her sister has snared Royce’s brother more out of greed than passion. But she can’t abandon her, no matter how conniving she seems. And with the groom besotted with Amelia even as he prepares to walk down the aisle, the ill-fated match stirs up nightmares of the past.
Amelia might almost forgive Royce’s suspicions. But the arrogance of a wounded man is a powerful force, one Amelia knows too well. And as the desire brewing between Royce and Amelia grows irresistible, the distrust, heartache, and family secrets seething beneath the surface are bound to burst
forth . . .
“If you’ve never read Margaret Way before, you’re in for a treat!” —New York Times bestselling author Diana Palmer
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Her Australian Cattle Baron
By Margaret Way
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Margaret Way P/L
All rights reserved.
Royston Stirling left his favourite mare, Marika, a true coal black, in the capable hands of Eddie Emu, one of a group of aboriginal stable boys he relied on. He had bred Marika from two outstanding black horses, ex-racehorses, bought in by the station. Eddie had a gift with horses.
Weariness was lapping at all of his senses — it had been one hell of a day — nevertheless, he took a few moments to check if Eddie had any concerns.
"On top of everythin', Boss!" Eddie assured him, flashing his dazzling white smile. At sixteen, Eddie, in his navy singlet and cutoff trousers, considered himself to be one of the boss's right-hand men. In another year or two, Royston would move Eddie up to stockman. He had grown fond of Eddie, born on the station to their best tracker and his part-aboriginal wife, although there had never been a kind word for Eddie and his hard-working parents during his father's time. Charles Royston Stirling's heart had been pure granite.
There had been no tears at his huge Outback funeral, only regret for what might have been. Mercifully, life went on.
Living at Kooralya now was far less traumatic than it had been under his father. He had made a point of that. His people were important to him. No resentments were allowed to grow. Every man, woman, and child on the station was treated well or he wanted to know why. Running a remote cattle station was no different to running a small democratic kingdom.
It had been another long backbreaking day of pulverising heat. An extra problem had been thrown into the mix. He'd had to call in the Royal Flying Doctor Service. One of the jackeroos had broken his leg. A fall from his horse. No unavoidable accident, just a silly piece of derring-do that caused temporary chaos. It could have been much worse. Working cattle stations were dangerous places. This station, in its 150 years' history, had suffered its fair share of disasters both to family and station staff.
With his long stride, he crossed the broad, cobbled courtyard to the home compound as the first of the stars were coming out. The walls were surrounded by high terra cotta walls draped in a beautiful native climber that broke out in a profusion of fragrant white flowers for most of the year. The scent enveloped him. The high walls had been built for a purpose. They protected the home gardens from high winds and the occasional dust storm. The women of his family had laboured down the years to establish a garden in the desert heartland. All of them had been determined to impose beauty and order on the wilderness. To their great credit, they had succeeded.
Kooralya's main gardener, Will Vernon, an English horticulturalist who had migrated to Australia for his health, had come to them some ten years previously. Living in the hot dry conditions of the Outback, he had thrived. Will was now in his eighties, though no one would ever know it. Being passionate about what one did in life was a great driving force.
"Take control of your life. Don't allow life to control you," was one of Royce's late father's many dictums. Of course, his powerful, feared father, one of the biggest landowners on the continent, hadn't been able to control his own wife. The credo wasn't foolproof. He had learned that early. Women had power of their own.
There were no long twilights in the bush. The sky was already a bewitching indigo-blue. Dusk was descending softly and rapidly. In less than ten minutes, the night sky would turn deepest, black velvet, a magnificent background for blazing stars. Big and small, they were packed so closely together there was scarcely a space between them. It was always like that in the pure, unpolluted air of the Outback. He had travelled the world in the year following university, where he had gained a double degree in law and business management. His grandfather, Sir Clive, had insisted he be given a gap year, but his father had protested vigorously he should stay home and start learning how to run the station. His grandfather had won that argument.
