What’s in a Name – Solomon Islands Reflections

Today I was telling my daughter I was in the midst of a naming crisis. I didn’t know what I call Book 5 of my Fair Cyprians of London series when, so far, I have the following:

Saving Grace

Forsaking Hope

Keeping Faith

Picking Violet

She didn’t give me any suggestions however she told me she’d recently stumbled upon an old blog I’d written in June 2011 in which I’d talked about that very thing.

“What’s in a Name?” I’d called it.

It was like reading my diary from an interesting and somewhat turbulent time in my life. So, for fun, I’ll reblog it here.

What’s in a Name?

Rose, Mauwisa, Sophie and Bevie
Rose, Mauwisa, Sophie and Bevie

Choosing a heroine’s name is a tricky business. It must reflect her personality but as you and she will be spending a lot of time together, you want to love it, too.

I named my eldest daughter Sophie after the heroine of my first unpublished manuscript, written when I was seventeen. The book languished, unforgotten in a drawer but twenty years later Sophie got a new lease of life when my Norwegian husband and I chose it as a name that would work in both our homelands.

Names can sometimes appear like omens or talismans – or pegs on which to hang seemingly arbitrary life decisions.

When Sophie was two and we decamped to the Pacific where my husband Eivind was the new Chief Pilot of Solomon Airlines, many local girls turned up applying for the job of nanny and house girl. I’d recently started a new Regency Historical Romance featuring the lovely Rose Chesterfield so when one of the applicants told me her name was Rose it seemed a good omen. I hired her on the spot.
Me and Sophie on the Solomons
Me and Sophie on the Solomons

Rose was my heroine, both on paper and in real life. My earnest, hardworking Solomon Islands Rose from the island of Malaita took charge of the needs of house, husband and high octane toddler, enabling me to give my fictional Rose a life in the third dimension.

Nearly eight years later and with two books completed in the interim Rose Chesterfield in A Little Deception has had as many ups and downs as we’ve had in our married lives living in ten different countries. Barely recognisable as the original, A Little Deception tells the story of grand deceiver Rose Chesterfield who risks her reputation to save the family sugar plantation and winds up married to the deliciously notorious rake Viscount Rampton. Unfortunately what appears to be a happy ending is only the beginning of many trials and tribulations as a jealous adversary implicates Rose in a series of high profile jewel heists. When past secrets rear their ugly heads Rose must prove more than her innocence to regain the love of her once-smitten husband.
It was a lively, exhausting story which certainly underwent its own trials and tribulations. After winning the Strictly Single competition in was requested and ultimately rejected by Avon Senior Editor Erika Tsang, rewritten and finally sold to Robert Hale after I cut a further 15000 words from it.
Like my previous two books – Lady Sarah’s Redemption and Lady Farquhar’s Butterfly – the cover art was done by talented artist David Young. However when I look at the cover of A Little Deception I see more than just the beautiful ballroom scene. Instead I recall the sparkling vista of azure seas dotted with islands which I gazed upon from my verandah as I typed, sometimes in high spirits after a liquid lunch at the Honiara Hotel with friends from my multicultural mother’s group.
The expat community was small and vibrant. Barely a year had passed since the violent coup which brought down the government in 2000 and bullet holes still peppered some of the public buildings. RAMSI (Royal Australian Mission to Solomon Islands) was an initiative of the future, the roads were filled with potholes the size of craters and the evidence of a crumbling infrastructure was all around us. As we involved ourselves in volunteer work from providing water tanks and generators for the hospital to beautifying the capital to encourage business investment and tourism, we partied enthusiastically.
One of our favourite pastimes was descending into the unpleasant smelling basement of ‘XJ6’ every second Wednesday for the ‘ripping’ of the newly arrived bale of second hand clothing from Australia and New Zealand and to rummage through the flotsam and jetsam in search of the beautiful ‘seconds’ where everything cost the equivalent of one Australian dollar.
It was a competitive pastime and lots of fun appearing at the next embassy function kitted out in such affordable Lisa Ho, Perri Cutten or Alanah Hill designer wear. The foraging of two years in the Solomons has provided my attire for the Romance Writers of Australia’s conference dinners for the past eight years.
A Little Deception is due out in hardcover at the end of June and I have a number of library talks lined up throughout Melbourne. I like to think of my two heroines, deceiving debutante Rose Chesterfield and my own loyal Rose, enjoying a rosy future beyond the launch.

We were all casualties of a strife-torn political system. When our tenure on the island we considered our new home was cut unexpectedly short we could no longer provide Rose with a job as we no longer had one, ourselves. Rose went back to her subsistence existence on her island while we drifted, without a home base for many months, until a job came up and we established our footing on the next rung of the shaky ladder of life.

Rose Chesterfield was the panacea to my once nomadic existence while Malaitan Rose was my friend who learned English through our many conversations over the jugs of ‘bush lime’ for which she was famous.

A name is so much more than just a name and I miss both my Roses who are no longer such a large part of my life.

End of Blog 

 

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