So I will declare that Louise Reynolds is one of my tribe members and we have loved, lived and agonised with her over her latest release IF I KISSED YOU. It is such a thrill to see it come to life!
Louise Reynolds is an author of contemporary romantic fiction published by Penguin Random House Australia. By day, she works in the commercial lighting industry, lighting anything from bridges to five star hotels. By night, she's working her way through a United Nations of fictional heroes. She loves live jazz, cooking complicated meals that totally destroy the kitchen, and dining out. She has embraced Melbourne by wearing far too much black (DON'T WE ALL!)
Connect with Louise on her website and if you're a foodie I recommend having a look at her PINTEREST boards!
The world of Irish 'Travellers'
With Irish heritage and a father who possessed 52 first cousins and innumerable more extended family it was always on the cards that I would write a book with an Irish hero.
But in my latest release, ‘If I Kissed You’, my hero, Declan, wasn’t pulled from the gentle farming community from which our family sprang. He came into my mind from the world of the Irish travellers.
Stories abound about travellers, most of them unflattering, but in my research I uncovered a people who have strong family ties, are deeply religious and yet seem to have a moral compass with a few more points than the rest of us. Let’s just call it viewing life through a different lens.
Travellers, or as they call themselves, Pavee, are distinctly Celtic people separated by race, culture and language from the Rom, the people we know as Gypsies, a word now considered a racial slur. Many of the Irish travellers took to the roads during the Irish famine and never returned to a settled life. Others have a much more ancient lineage.
Travellers do exist in Australia, often doing odd jobs and fruit-pickingIn researching ‘If I Kissed You’ I referred to novels and media that gave an insight into the way of speech, terminologies and lifestyle. “Traveller” by John F McDonald was a fascinating read purely for the language and expression. Here I was pulled into a world with a rich, arcane language designed to obscure meaning and confuse the law and settled people. Youtube offered pearls of travellers singing, particularly useful for one scene in the book.
I watched a few episodes of ‘My Great Big Gypsy wedding”, a TV series showcasing the lives of the travellers. I’ve never enjoyed seeing people presented for ridicule, but I was interested in the language, customs and rhythm of their speech. This isn’t the Ireland of my Irish forebears but a place of bare-knuckle fighting and horse fairs.
But there’s no reason to think there is any less love in Traveller families than our own-- although they go about things differently.
IF I KISSED YOU
When gorgeous musician Declan Gaffney arrives, it's clear he's definitely not Nell's type. He's Irish (therefore must be feckless and unreliable), he sings romantic Irish ballads (which Nell hates) and his nomadic lifestyle reminds her of some of the most painful parts of her childhood.
After Declan helps Nell out of a tricky situation, her father takes a shine to him and starts matchmaking. And when her aura-reading mother turns up, Nell's carefully ordered life is thrown into chaos. She's losing control but the biggest shock of all is yet to come ...
In a story that shines a light on the unusual forms family can take, Nell must accept that sometimes love takes you in unexpected directions.
Read an excerpt from IF I KISSED YOU...
“‘Aisleen’s nice,’ Nell murmured as she lay in the crook of Declan’s arm later that night.
He leaned down and buffed the top of her head with a soft kiss.
It was kind of her since Aisleen had been quite standoffish. ‘Yes, she’s a good girl. I hope Tommy will make her happy.’ He felt himself tighten as he remembered how it could have been for him.
‘You have your doubts?’
He was silent for a moment then turned his head towards her. Her eyes were deep caramel in the dark, serious. ‘It’s different for us. We marry very young and there’s hardly any courtship.’
‘You’re joking. You mean, like an arranged marriage?’
‘No. The way it’s done is, you hang around with a group of lads and watch the girls. When one takes your fancy you grab her and drag her somewhere private to give her a decent kiss.’ He lowered his head and kissed Nell deeply. ‘A bit like that, actually.’
‘Don’t try to side-track me. A decent kiss?’ Nell demanded. ‘What the hell does that mean?’
‘Decent in the sense you put a bit of effort in, make it as long as you can to try and see if she’ll do.’
‘If she’ll do,’ she echoed. She swatted his arm in a playful gesture. ‘That’s terrible.’
‘It does sound bad but it’s just the way it is.’ Jaysus, but it did sound bad. Nell was right. Choosing a life partner on the basis of long-distance observation and a stolen kiss was daft. He knew that now.
‘So when you’ve decided “if she’ll do”, what happens next?’
‘Well, after that you’d better be calling on her mam and da and asking to marry her if she’ll have you.’ In fact you couldn’t get so much as a kiss but the girl would be measuring new curtains for her da’s second-best van. Before you knew it you had a ring on your finger and a pile of children at your ankles.
Nell punched his arm playfully. ‘Ah, so the poor woman has some say after all.’
‘Of course. What do you think? That we’re savages?’ He leaned down and kissed the top of her head again.
Nell was quiet for some time, then she raised her head to look at him. ‘Have you ever been married?’
‘You say that like an Australian. You might as well ask if I’ve ever been to the moon. It makes it sound easy to get out of if you don’t like it. It’s different in Ireland; it takes years to get a divorce, and that’s if you can stomach the idea of eternal damnation.’ Especially in my culture. Pavs don’t divorce, they bury.
Nell bit her lip. ‘I hadn’t thought of it that way. So, no then?’
Declan focussed his eyes on the ceiling. When was he going to get honest with Nell? He needed to tell her the whole truth now and ease the monkey off his back. He turned his head to look at her. ‘Actually, I was engaged once.’
She rolled over on to her side and rested her head in a cupped hand, her eyes bright with interest. ‘Once?’
He dragged his gaze away from her exposed breasts and fixed it on the ceiling again. ‘She died.’
Nell’s sharp intake of breath made him glance back at her. Her mouth formed an O, the sweet bottom lip dropped in dismay. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Don’t be. It was a long time ago.’
‘But, still . . . ’
‘Shhh.’ He placed a finger against her lips. ‘Rose is gone, and you’re here.’”