In his opinion, the starry skies of the interior, much like the stars of New Zealand, were unrivalled. Something to do with their isolated geographical position, he reasoned. Wide open spaces, a small population. As usual, he paused a moment to admire the colonial mansion where he had been born. It didn't surprise him when visitors from home and abroad called their first sighting of his home surreal. It had to be said, the setting was bizarre. One saw historic mansions similar in style in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, but in the middle of the Australian desert? He had often wondered what his ancestor, John Spencer Stirling, had thought when he rode around his vast Outback holding trying to settle on the best place to build a homestead. There had been no law against constructing a manor house in that empty, forbidding region few people had even seen. Because of John Spencer Stirling's love for his homeland, England, he had attempted to recreate in his own Outback castle what he had left behind. As a second son with little inheritance to speak of, he had made the decision to set sail for the New World, Australia. He had been determined to make his mark. Brilliant at everything he did, John had founded a great pioneering dynasty.
Lit up at night, the house reminded Royston of a liner at sea, only the house was anchored firmly to the most ancient soil on earth. On Kooralya's western and north-western borders lay the Simpson Desert, possibly the most feared of the ten deserts that covered some half-million square miles of the interior.
The Stirling desert stronghold lay in the legendary Channel Country, the home of the nation's cattle kings. Essentially, it was a desert that flooded. When a major cyclone came courtesy of the tropical monsoons, the landscape went underwater. At times, the flood waters spread eighty kilometres across, an extraordinary sight, though the homestead had never had water lapping at the door.
Instead, the flood waters rushed headlong to Lake Eyre, a vast area of shimmering, bone-dry white sand in the very centre of the continent. Lake Eyre had only filled three times in the past 160 years. His much-loved and respected grandfather, the late Sir Clive Stirling, knighted for his contribution to the industry, had always called the Channel Country "Kidman Country" as a mark of respect to the great Sir Sidney Kidman. Sir Sidney had created the largest pastoral empire on earth. The Kidmans — the beautiful Nicole was a relative — were still among the largest landowners on the planet. The biggest chunk of privately owned property on earth, roughly the size of England, was owned by the Kidmans. It was up for sale at the moment, with overwhelming interest. He had taken a look himself with a view to forming a syndicate, but with bids starting at well over $300 million, he had climbed back into the Beech Baron and flown off home.
A few moments later, he reached the rear door to the house, opening and shutting it quietly. He was always quiet in his movements, controlled and measured in his actions. It was part of who he was.
"Move like a panther, you do," Pippa Reed, their housekeeper, often commented whenever he gave her an unintentional start. Even in his high boots, he knew he hadn't made a sound, whereas his late father had as good as bashed his way through doors.
Indoors, it took a second or two for his eyes to adjust to the brightness of the house lights. The sooner he headed upstairs, the better. It wouldn't take long to wash off the effects of the day. He had started to stride down the long, polished hallway with its panelled walls before he detected another fragrance in the air. Not the flowers that always filled the house. It was a woman's perfume.
Memories, locked deep down, rose abruptly to the surface. He dreaded these moments when he wasn't fully in control. He glanced up sharply, almost expecting to see a ghost. As if ghosts existed! Though his aunt, Anthea, claimed they did, and Anthea was a very level-headed woman.
From a safe distance, he had his first glimpse of Jimmy's "golden enchantress." One glance was sufficient. She perfectly fitted that description. Not pretty little Marigold, the young woman who was to marry Jimmy in two days' time. This young woman was no apparition. She was flesh and blood, Marigold's older sister, the solitary bridesmaid. Jimmy had been adamant he didn't want a large wedding when it had been apparent Marigold had wanted, in Anthea's words, "the works."
Jimmy's fiancée, on the surface so artless, with the bubble of yellow curls, bright blue eyes, and a breathless style of speaking, had something disconcerting about her. Some defining personality trait she sought to keep under wraps for whatever reasons. It was a disturbing thought, but he couldn't shake it. Pretty little Marigold could well be a ticking time bomb once she joined the family. Marrying James had been her grand plan. Within hours of meeting her, Royston had learned that.
Now the sister. Amelia. He remembered now. This was the woman who actually held his brother in thrall. He was shocked. He couldn't understand how this wedding to Marigold had come about.
Swiftly he glanced down at himself, aware he must look like a wild man. Best to stay silent and hidden. His work clothes, blue denim shirt, jeans, and high boots were covered in a layer of red dust. His hair had grown too long. It was even curling up at his nape, but there was little time to worry about hair. He needed a shave. He had been counting on a long cold beer, and then a hot shower.
He fervently hoped Pippa wouldn't arrive on the scene and call out his name, alerting the young woman. He had no wish to meet Marigold's sister now, who in no way resembled the totally misleading picture Marigold had drawn for them. Why, for God's sake? Had it been Marigold's idea of a joke? If so, it was unacceptable.
Apprehension like a giant wave began to roll over him. He could even feel the rush of blood through his veins. He had seen a woman as beautiful as this before, although the colouring couldn't have been more different. This young woman was beautiful in much the same way his mother, Frances, had been beautiful. They had the same look of refinement, the same exquisite bone structure, the tenderness of expression. His mother very strangely had never married the man she had run off with, Henry Mansel. The Mansels were long-time friends of the Stirlings, so the shock had been enormous. "Uncle Harry," of all people! Even more confounding, the relationship hadn't lasted. His mother had never remarried, unlike his late father, who had wanted more sons to help run the station. Frances was still very beautiful, or so one or two of the family's inner circle had made it their business to tell him. They all hoped and prayed since his father's accidental death five years before that reconciliation could begin.
He had never been able to bring himself to start the process. His mother had not wanted him. She had never tried to contact him. He had turned thirty a few months back. A reconciliation was highly unlikely to occur twenty years later.
This young woman appeared infinitely more interesting than her younger sister. That in itself was a profound cause for concern. She had a glorious mane of golden-blond hair. It was caught back from her face with some kind of sparkling adornment. The length spilled over her shoulders to the small of her back. She had the true blonde's creamy-pale complexion. His mother's hair had been the same blue-black as his own. His mother, "the traitor," as his father had always referred to her. His "dark enchantress." Less than twenty feet away from him stood Jimmy's "golden enchantress." There were no words for his shock and feelings of outrage.
He had time to back away. Why didn't he? The reason was obvious. The sight of her held him prisoner, subjugating his will. Being held prisoner by a woman, no matter how beautiful, was far from normal for him. No woman — and there had been quite a few — had as yet swept him away. They had all tried. It went with the name. From Marigold's description, he had visualized the older sister as being another version of Marigold. Maybe not so pretty. Marigold at twenty-four had confided that Melly didn't even have a boyfriend, whereas Marigold could lay claim to a string of admirers before Jimmy. Personally, he had taken that with a huge pinch of salt. Marigold Boyd was no heartbreaker, at least in his opinion. Maybe he was too hard on the girl, though he relied on his instincts. They were rarely wrong.
Here now was Amelia. She appeared to be weaving all the light around her. The only reason she hadn't noticed him was because she was staring up intently at the portrait of his mother painted after her engagement to his father. The painting had her seated in a highbacked antique chair, her lovely, long-fingered hands crossed to show off her magnificent diamond solitaire engagement ring. Amelia's expression as she looked up was entranced yet somehow saddened by what she saw. Most people knew the story. His parents' divorce had been very public, very acrimonious. His father had been full of a raging fury that knew no bounds. Even so, he had refused to take the portrait down even after he remarried gentle little Sally, who had learned very early her husband had no need of her after she managed to produce a son, which she had done in agony when his father had insisted the baby be born on the station and not in the nearest rural hospital.
In those terrible early days after his mother's defection, everyone on the station steered well clear of the boss, who was going through hell and ready to lash out at anyone who dared approach him. His father had even called for him to come home from boarding school, although the mid-term hadn't been over. Charles Stirling, the iron man, needed his son, his heir and only child.
He had listened quietly and very sadly hour after hour to his father's rants that were as bruising as body blows. He had adored his mother. It had been excruciatingly painful listening to his father calling her ugly names. None of them could have been true. His mother, to him, to everyone, was a great lady. Her goodness had shone out.
"She betrayed both of us, me, her husband and you, her only child, her son. She and that traitorous bastard, Mansel. They were just waiting to crush me. Guilty as hell, the pair of them. Mansel always envied me from when we were boys. He had to have what was mine. He had to have Frances."
He remembered the tears that had stung his eyes, but never fallen. He had never cried in front of his father, though the agony had never left him. No one else had been privy to his father's ravings. At that dreadful time, his grandfather was staying with relatives in Scotland. So it was just him, a boy of ten who had lacked the words, let alone any experience of life, to handle the great burden that had been laid on him. His grandfather had hastened home the very day he heard the shocking news, appalled by the burden his son had inflicted on his grandson.
"You might just as well have plunged a knife into him, speaking so vilely of Frances. He adores his mother."
He had been swiftly sent back to boarding school. His grandfather, until his death, had made sure he stood solidly between him and his father. He had never said one bad word against his mother.
"Poor Frances! She must have had her reasons. Your father always did want too much of her."
He could still hear his own imploring young voice. "Why didn't she take me?"
"Your father would never have allowed it, Royston. He was the worst husband I know, but he wasn't going to lose you. Besides, my boy, Kooralya is your birthright."
What had always been difficult to understand was that over the years, he had caught his father countless times staring up fixedly at the glorious portrait. It was as though he couldn't bear not to see her. He had taken deeply to heart his father's expressions: agonized, intensely nostalgic, furiously angry. Nothing and no one had ever gotten away from Charles Stirling, master of Kooralya, the Stirling Outback kingdom. His mother, so kind, so beautiful, so much fun, with a formidable intelligence, had abandoned her son just as she had abandoned her husband.
The enchantresses of this world had always had a profound effect upon men, he thought grimly. They took hold of a man's imagination. Only strip away beauty, then what did you have? He could only hope this young woman, for all her beauty, lacked real magic and was as vapid as her rosy-lipped sister, who nevertheless had a few tricks up her sleeve.
Excerpted from Her Australian Cattle Baron by Margaret Way. Copyright © 2017 Margaret Way P/L. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Margaret Way is my favorite Author. I have many of her stories. l intend to purchase many of her new books.
Always enjoy this author's descriptions and scenery as the tale unfolds about Amelia and Royce and their bumpy ride to love. Can visualize the fauna and heat of Australia. Good addition to series Ebook from Netgalley and publishers with thanks. Opinions are entirely my own.
Her Australian Cattle Baron by Margaret Way The Australians #2 Romance set in Australia starring two sets of siblings – Royce and his half-brother Jimmy AND Amelia and her adopted sister Marigold. The plot was predictable, the depictions of scenery gorgeous, the characters like many I have seen before and for the most part I felt I was reading a book written decades ago – perhaps formulaic is the term I should use to describe this romance. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books – Lyrical Shine for the ARC. This is my honest review. 2-3 Stars
Family Ties and Loyalties It is some years since I last read a book by this author but I did remember that her descriptions of the Outback (and particularly the wild flowers after rain) were sublime and I was not disappointed. Amelia meets Royce when she travels to his cattle station for the wedding of her younger (adopted) sister, Marigold to Jimmy (Royce's half brother). We are never told Jimmy's age but from various timelines, he can be no older than 19 and whilst I can understand how he got trapped by Marigold (who is around 23) I am surprised that Royce didn't do more to talk him out of the marriage or, at the very least to insist on a prenup. The relationship between Amelia and Royce is very similar to other novels by this author and therefore rather predictable but if you have never read any of her other books you will enjoy it. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley I was not compensated for my review, and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.